Time Hunter
Deus Le Volt

Author: Jon de Burgh Miller
Telos Publishing
RRP: £7.99 (paperback), £25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 49 9 (paperback)
ISBN 1 903889 97 9 (deluxe hardback)
Available 15 December 2005

On the trail of what appears to be a time-travelling knight, Honoré and Emily are plunged into the middle of the First Crusade in Turkey, 1098. As the siege of Antioch draws to a close, death haunts the already blood-soaked streets, and the Fendahl - a creature that feeds on life itself - is summoned. Honoré and Emily face angels and demons in a battle to survive their latest adventure...

The synopsis on the back of the book (which is reproduced in a slightly abbreviated form above) gives away the fact that the eponymous alien menace from the 1977 Doctor Who serial Image of the Fendahl puts in an appearance - which is a bit of shame, because the creature's name is not revealed until about three-quarters of the way into the story. Still, I can understand Telos' desire to make a selling point of the guest appearance by a Who monster in a series that was itself spun off from the publisher's now defunct Doctor Who novellas. The prospect certainly excited me. Curiously, though, no credit is afforded to the Fendahl's creator, Chris Boucher.

As it turns out, the Fendahl doesn't really merit such billing, because a far more memorable aspect of this novella is its setting. Whereas the previous book, Peculiar Lives, sent Honoré farther forwards in time than he had ever gone before, Deus Le Volt sends the time-travellers farther back into history than they have ever ventured. Honoré and Emily feel like fish out of water, and, in the great Doctor Who tradition, suffer distrust and hostility from the crusading knights they encounter in 1098. Indeed, the situation is exacerbated by the colour of Honoré's skin. Jon de Burgh Miller succeeds in creating a real sense of threat to the lives of the protagonists.

Who fans might also notice further possible allusions to their favourite television show. For instance, when the Christians suspect the mysterious and gruesome deaths of being "the Devil's work", I was reminded of The Masque of Mandragora, in which a similarly erroneous judgement was made. And the angel that is referred to in the synopsis brings to mind Clarence, an angelic member of the powerful People in several New Adventures novels, including Twilight of the Gods, in which Miller (with co-author Mark Clapham) killed the character off.

Emily develops well in this story, in terms of both her character and the powers she possesses. She proves to be courageous and resilient in the face of a paternalistic culture. With the series drawing towards its close, there are strong hints that her forgotten past might not remain hidden for much longer...

Deus Le Volt is not what I would call a riveting read, but it is sufficient for me to retain my faith in this series.

Richard McGinlay

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