Book Review – Doctor Who: Combat Magicks

  • Title: Combat Magicks
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Steve Cole
  • Characters:  Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/18/2019

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in the BBC Books New Doctors line, but I found Combat Magicks better than I remembered the Ninth Doctor books being. This is one of three books featuring the Thirteenth Doctor (as played by Jodie Whittaker on the BBC Series) and her companions, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham. The book opens with everyone in the TARDIS discussing where they want to go next when the TARDIS crashes into something. The TARDIS crash lands, and the Doctor and her companions find themselves in Gaul during Roman times, just before a major battle between the Huns and the Romans.

Speaking of Huns, they meet Attila (the Hun) though at first, he’s incognito as Attila’s first aide de camp. Attila says that the Doctor is a witch, but that’s OK since both he and the Roman commander have been employing witches to help them in combat.

The group is attacked and split up. The Doctor and Yaz are taken to Attila’s camp, Graham is captured by the Romans and assumed to be a wizard after he used some of the Doctor’s healing gel to heal people, and Ryan is captured by the mysterious Legion of Smoke. The Legion of Smoke is fascinating – sort of a Roman Torchwood. They investigate the supernatural but also keep alien tech hidden.

Graham tries to help the Romans where he can and discovers the Doctor’s alien healing gel is poison to the alien Tenctrama, which present as witches to the locals. And the Tenctrama also seem to be carefully avoiding giving either side an advantage. When one side is given genetically-engineered fighting animals, so is the other side, and so it is with every weapon and battle technique that the aliens give to either the Romans or the Huns. As much as they seem to want a level playing field, they also seem to be promoting as much death as possible. And both sides are using their tech to raise the dead as fighting zombie soldiers.

As often is the case, there’s a lot of running around as Graham, Ryan, Yaz, and the Doctor all learn bits and pieces of information slowly to figure out what the Tenctrama are up to, and why the Doctor’s healing gel is poison to them (and any person healed by the gel also cannot be absorbed by the Tenctrama and explodes instead).

The Tenctrama are rather inefficient genetic farmers, taking a thousand years to genetically modify their stock (all humans and animals) and then gaining energy from the animals’ deaths. With help from Liss and Vitus of the Legion of Smoke, Atilla general of the Huns, Aetius general of the Romans, and a few others, the Doctor and her companions are able to defeat the Tenctrama, but not without cost.

I enjoyed this novel. It does follow the typical Doctor Who pattern of splitting up the Doctor and her companions so everyone can discover something and then bringing them back together to trade intelligence and put together a solution, but it’s a well-written story. I liked the historical detail, and it was neat that Attila was portrayed as an intelligent leader with actual goals rather than just being a hacking and raiding barbarian. I loved the Legion of Smoke – rather than being paranoid, they were intelligent and motivated, like Torchwood. Plus, they had prior knowledge of the Doctor, which was a nice bit of continuity.

I recommend Combat Magicks and look forward to getting the other two books in the series featuring the Thirteenth Doctor.