Doctor Who: Royal Blood – Una McCormack
The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.
But all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city-guard have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue…
Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail…?
My thanks to BBC Books for a review copy of Royal Blood
The Doctor and Clara are back and, as we would expect, the TARDIS has landed them in uncomfortable surroundings once again. Varuz is a small city on the brink of ruin, a once-proud place it is falling into disrepair and the enemy forces are threatening, it seems one final conflict is coming and there is no escaping the fact that Varuz will fall.
The Duke (Aurelian) is trying to rally support for one last valiant push in a bid to save all that they hold dear, however, his wife and his closest allies are opposed to the idea. Into this fraught situation lands the Doctor and Clara. They are initially mistaken for the ambassadors from the opposing forces, however, the Duke appears convinced that the Doctor is actually a holy man who will bless his forthcoming attack – obviously the Doctor will provide no such blessing.
With the political wrangling in full swing a new element is thrown into the mix – the appearance of a number of ancient knights. They are on a long quest to find the Holy Grail and they believe their search will end in Varuz. The Doctor is far from convinced but how can he explain the appearance of the knights? These men are on a seemingly never-ending journey to find an item that the Doctor does not believe exists – why would they appear in Varuz at such a pivotal time in its history?
Royal Blood is a delight to read. There are many scenes ‘at court’ where Clara and the Doctor are caught up in the politics of Varuz. There are factions opposed to Auerlian’s planned war and Clara is asked to spy for one of the key players that oppose the Duke, something of a dilemma for Clara and Una McCormack brilliantly depicts Clara’s turmoil and her frustration at the Doctor’s apparent lack of concern about her predicament.
Royal Blood is one of three titles published by BBC Books this autumn. The stories are all linked and are described as a trilogy of adventures across time and space which follow the Doctor’s search for The Glamour. Although I struggled to find a definitive reading order for the books I found Royal Blood the best place to start and the concept of The Glamour was well defined (and intriguing).
This was the first of the three Doctor Who releases I read and it started the trilogy brilliantly. Varuz is an enigma, the political manoeuvring kept me hooked and the Grail quest was unexpected yet a great addition. Another great addition to the Doctor Who range.