Ruby Red, by Georgia Cook

Second paragraph of third chapter:

‘I’m sorry,’ said Ran. ‘I didn’t expect them to come after me.’

One of my disappointments about the Chibnall era of Doctor Who is that there was so little good quality spinoff material apart from the TV show itself. By contrast, Russell T. Davies has hit the ground running as usual, with one novelisation out already and another three coming later in the year, as well as two spinoff novels last month and another scheduled for November.

This is the first of the spinoff novels, taking the Fifteenth Doctor and Ruby to an obscure part of European history, the Battle on the Ice in 1242, fought between Russians and Estonians (to use anachronistic and brutal shorthand) on the frozen surface of Lake Peipus. My extensive and detailed research suggests that this is the only Who story in any medium which has an Estonian setting.

Being a Doctor Who story, there are of course external incursions into the real history of what happened – three interstellar Valkyrie sisters, managing a rite of passage for the youngest of them, and an alien hive mind under the ice. On top of that the TARDIS is behaving oddly, in a foreshadowing of what we found out about its extra passenger in the recent season finale.

These sfnal trimmings are also the basis for much banter between the Doctor and Ruby, and that of course is what people will buy the book for. Given that it’s Cook’s first novel, and it must have been written before any of the recent season was shown, she catches Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor really well. The plot doesn’t gel completely perfectly (the climax in particular is lower-key than I had anticipated) but it’s a good start to the new era on paper. You can get it here.

Next up: Caged, by Una McCormack.