The tale of the Holy Grail is older than any of us. So it's no surprise that the show which is almost the epitome of Britishness should finally tackle one of the great British myths. How fitting that this particular exploration should take place on the printed page, where Mallory's tales have enthralled impressionable and gullible children for years.
But a straight-up take on the grail quest would be boring, standard... not things Doctor Who does well at all. So as usual, there's kinky space stuff going on as the Doctor and Clara pop up on a world in the last days of a bloody war. This leads into an ongoing storyline about the Glamour, one of the most powerful and motivating artefacts in the universe. What's really neat about it is that though that storyline continues over the other two books in this wave of releases (Deep Time and The Big Bang Generation), you could just leave it here if you want to. The story that Royal Blood tells is more or less self-contained and satisfying in its own right. But why should you stop after this one? McCormack has the characters of the Doctor and Clara down to a 'T', and if the other two authors are anywhere near as good in this regard then they will also be essential reading. We'll be picking them up off the back of reading this one because we just have to know how the Glamour storyline ends.
The only issue we had with this novel (though we can appreciate why it happened; literary experimentation sometimes comes with a price) was that the decision to tell part of the story from a historical and first person point of view meant that some of the events of the climax turn out to be a foregone conclusion, which takes away a lot of the suspense.
But this is forgivable in an otherwise excellent book, and if BBC Cardiff ever decide to adapt this one for television, they could do a lot worse than getting McCormack herself on board. Hell, we'll be favoured with good fortune if Cardiff turns out anything near this level of quality come September 19th.DOCTOR WHO: ROYAL BLOOD / AUTHOR: UNA MCCORMACK / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 10TH