The trick to writing a longer Doctor Who book is to ensure that the prose is excellent, and Daniel O’Mahony shows an incredible skill in writing his own little universe in microcosm. The prose is lyrical from the simple description of characters walking down a corridor, to having someone’s blood sucked by vampire orchids, and even the end of the universe. There are several references, obvious and subtle, to classic literature, the works of Stephen King, poetry, and pop songs of the era. O’Mahony uses these allusions to plant the idea in the reader that Falls the Shadow means different things and there is an open end to the ways that it can be interpreted. It’s certainly a style which can get the reader to work their way through the book within 24 hours and have a review up within an hour of finishing the book. The villains of the piece are Gabriel and Tanith, the Light analogues in this retelling of Ghost Light. They are representations of how the universe came to be and the spark of madness and unravelling which occurred when Professor Jeremy Winterdawn played with dimensional transcendentalism and interstitial time. They are both insane and the source of the torture in the novel. They are psychopaths, sociopaths, and up the garden paths.
There is a trio of characters living in the house already who have found themselves living out their own little soap opera love triangle of insanity. Harry Truman is a man with a disfigured face, Justin Cranleigh is an explorer who has gone insane, and Cassandra Winterdawn has gone blind. There is a moment early on in the novel where the scene is established as Cassandra opens a wardrobe in which hides Benny and carries on a conversation with Cranleigh as if she isn’t there. The reader won’t immediately associate with the character being blind, making the reader question what this house, this Shadowfell, is really hiding. It’s a device used early on to make the story work, as the reader no longer knows just what they can expect from the book. Cranleigh and Truman are introduced as two sides of a standard love triangle, but by the midpoint there is something revealed about each of them that makes them somehow more insane than they were initially introduced to be. While they are crazy Jane Page, an English assassin has come to the house with no real identity of her own to kill Winterdawn because of reasons. Page isn’t her real name, she doesn’t actually have a real name and O’Mahony intentionally leaves it ambiguous if she’s a real person or just a construct of Gabriel, Tanith, Qxeleq, Shadowfell, or the overactive imaginations of the characters in the house. O’Mahony evokes the Gray Man mythos for the beginning of the universe and the initial species who has tea with Benny and influences Ace’s decisions. He is not an analogue for the Doctor, the Doctor is in the story after all, but he is an analogue for something bigger, something different. Overall, Falls the Shadow may not be a book for those weak of heart or stomach, but it is one that leaves an impression and says something and nothing at the same time. It is a paradox, and a brilliant one at that. 9/10.