The novel “The Stone Rose” by Jacqueline Rayner was published for the first time in 2006.
Mickey brings the Tenth Doctor, Rose and Jackie to the British Museum after discovering that there’s a Roman statue of the goddess Fortuna dating back to 120 A.D. whose face is absolutely identical to Rose’s. Feeling that it’s not a coincidence, the Doctor brings Rose to the Rome of that time.
When they arrive in Rome, Doctor and Rose quickly become involved in the problems of the family of Gracilis, whose son mysteriously disappeared. That leads them to meet the sculptor Ursus and a strange girl who seems to be able to predict the future for real.
“The Stone Rose” is part of a series of novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series. They’re targeted to a wide audience by being linear enough to be appreciated even by very young readers but sophisticated enough to interest more mature readers.
In “The Stone Rose” what begins as the search for the origin of a statue develops into a story that goes far beyond historical adventures. When Mickey discovers that the British Museum exhibits a Roman statue of the goddess Fortuna with Rose’s face, the conclusion is that it was carved having her as a model during one of her trips in time. At that point, for the Doctor and Rose going to ancient Rome becomes inevitable.
The journey in the year 120 D.C. soon starts showing unexpected aspects following the encounter with some characters hiding various secrets. Soon, the Doctor and Rose find out that the sculptor Ursus has a decidedly unhorthodox style, which leads to a series of complications.
The plot has a development that, despite its basic complexity, tends to digress. Rose is in danger and the Doctor must try to rescue her but ends up in trouble on his own. He’s in ancient Rome and perhaps Jacqueline Rayner really wanted to have the Colosseum and the gladiators in her novel so here’s a part of the plot about them.
In my opinion, this Doctor’s mini-adventure is the worst part of “The Stone Rose”. The problem is that it’s a part of the story that is supposed to be dramatic as it concerns the gladiator games but is told with such an over the top style that it turns out silly and to me boring. It’s a style present in some of the Tenth Doctor stories but in this novel it seemed to me pushed a little too much, at least for my liking.
In other moments of the novel in which the Doctor or Rose are in danger I felt that the style was also too over the top undermining the drama. In the TV show David Tennant makes those moments work but in my opinion in the novels they tend to become a flaw.
The story has actually a potential with other elements such as the relationship between the protagonists and the plot containing various wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey moments but the result seemed to me less than the sum of its parts.
In the end, my impression is that Jacqueline Rayner tried to put together stylistic elements of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat but ended up taking the worst of them. In essence, she wanted to write a novel witty in the relationship between its characters with a sophisticated time travel story but in my opinion he ended up writing a novel with a silly and twisted story.
In particular, in its second half, the “Stone Rose” plot becomes more and more convoluta focusing especially on Vanessa, the girl met by the Doctor and Rose who seems to be able to predict the future for real.Again it seems that everything works to separate the Doctor and Rose to force them to find a way to get together.
Perhaps all of this is enough for the Doctor/Rose shippers who need little to get emotional even though the development of the plot fails to exploit its dramatic potential. I never cared about the story between them, actually the relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose became even annoying to me so it’s certainly not what I’m looking for in a novel.
Overall, “The Stone Rose” seemed to me a novel that has a number of flaws in its plot and relies on some jokes and on its protagonists. In particular the fans who appreciate the Tenth Doctor/Rose couple might like it.