The novel “Martha in the Mirror” by Justin Richards was published for the first time in 2008.
After centuries of war, Anthium and Zerugma are on the eve of a peace treaty. The place chosen to sign it is very symbolic, Castle Extremis, a strategic place whose control allows to maintain a stronghold in the area. The end of such a long war is a great achievement but there are many interests that don’t necessarily aim to it.
When the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones arrive at Castle Extremis, they find a very tense but also strange situation due to the presence of an out-of-the-ordinary mirror, a book with glass pages and a strange little girl who lost her twin sister. The dangers can come from the most unexpected places in a place full of ghosts and reflections.
“Martha in the Mirror” 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.
Despite significant improvements in the control of the Tardis, the Doctor occasionally still ends up in the wrong place or time. In “Martha in the Mirror” his intention was to bring Martha to the best theme park in that area of the cosmos but they get there long before it opens. Instead, they end up in the middle of the meeting in which the peace treaty between Anthium and Zerugma will be signed to put an end to centuries of war. Psychic paper allows the Doctor to pass off him and Martha for Galactic Alliance observers, but their role soon becomes active.
The peace treaty is a huge event, but sometimes it’s in the background in the course of the novel because some strange events attract the Doctor and Martha’s attention and strange characters are there, some for the occasion, others for different reasons such as Janna, the strange little girl with a tragic story. In the end, at the center of the story there’s a mysterious mirror, the replica of the original that’s been lost for some time. Together with some other elements of the novel, it gives it a somewhat fairy-tale tone, but like the most sinister fairy tales, far more sinister than Alice in Wonderland.
These elements create a plot based on a number of mysteries that must be solved to ensure success in signing the peace treaty because in the end everything is connected. The atmosphere that is created helps to maintain a sense of tension around what’s happening at the castle that I think ends up being the strongest element in the novel. There is also some humorous moments, connected above all to the two robots Bill and Bott, but the story’s tone is generally dramatic.
The problem of “Martha in the Mirror” is in my opinion in its characters management, which has some flaws and leads to a development of the plot that seemed to me uneven. The length limits of the novels in this series prevent the full development of a story with a plot that’s less linear than the average for the series and many characters. The result that in this case some guest characters are stereotyped and the Doctor often seems not paying much attention to what’s happening around him.
The overall impression is that the novel is based too much on mysteries, surprises and particularly in the last part on twists, which however help to bring attention to what’s supposed to be the central element, which is the peace treaty. Janna’s story perfectly represents this problem with continuous surprises and doubts. Also the fact that the title “Martha in the Mirror” actually represents very little of the novel increases my impression of an uneven plot.
Despite my doubts about the development of the novel, in my opinion “Martha in the Mirror” still manages to be enjoyable thanks to the atmosphere but also to witty dialogues. For this reason, if its features are OK for you, you might like it.