The novel “The Way Through the Woods” by Una McCormack was published for the first time in 2011.
Emily Bostock is one of many people who vanished into thin air in the woods near Foxton, in an area where normally no one ventures. Many people believe that the legends concerning the area are only superstitions, yet cases of disappearance have been occurring for a very long time. Emily is scared, but finds help in a young man who tells her his name is Rory Williams.
The Eleventh Doctor is working to solve the problem of the disappearance of Laura Brown and Vicky Caine, but his behavior raises the suspicions of Detective Inspector Gordon Galloway, who arrests him. Amy Pond must continue the work necessary to eliminate the problem’s source on her own, but the only hope she has is to accompany Jess Ashcroft to the woods knowing that she’s another of the missing people.
“The Way Through the Woods” 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. With the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor, there was a small change in the size of the novels about “Doctor Who” new series’ adventures, which have become slightly larger.
In the novels of this series, the Doctor generally tends not to remain separate from his companions for too long because the limited length makes it difficult to develop multiple subplots. “The Way Through the Woods” is an exception with subplots set in different periods. In the new television series, there were some episodes labeled “Doctor light” for the limited presence of the Doctor, but in the books such a situation is even more exceptional. In this novel, the excuse is that the Doctor gets arrested, an event that forces Amy to improvise to help the Doctor identify the cause behind a long series of disappearances.
In some ways, Rory is this novel’s true protagonist because at the beginning he was already operating in 1917 trying to help one of the missing people. He’s almost always separated from Amy and the Doctor, and is therefore forced to face a series of unexpected events on his own. The consequence is that the readers discover the causes of the disappearances mainly through Rory’s adventure, and this makes the novel a little different from the usual.
“The Way Through the Woods” has some horror connotations, especially in the initial part where Una McCormack recounts some disappearances with tones that are of horror novels also thanks to the setting in a wood that has a bad reputation. Traces of the fact that the inhabitants of the region tried to avoid a certain area go back to Roman times, and this immediately generates a certain tension. The science fiction element emerges in the course of the novel, when the causes of the disappearances are slowly revealed.
I have a couple of problems with “The Way Through the Woods”, starting with the fact that the plot seemed overstretched. The novels in this series are short, but this one reaches its minimum with 240 pages thanks to many dialogues and the repetition of certain concepts. The consequence is that, especially after the discovery of the cause of the disappearances, the story seemed to me less interesting with an ending that is a bit forced to have a happy ending.
The novel is good in being strongly based on time travel and time distortions, unlike many “Doctor Who” stories in which the Tardis is parked somewhere at the beginning while the Doctor and his companions live an adventure in a single time and place. Una McCormack’s choice makes the story a little more complex to follow, but you just need to keep some attention.
“The Way Through the Woods” gave me mixed feelings because of certain intriguing elements that perhaps could have been developed better. Rory Williams’s fans are the ones in particular who might like it.