The naval ship the HMS Ascendant has mysteriously sunk in the North Sea. The Doctor isn't inclined to investigate until Rose and her friend get a ghostly visitation from one the seamen who was aboard ship. Though it makes absolutely no sense, Keisha is determined to head to the Thames and throw herself in because she believes that somehow against all odds that she will find her brother and rescue him before the feast. It would be bad enough if the Doctor, Rose and Mickey only had to deal with one person who had lost touch with reality, but many of the inhabitants of London are determined to throw themselves in the Thames and the ones who do, never resurface for some reason. With more and more people disappearing each day, it's a race to find out what is going on and how to stop it.
The Feast of the Drowned very much reminded me of the Waters of Mars, largely because the Doctor is fighting an alien species which thrives in water and takes over human bodies. Part of the reason I pick up these Doctor Who books is to enjoy new adventures with characters I've grown to love and or miss terribly. In fairness to Cole, The Feast of the Drowned was actually released quite a few years before the Waters of Mars but because I have already seen the episode in question so many times, this book felt very repetitive to me. It did however make me wonder if this book was the inspiration behind The Waters of Mars?
The repetitiveness was not at all helped by Mickey, and Keisha's fixation on the fact that Rose had disappeared with the Doctor for a year. By this point, everyone should be over this. Keisha in particular seems very jealous of Rose and angry by the way that her friend has changed. Because of all that Rose has seen, she cannot simply go back to being content bar hopping on a Friday night and this has created a disconnect. She has moved so far past some people that the relationship will never be the same and Keisha seems determined to make her pay for it. I really just wanted to be done with the guilting of Rose.
In terms of characterization, I feel that Cole did a pretty good job with Jackie, Rose and of course our beloved 10th Doctor. One of the things I remember the most from Tenant's era is every alien being offered the chance to leave or end the damage they were causing before being annihilated by the Doctor. Tenant's Doctor was often brutal in his application of justice and we can see that coming into play in The Feast of the Drowned. When the aliens who have drowned humans in order to use them as incubators for their offspring refuse the Doctor's offer of relocation, the justice he exacts is swift and final. This time, there's no one to tell him to stop or to wait, no one to remind him of his own rules - the Doctor simply acts.
I love that Rose never gave up and did everything she could do to block the alien's plans for humanity. She didn't put up with any of the Doctor's lip nor fall for any of Mickey's attempt to get to play the waitress by making him coffee. Rose is always aware of what her strengths and weaknesses are and always plays to her strengths.
Jackie is very much like the Jackie Tyler that we have come to know. She is obsessed with the latest guy she comes across, not afraid to give the Doctor shit for endangering her daughter and has a willingness to risk herself for Rose at the drop of the hat. Jackie is also confident enough to listen to Rose when she is warned that she is being set up in a trap. All of these things were wonderful but for me, the best Jackie Tyler moment was her slapping the Doctor. I don't recall Jacking actually slapping the 10th doctor, (though she slapped nine) but I think the whoverse should always make room for a Jackie Tyler slap.
Until Mickey goes to the alternate dimension, he's an on again off again pathetic character. Until the two part episode Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, Mickey shifts from someone who is just waiting for Rose to come back and have things go back to normal to someone who is making a go of it. My biggest problem with Mickey in The Feast of the Drowned is just how pathetic Cole makes Mickey. I spent much of the book wanting to slap Mickey because Cole stripped him of even the smallest semblance of self pride. Where is Mickey's rage at being abandoned by Rose and having to face being assaulted routinely because the community assumed he had done away with her? Mickey simply exists to be unfailingly loyal and perform servant duties for the Doctor as needed. Mickey may not have pushed back in large ways but he did push back and that was absolutely missing from The Feast of the Drowned.
The Feast of the Drowned is really rather hit and miss. As aforementioned, the characterisation of The Doctor, Rose and Jackie is spot on and it felt like having a visit with these characters. The problem however is that story itself was not at all compelling; it all felt like a practice run for the Waters of Mars. Sometimes the action moved so quickly it was hard to follow and there were too many side characters, thus making it hard to differentiate between them. The pieces of The Feast of the Drowned didn't quite come together for me but I read this book rather than listened to the audiobook which was read by Tennant himself. I will simply say then that your enjoyment might vary based on what you miss most from Tennant's era.