There's a wonderful sense of the familiar on picking up a Paul Magrs back. Not the type of familiarity that induces contempt, but he familiarity of pleasure, the cosiness of sinking into the comfort of your favourite chair or your own bed after returning from holiday. It's partly to do with his reuse of familiar characters and concepts,(though never in quite the same way), and partly to do with his reassuring though slightly querulous, wonderfully Northern voice.
Enter Wildthyme is another pleasure. Most of what we see here is familiar, particularly if you've been keeping up with Magrs' Doctor Who work or his Iris adventures. There's a return visit to the Great Big Book Exchange originally seen in Exchange, a return to Valcea last heard of in The Blue Angel, Hyspero from The Scarlet Empress (as well as an appearance by a Scarlet Empress), Brenda the sentient vending maching who originally appeared in Sick Building, a cameo from Horror of Glam Rock's Tomorrow Twins, the transdimensional Blithe Pinking Shears from Mad Dogs and Englishmen... and probably more that I could go on with all day. Combined with the obvious presence of Iris and her faithful Panda and it looks like the Magrs equivalent of The Five Doctors, one big party with everyone he knows invited and the emphasis on fun rather than story. And there's a certain amount of truth in that, with the screwball plot involving the chasing of a relic halfway round the universe. But that would be to miss the point completely. Like the aforementioned The Five Doctors this is meant to be fun (one of the back quotes delights in describing it as a sci-fi pantomime, which'd no doubt bring a smile to those of us who remember how 'pantomime' was turned into an insult for Doctor Who stories of that era). It's the key element for me that Russell T Davies remembered that was lost to the show sometime around 1980 and only returned towards the end of the original run. There's a generous spirit here, the author having fun but also remembering to make it just as much fun for his readers. All that's not to say there's not some quite lovely concepts introduced - the sentient wardrobes who... ah, no spoilers. But they're a melding of three or four separate idea that work because they fit perfectly with Iris' universe.
Iris, is of course as splendid/irritating (delete as applicable) as ever, the character's voice equally clear whether Katy Manning's speaking or if Magrs is simply bringing her to life with words.
If there's ever a point to climb aboard the No 22 to Putney Common this is it, accessible enough that references to previous stories anren't essential and quite obviously intended to be the first in a series. And above all that, it's the perfect gateway to Magrs' ever growing body of work.