Published 2005 368 pages
Ian Rufford was a privileged member of the English aristocracy until the ship he was travelling on was captured by pirates and he was taken to a North African slave market and sold into slavery. He was abandoned to die in the desert but eventually managed to make it back to civilisation, where he soon became an object of curiosity due to his strange habits (acute sensitivity to sunlight and the ability to heal a broken neck being just a couple of his oddities.). Desperate to return to London and regain the life he knew he books passage on the first ship out of Egypt but he knows that he is carrying a strange disease called ‘The Companion’ with him in his blood.
Beth Rochewell is travelling to England too on the same ship. For her it is a sad trip, she is being forced to live with her Aunt in England after the untimely death of her father. Egypt is the only home she has ever loved and she is used to a life of independence, going on archaeological expeditions with her father. Onboard ship she finds herself drawn to Ian and the two of them strike up an unlikely friendship.
The passage to England is a long one which gives Beth plenty of time to notice Ian’s odd habits and to start to unravel his dangerous secret. For the ancient scrolls that Beth is studying may hold the answers to the origin of ‘The Companion’ and together they have to undertake a dangerous mission to save North Africa and possibly the world from an ancient evil.
Ian’s story, his capture, slavery and abuse by Asharti, an ancient evil female vampire, is told in flash back so we (the reader) slowly come to understand more about what has happened to him. I think this works really well because Ian isn’t aware that he is a vampire. He suspects that he might be a vampire the first time he is compelled to drink blood but he doesn’t really know what he is or what has happened to him and as he finds out more so do we.
Ian’s abuse by Asharti was horrific and this makes for a difficult relationship with Beth. Although he likes her, he doesn’t want any woman anywhere near him again. This provides the conflict for the romance element of the story.
The Companion is an interesting mix of genres. Partly set in Regency England it has the feel of a Regency romance novel, with a lot of emphasis on manners, social customs, marrying well and nobility of thought and deed. However the parts of the book set in Egypt cover depravity and horror, in particular Ian’s abuse at the hands of Asharti, which would never be mentioned in a Regency romance.
To add further spice to the mix, the origins of the vampires on earth is clearly from Alien intervention. Although to make the characters stay in keeping with their timeframe, they didn’t realize ‘The Old One’ or ‘He Who Waits’ was a Roswell-style grey alien. They thought of him as an ancient traveller whose people had gone away, so the story doesn’t go into the realms of science fiction.
Oddly enough though this mixing up of the genres really works and The Companion is a gripping and original read. The book has pirates, vampires and aliens in it - what more do you need!
Recommended reading for anyone who enjoys pondering the mysteries of ancient Egypt and likes to think that maybe, just maybe, vampires might have ruled in the ancient world….
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You can read an excerpt from The Companion and find out more about vampirism in the world of The Companion at the authors website. Check out Susan's site.