Select one of the keywords
The Companion    by Susan Squires order for
by Susan Squires
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Elizabeth Rochewell has spent most of her life exploring North Africa with her archeologist father, unearthing ruins and searching for the lost city of Kivala. There, according to legend, lie not only great riches but also great evil. When Beth's father dies in a freak accident, she is forced to book passage home to England. With no sponsors and the strictures of the era, it's inconceivable for a single young woman to strike out on her own, particularly in the barbaric wilds of Africa.

Ian Rufford's life as a dissolute rake is cut short when his ship is attacked by Barbary pirates. He's sold as a slave and becomes the property of an exotic woman named Asharti. For two years, her caravan criss-crosses thousands of miles of North African desert in search of a lost city. The caravan's large complement of slaves dwindles until one day it is Ian's turn to accommodate his mistress's peculiar appetites. Ian is horrified to discover exactly what Asharti is, and as her current favourite he soon learns her ultimate goal. Once she finds the lost city and strikes a 'blood bargain' with the Ancient One who resides within its forbidden caves, she plans to build an army of vampires. Though Ian prays for death, a cruel twist of fate turns him into a vampire, one whose strength will rival that of Asharti.

Ian manages to escape the lost city and books passage back to England. On board the same ship is Beth and the pair soon discover that they have much more in common than just the love of a good game of chess. Ian denies himself any chance at a relationship with Beth, for what woman would not ultimately revile the creature he has become? With his new powers, he is able to quickly amass a fortune and re-establish himself within London society. He also searches out doctors who might have a cure for his condition. Asharti, meanwhile, has begun amassing her vampire armies. She challenges Ian. He knows he cannot defeat her unless he procures more blood from the Ancient One, but only Beth has the scrolls and maps that lead back to the lost city of Kivala - and an ultimate confrontation with power hungry Asharti.

In previous titles like Danegeld, No More Lies and Body Electric, rising star Susan Squires has demonstrated that she can tell a complex and fascinating story. This time, her detailed narrative brings history alive and, as always, Squires' characters make her story shine. Ian is a particularly complex man, whose appalling treatment at the hands of Asharti is revealed through a series of flashbacks that show the ultimate destruction of his soul. It is only through Beth's patience and understanding that Ian allows himself to accept what he is, and use his powerful new persona to overcome what he fears most. The Companion is a riveting story, the first of what I expect to become a fresh, unforgettable new vampire series. Look for book two, The Hunger, in October 2005.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Romance books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews