Susan Squires' Vampire series is an interesting variation on the vampire theme. Her vampires have been infected or are born with a parasite in their blood called The Companion which heals, gives hypnotic power, and enables them to move short distances
by translocation. The power of the Companion needs to be fed by blood,
potentially causing havoc in the human population amid which they live. The vampire Elders live at Mirso Monastery and have formed 'The Rules' by which the vampires are all meant to live - these include not making any new vampires, and only living one vampire per city. Unfortunately, the females of the species seem to have world domination plans - Ashanti in some of the earlier novels, and Elyta, first met in
One With The Night, in this story.
One with the Shadows focuses on Kate Sheridan, a young orphan whose difficult upbringing as a pickpocket has given her unusual skills. She is now eking out a living as a tarot card reader, trying to get invited to social gatherings where she can give readings in public which will gain her an entrée to private readings. However, her reading in Rome in 1822 goes awry when a strange man arrives in the group and her reading of him seems spookily accurate. Coupled with a strange vision that she has of him being menaced by a lady with a strange emerald, Kate is unnerved by what is happening. She finds the man, Gian Umberto, physically attractive, but he's clearly a gigolo.
When she picks a man's pocket and steals a big emerald from him, she's surprised to find Gian in her room asking for the gem back and that the gem has some strange attributes. Gian isn't the only person who wants it; a woman
named Elyta also seems to be in pursuit of it. From that point on, Kate and Gian find themselves working together to keep the emerald away from Elyta and to take it somewhere safe - either Mirso Monastery or the temple in the desert from which it was originally stolen.
Like the other books written by Susan Squires, this is always interesting with varied locations in both Italy and North Africa, a sea journey, a dust storm in the desert, the fascinating central vampire myth, and action and characterization in abundance. We meet two characters (Ian and Beth Rufford), hero and heroine from a previous book, who play a small role in this one, another character who is going to be the heroine of the next book in the series, One With The Darkness, and some baddies from other books, too.
The main complaint that many readers have expressed about Squires' earlier novels is the heavy focus on the tortures inflicted on the heroes, with male rapes featuring rather strongly in all the previous books. Fortunately, this book focuses far less on that (although the hero still finds himself imprisoned, tortured and raped, although only for a few pages).
Far more attention is instead paid to the hero's relationship with the heroine. Both characters are damaged and have closed themselves off from love and close friendship, and the enjoyment in the book is seeing how Kate and Gian bring each other out of their solitary natures and find companionship with each other, despite their vast differences. There
aren't any great surprises in terms of plot in this story; in fact, some of the
plotting elements seem less complex in this story with more attention being paid to the romance, but that
is a valuable change and makes this book just as satisfying. All in all, this is a very enjoyable read with an appealing hero, impressively phlegmatic heroine, and wonderful locations for the action. A real return to form!