by Julia Golding
Marshall Cavendish, 2006
review copy provided by publisher
Al Gore would love this series.
The basic premise is that mythical creatures (unicorns, pegasi, sirens, etc.) do still exist. They are protected by a group of humans who belong to the Society for the Protection of Mythical Creatures. These humans each show an affinity for a certain kind of animal. For example, one of the characters, Colin, has an affinity for horses. He is companion to a pegasus. The main character, Connie, seems to have an affinity for birds, and she is companion to the sirens before she knows any more than that she gets along well with animals, before she even knows about the Society and companions.
Here's where Al Gore comes in. The work of the Society, to hide and protect the few remaining mythical creatures from other humans, has become increasingly difficult as humans have overtaken and developed most of the remaining wild places in the world. And now, along the English coast where Connie lives, an oil refinery threatens the coastal rocks where the sirens live. The sirens are fed up with being pushed out of their homes, and they are retaliating by drowning refinery workers. If they keep it up, they could cause an oil tanker to wreck and foul the coast and the coastal waters. It's up to Connie to find a way to prevent that from happening.
To complicate matters, Connie learns that she is not simply a companion to birds/sirens. She is the only living Universal Companion. She is able to be companion to all species and all mythical creatures. Good thing there is a new Universal, because the ultimate evil, Kullervo, is gaining strength. In some ways he is like Connie, but when she asks, "Is he a universal companion?" this is the answer:
"Universal he may be, but companionship is far from his mind. I think he is more like a whirlpool -- or black hole -- pulling all who venture near him inexorably into his wicked schemes. Once creatures go down his road, it is nearly impossible to pull them back. They get in too deep, falling for his lies that all humans are the enemy -- the oppressor. It's tragic that while the sirens think that they are choosing freedom to act without restraint, they are in reality choosing captivity. They may believe he's serving their cause, but once he has his hooks into them, they will end up his slaves. He is only interested in them in so far as they further his goal."
"The eradication of humanity."
There are all kinds of great tensions in this book. Good vs. evil, obviously. But also wilderness vs. development, humans as destroyers vs. humans as conservationists, nature vs. technology. Like I said, Al Gore would approve.
I can't wait to read the other books in the Companions Quartet: The Gorgon's Gaze and Mines of the Minotaur. Michelle at Scholars Blog doesn't like the not-so-subtle environmental message as much as I did. That just means that you'll have to read these and see what you think! Go now! You have a week before HP!