Gabriel Blackstone’s world is divided quite clearly into castes: everyone knows their place and abides by it. As an inventor in the merchant caste, his life is predictable in its routine until the night his best friends and assistants, Caleb and Andrew, purchase the time—and body—of a companion for his birthday. As an activist in the Caste Equality movement, everything Gabriel believes in tells him to refuse the gift, but then he meets Lucio. The beautiful and alluring companion is far more than the vapid courtesan he’d expected, and he can’t get the man out of his mind.
After that night, Gabriel tells himself to forget about Lucio, but a chance meeting at a ball makes it clear neither of them is willing to ignore the compelling chemistry between them. It will take all their combined trust and cunning, plus the help of a wily aristocrat and a plucky political activist, to overcome the challenges of infidelity, abuse, and social stigma that lay along their road; however, Gabriel knows it will all be worth it if at the end of the day he can call Lucio his own.
I have heard about this story for the first time while it was still in the planning stage when Ariel mentioned it on the occasion of the start of my Steampunk challenge. That was in October and I was very surprised to see that the story already got published a few weeks ago. Needless to say I was more than curious.
The story goes medias in res. Gabriel is ready to go out and meet the companion his friends bought him for the night. The attraction was immediate and it all went from there.
I liked the characters, the Steampunk elements and the world order Ariel created. The caste system that didn’t leave much room for personal development further than your predefined destiny was quite interesting and I was wondering all the way through the story whether Gabriel and his fellow activists would succeed in their mission to abolish it.
This brings me to a few points that I didn’t quite understand or found hard to believe.
- The activists want to bring the system down with the help of a politician who they hoped would win the election and a seat in parliament. Of course every movement needs to start small and one candidate for parliament certainly is better than nothing. However, they kept talking about him winning the election and gaining a seat would be abolishing the system in the foreseeable future. How can one MP make that difference that quickly?
- The immediate attraction between Gabriel and Lucio. OK, at first Lucio was interested in Gabriel simply because he treated him differently than any other customer he had ever known. Understandable. Gabriel found Lucio beautiful, sexy and what not. They meet again and again, but somehow I never quite understood what other factors caused their fascination and love of each other. I can’t recall one conversation where they talk about anything but the circumstances of Lucio’s life or Gabriel’s inventions. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, I just didn’t get why.
- Gabriel was way too possessive, jealous and generally unreasonable when it came to Lucio. He knew he was a companion from the start but every time Lucio had to go back to his work place it was the same procedure again. Gabriel didn’t want to let him go. Gabriel couldn’t bear thinking about Lucio with another man. Why ever not? He was told clearly and several times that those encounters are meaningless, superficial, physical and that Lucio gets nothing out of them. Still Gabriel acted as if Lucio was unfaithful to him.
- Lucio, after being tortured by his client, has to go back to his work place to take on new clients because he didn’t have any gold left to pay for his upkeep. Why didn’t he? He gave all his savings to Gabriel to later be able to buy his contract, so he could have gone to Gabriel and ask for some. Gabriel should have given it to him gladly in order to make it possible to recover completely without having to pleasure other people. Especially since Gabriel was so averse to that thought anyway.
- Now, my biggest issue. The handlers and their treatment of their most valuable assets. I have no idea who actually owns the pleasure palace, who owns the companions and who makes the big bucks. But if I was a pimp and had a few boys or girls who are top notch companions I would make sure that no client abused them in any way. Lucio made money big time and what do the handlers do? Sell his time to Lady Merydith even though they know that she will torture him to the extent that they will have to black out the following week in his schedule. Does that make any sense? And when he comes back beaten to pulp they just let him deal with it on his own, as if his speedy recovery (of health and good looks) wasn’t important to them. Eventually, when the first client afterwards rejects him, they send him straight to the breeding barn, i.e. his career has ended. Wouldn’t common business sense dictate that they a. do everything they can to prevent abuse from happening and b. if it happens hold the perpetrator responsible and make sure Lucio gets the best treatment so he can work again as soon as possible?
- The fact they even took Cressida out of the circulation in order to breed with her and Lucio was even more astonishing. Unless they know more about genetic engineering than I am aware of, who ensures that a child of those two will be equally successful as a companion as its parents? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get more money out of Cressida’s clients instead of throwing her away like that?
- I think it would have been better if I had known a bit more of the organization of the world the characters were living in. That way I would have also understood how it was possible that Gabriel after being arrested at a political rally could have been imprisoned for a month without being prosecuted and sentenced, simply because the guardians, whom I considered to be policemen, said so. There seems to be a parliament, a police force, so where are the judges?
In spite of all those points I enjoyed reading “The Inventor’s Companion” quite a bit. I think if a few more explanations and background information had been given it would have been easier to understand some situations and reactions of people. As it was it left me a little bit dissatisfied.
|Title||The inventor’s companion|
|Buy link||Buy The Inventor’s companion|