Title: The Gandalara Cycle I
Author: Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron
Ricardo Carillo, an aging language professor, is on a Mediterranean cruise ship when it is hit by a meteor. He wakes up in a blinding hot desert, sharing the body and some of the memories of a young man named Markasett. Not quite human - supraorbital ridges around the eyes and large canine teeth. The first being he encounters is a huge cat, bigger than a horse, called a sha'um. The sha'um's name is Keeshah, and recognizes Carillo as Markasett. Carillo discovers that the 2 of them are linked telepathically, after being scared half to death. They make their way back to 'civilization', where he is accused of murder and theft of the Ra'ira, a precious gem. With the help of Tarani, an illusionist, they set out on a quest to recover the gem and clear his new name. Vivid characters, sword play, great giant cats, and a desert world called Gandalara....sort of like Arabian Nights? :) The book was originally released as 3 short novels, 'The Steel of Raithskar', 'The Glass of Dyskornis', and 'The Bronze of Eddarta'.