Tuesday 31 December 2013

#CBR5 Book 156. "Clean Sweep" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 181 pages
Rating: 4 stars

It's my last book of the year, and I'm feeling a bit worn out after a LOT of blogging, so I'm taking the liberty of letting the authors themselves summarise the book (it's self published), because Ilona writes way better than I:

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problems should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can't leave the grounds because she's responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina. 

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night... Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor Sean Evans - an alpha-strain werewolf - and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her Inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she is facing is unlike anything she's ever encountered before. It's smart, vicious and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything. 

Clean Sweep began as a side project for Ilona Andrews. A free serial where they would post a new instalment every week or so, until their workload forced them to slow down, they describe the creation of the book "like writing in front of an audience". The readers would comment with editing suggestions, proof reading and/or comments about what worked/didn't work for them. Once a chapter was up on the website, they couldn't go back and edit too heavily or rewrite, and to their audience interested, they needed to hook readers quickly, and keep them reading, usually by ending chapters on cliffhangers or teasing excitement yet to come. The serial became immensely popular, and they were persuaded to self publish the work. Once the main story was completed, they took the serial offline and promised that the final part of the last chapter, and the epilogue, would be included in the e-book version for sale. Finally released in a variety of e-book formats and as print on demand in early December, the authors have sold more of their initially free book than they had ever hoped for.

I'm very glad that this has proved a success, because I thought it was a wonderful thing for them to do in the first place, and a lovely bonus project for their many and loyal fans. Long-time readers of my blog know that I'm a huge fan of both the Kate Daniels series (among my favourite paranormal fantasy series currently running) and their now completed Edge series (loosely interconnected fantasy novels with a more romantic focus). Hence I was never not going to buy this book, and I already knew that I liked it. Andrews writes great characters, with distinctive personalities. They have tense and exciting action set pieces and very witty dialogue. I'm amazed at how quickly they play with paranormal/urban fantasy expectations, establishing a new world with a fairly contemporary American setting, but with "bigger on the inside" buildings with portals to other worlds, and common urban/paranormal tropes like vampires and werewolves, but suddenly announcing that these are actually aliens from other worlds, and that the myths our world has about these creatures have very natural expectations.

Like their other heroines before her, Dina is a very capable and pragmatic protagonist. The makings of a love triangle are introduced, but while Dina doesn't mind looking at pretty menfolk, she also learned that if you want something done, you might be better off doing it yourself, and that intergalactic space travellers, even of the hunky and charming variety, may not want to settle down running a B&B in small town Texas.

Due to the great success of their first volume, Ilona and Gordon have promised that there will be more Innkeeper Chronicles to come, and have posted teasing snippets that suggest that maybe all those fans complaining that they finished off the Edge books may see further appearances of supporting characters from those books making appearances in future stories. I'm very glad I chose this as my final book and concluding Cannonball review of 2013. Triple Cannonball completed!

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