Saturday 31 December 2016

#CBR8 Book 132: "One Fell Sweep" by Ilona Andrews

Page count: 257 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Spoiler warning! This is the third book in The Innkeeper Chronicles and as such, this review may contain spoilers for previous books in the series. It's also a series that is best read in order, so if you are unfamiliar with the books, go start at the beginning, with Clean Sweep.

While Dina Demille may seem like a fairly ordinary young human woman, she is in fact an Innkeeper, and within the bounds of her inn, she is almost unbelievably powerful. Her broom is a deadly weapon. She can rearrange the rooms and gardens to suit any guest, she can open portals to other worlds and planets in the universe and she can mount a pretty comprehensive defence if someone is threatening the safety of her guests. The only permanent resident of her inn is the ruthless Caldenia, wanted across most of the known universe because of her many atrocities. There is also Dina's dog, Beast, who on the surface looks like a fluffy Shih Tzu, but may feature a lot more teeth than your normal dog. In her kitchen, Orro, her temperamental and brilliant Quillonian chef rules. He stays out of sight from the neighbours as he looks like a six-foot tall hedgehog.

Dina's chief concern is the comfort and safety of her guests, and making very sure that everyone in the quiet little place she lives doesn't realise that there is anything peculiar about the old Victorian building where she houses her other-worldly guests. She is still recovering from the strain of having hosted a large intergalactic peace summit and trying to figure out where exactly she stands with her handsome neighbour Sean (who also happens to be an alpha-strain alien werewolf who survived countless campaigns in a hostile environment that killed others of his kind pretty much instantly) when a particularly noisy and inconspicuous alien messenger brings word that her sister is in danger. Dina calls in favours where she can and soon she, Sean and Arland, a vampire warlord with whom she's had previous adventures are on their way to the universe's version of 19th Century vampire Australia to locate Dina's sister and her niece.

Maud, Dina's sister, is the widow of a disgraced vampire warlord and her daughter is half vampire. Once her idiot husband got himself killed, Maud and her child waged a six month revenge raid against the people who killed him, but Maud's at the end of her reserves when Dina and her twosome of powerful, very deadly men show up. While Maud has sworn off vampires forever, Arland is instantly smitten and does whatever he can to impress the extremely deadly lady, not to mention her semi-feral daughter. He even insists that he has to stay at Dina's inn for an unspecified amount of time, for an extended vacation. That he'll be close to the lovely Maud is probably just a side benefit.

Of course, having several highly trained warriors at her inn turns out to be good for Dina, as she ends offering asylum to an unusual alien, the Hiru, whose race has nearly been hunted to extinction by another, called the Draziri. They apparently ensure eternal salvation of their entire clan if they kill a Hiru. While helping the Hiru is almost certainly going to end badly, they offer her aid in locating her missing parents, something she cannot refuse, even if she didn't feel sympathy for their plight. Soon she has to use all her ingenuity and drain the inn's defences as they are facing an all-out assault from what is basically an alien gangster cartel who will stop at nothing to kill the Hiru and anyone else at Dina's inn.

Ilona Andrews started The Innkeeper Chronicles back in 2013 and has published each of the books in more or less weekly instalments on their website. They then take the finished product, clean it up, try to iron out any plot inconsistencies (which can easily sneak in as they are writing from week to week), add some scenes to make the story flow more smoothly, and self-published the results. This is the third book in the series, which by now has a small cast of recurring characters in addition to our heroine, Dina. As the series has progressed, the world-building gets more complex, the characters get more developed and the reader gets a clearer picture of where the authors may be going with this.

I always follow the story religiously while the authors post their instalments during the first part of the year, but enjoy re-reading the book when it's a finished product that they published. In One Fell Sweep, for instance, there is less violence and certainly a fairly PG ending, as the authors are aware that anyone can read the story when they come across it on their website. The book has an extended final chapter, where readers who want a more satisfying romantic ending with some decidedly more adult content should be happy with the result. There are also little scenes added throughout the book to help build Dina and Sean, and Maud and Arland's relationships. As a huge fan of Arland's since the first book, I was delighted to see them find him a suitable partner, as it's been obvious since book one that he didn't really have a chance with Dina.

While these books are somewhat less "meaty" and substantial than Ilona Andrews' other output, I still greatly appreciate what they are doing. There is no obligation to the fans to keep publishing stories for free throughout the year. Because these books are written in quick bursts from week to week, there may be less complex story and character development, but there tends to be a lot of breath-taking action. This instalment also had a truly heart-breaking chapter towards the end, which a lot off readers said beautifully captured the feel of truly crippling depression.

It makes me very happy to read that this book was number 2 on the New York Times E-book bestseller list, and 18th on the combined list the week after release, as well as number 2 on the Wall Street Journal's bestseller list I will buy anything the Andrews' publish, and their continued success brings me joy. I hope they continue the adventures of Dina and her inn for many years to come.

Judging a book by its cover: I know the authors hire an artist (I forget her name and was unable to find it in my quick Google search) to do the cover art and inside illustrations. While I'm not wild about Dina's cloak in this one, I like the little glimpse of her energy whip and her fairly casual outfit otherwise. I generally really like these covers and the artist's various character renderings inside the book. The one of Dina's sister Maud and her niece Helen is excellent.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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