Saturday 31 December 2022
CBR14 Book 50: "Sweep of the Heart" by Ilona Andrews
Rating: 5 stars
This is not the place to start The Innkeeper Chronicles, as it's the sixth installment overall (four full books and a novella come before it). This story has a LOT of callbacks to previous stories, so just start with Clean Sweep if you haven't tried this yet.
Innkeepers Dina DeMille and Sean Evans are still trying to recover from the last cosmic adventure that taxed them when they discover that Wilmos, the aging werewolf who's pretty much Sean's surrogate grandfather has been abducted. The traces of magic that they find in his abandoned shop suggests that the perpetrators are likely to be the magically corrupted beings who have tried to threaten Dina and the Gertrude Hunt inn in the past. After investigating, they discover that Wilmos is being held on an extremely dangerous and remote planet, and the only vague chance they have at gaining access to the only available portal to said planet means taking on a bigger challenge than most Innkeepers have ever had to face.
They basically have to host a massive inter-galactic dating competition to help find a spouse for a very powerful ruler (who happens to have ties to Dina's first guest, Lady Caldenia). Not only do they have to open the inn to twelve extremely different alien delegations (many of whom are sworn enemies or just incredibly dangerous) and intergalactic observers and cater to their comforts and whims, there's a rumour that one of the spouse candidates is in fact an assassin trying to kill the galactic overlord. And of course everything is going to be live-streamed directly, so the citizens in the area for space the overlord rules can vote for their favourites. Dina is told by the Innkeeper Assembly that if anyone dies during the competition, she could lose her Inn forever. It's an incredible logistical nightmare, and Dina and Sean have no choice if they want to rescue Wilmos.
As is always the case with the Innkeeper Chronicles, this started out as weekly installments to read for free on the authors' website. As the story progressed, they also offered readers the opportunity to vote on the candidate selections, and started posting really funny "previously on" updates every week. I was delighted to see that those little commentaries were included at the end of each new chapter. Even for fans who read this as it was posted, purchasing the book is worthwhile. There's a very important and rather long final section that was never made available for free - a longer finale to the spouse selection, as well as the dangerous and action-packed mission to find and rescue Wilmos.
I'm pretty sure the authors weren't expecting this to become one of the longest books they've ever published, but as a massive fan of anything and everything Ilona Andrews writes, I was super happy. They're clearly working towards the end of their story arcs, and bringing central characters who have been separated back towards each other again, so I guess I'll just have to wait impatiently to see where the story goes next (although apparently this Q and A reveals a lot of their future plans for the series)
Judging a book by its cover: I like the slightly sinister green background and the big planet looming in the background. Both Dina and Sean look ready for action and serious as a heart-attack, which fits well with the underlying quest of the story. Once again, the Innkeeper Chronicles prove to have the least objectionable of all of Andrews' covers.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.