Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews (Innkeeper Chronicles #1)
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Publisher: Self-published on December 2, 2013
Audio: Renee Raudman for Audible Studios
Dina Demille runs a Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town and tries her best to pretend to be normal. View Spoiler »Her broom is a deadly weapon, her house is a sentient magic inn for otherwordly visitors to Earth, and her 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 can be a little difficult.
Now something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth begins hunting dogs in her neighborhood. Feeling responsible for the welfare of her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with an alpha-strain werewolf and a cosmic vampire, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’d ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything. « Hide Spoiler
Oh, Ilona Andrews. Is there anything this wife & husband duo can’t write? I’ve loved every Andrews book I’ve read, and their serialized self-published novel Clean Sweep is no exception. The paranormal becomes science fiction in Clean Sweep, as protagonist Dina explains the presence werewolves and vampires using scientific rather than magical or mythological terms. Werewolves have a particularly interesting genesis story: they are the result of alien genetic warfare, a breed of super-soldiers designed to annihilate their enemies.
Dina Demille is also a supernatural being: she’s an Innkeeper. There’s a fair amount of mystery surrounding Innkeepers and their history, but suffice it to say that they are magically bound to their Inns and use them as a source of power. The mark of an Innkeeper is their broom, which can be transformed into many other shapes – although Dina primarily uses it as a weapon. Her Inn, Gertrude Hunt, is Dina’s stronghold: on its grounds, she is at her strongest, able to manipulate the physical reality of the building and surrounding area.
Inns on Earth are interplanetary way-stations, as alien species like werewolves, vampires, and other beasties must find sanctuary as they travel between realms. Once accepted as a guest, the Inn and its Innkeeper are duty bound to protect them from all threats barring a few exceptions.
While Dina is a little more refined and a bit sweeter than some Ilona Andrews heroines, she’s hardly a pushover. She doesn’t hesitate to break her default neutrality as an innkeeper in order to protect her neighbors from a dangerous alien threat. In fact, she uses her trusty broom as a 7-foot spear to slice and dice the minion creatures of said alien. And she does it all with a smooth Southern drawl and a thank you.
If you haven’t snatched up a copy of Clean Sweep yet, I highly recommend the audiobook version. Renée Raudman, the best in the business, brings Dina’s world to life. Her pacing is wonderful, her tone is always spot-on, and the subtle vocal changes she makes for male characters like Sean and Arland are distinctively male without being cheesy. These guys are the ubiquitous love interests, although I prefer the Seans (the alpha-male, werewolf super soldier) to the Arlands (the suave, inhuman perfection of vampires). But that’s just me. There’s the potential for a love-triangle, which Andrews cleverly acknowledges through Arland’s voice:
“I have spent my spare time studying literature popular with young women of this planet. One should always study the battlefield.”
Sean glanced at him. “And?”
“I suggest you give up now. According to my research, in a vampire-werewolf love triangle, the vampire always gets the girl.”
But I’m not too worried about the triangle. I think it’s pretty clear were that whole situation is going to end up.
My one complaint about Clean Sweep is about Andrews’ writing, which became a little repetitive at times. I know that this was first released as an e-serial so standards and editing were no doubt considerably more lax, but I still think someone should’ve caught onto the fact that “Sean’s eyes shone” every chapter. They shone like the moon, they shone like liquid gold, they shone like the spoon I’m using to make myself gag, etc.
With fresh and truly original world-building, Clean Sweep was a really pleasant surprise. Although the plot was a little predictable in some parts, there were many reveals about the world of Clean Sweep that caught me completely off guard. Dina’s dog Beast is more than she seems, for one thing! Beast was probably one of my favourite characters, actually. Those animal familiars get me every damn time. Popcorn science fiction at its finest, Ilona Andrews’ Clean Sweep is essential summer reading.