Clean Sweep

by Ilona Andrews

Cover image

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #1
Publisher: NYLA
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 1-62517-343-1
Format: Kindle
Pages: 228

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Dina owns a bed and breakfast in a small town in Texas. As the book opens, her neighbor's dogs are being killed by some beast. As far as Dina is concerned, this should be the problem of the local werewolf, given that this is his territory, and she takes him to task for apparently doing nothing about it. The werewolf doesn't take that well, nor wants to admit to being a werewolf, and reacts by threatening Dina. Given Dina's position and the nature of her bed and breakfast, that turns out to be ill-advised.

At this point, you're doubtless thinking urban fantasy, and you're not exactly wrong. You're probably also thinking love interest, and you're not entirely wrong there either. The dead dogs are, of course, an early warning sign of an evil monster who has moved into the area and whose violence may escalate. And if I mention that a vampire shows up later in the story and the werewolf and vampire dislike each other at first sight, you'll probably start rolling your eyes. But this also isn't quite what it looks like on the surface.

I'm going to gleefully spoil what you find out about a fifth of the way into the book, since it's what got me to buy this book: neither the werewolves nor the vampires are magical creatures. They're aliens. Werewolves are bio-engineered soldiers; vampires are members of a militaristic order with advanced technology and almost imperceptible circulatory systems. And Dina doesn't truly have a bed and breakfast. She maintains an inn: a refuge for aliens traveling on Earth, part of the secrecy that keeps them out of the eyes of normal humans, and an institution sworn to neutrality in local problems.

Dina is straining the last part. The alien creatures who are hunting and killing her neighbors' pets aren't exactly threatening the inn, but she's not willing to stand idly by while her neighbors are threatened. It's a dangerous path, since her inn is struggling already. Failure to prioritize correctly and protect her guests might lower her inn's rating, possibly fatally. She's also without a guide ever since her parents (prominent innkeepers themselves) mysteriously disappeared. But she does have an inn. It may be a weaker one, coaxed out of dormancy and desperately in need of more visitors, but it still has considerable technological resources and other abilities that are indistinguishable from magic.

It's also sentient, although more like a large animal than a person, and it knows its innkeeper.

This is a light, straightforward sort of book that does not take itself particularly seriously, as you might have guessed. It is very aware of the conventions of urban fantasy and is both following them and intentionally poking fun at them. The authors (Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team) play an impish game of wedging fantasy tropes into a science fiction framework, preserving much of the outward appearance while playing with the explanations. I particularly liked the clannish reworking of vampires into a sort of crusader knight, which works considerably better than it has any right to. Clean Sweep is at its best when the story seems to be going down well-trodden urban fantasy paths and then takes an abrupt right turn into science fiction: Dina going through a dimensional gate to an interstellar marketplace to stock up on weapons, for instance.

Also, it has a sentient house. This is one of my favorite story elements ever, provided that the story isn't horror (which is all too often the case with sentient houses, but which is not at all the case here).

I found the early parts of this book, during which Sean is insulting Dina and Dina is unimpressed but not doing anything about it, rather tedious. Thankfully, once Dina finally loses her patience and knocks some sense into him it gets a lot better. It never becomes great literature, but sometimes that's a feature. If you're in the mood for some urban fantasy with an adequate, if hand-waved, re-spun science fiction justification and an uncomplicated and loyal sentient house, I can wholeheartedly recommend Clean Sweep. I liked it better than I had expected to.

Followed by Sweep in Peace.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2017-10-24

Last modified and spun 2017-11-05