Sweep of the Blade

by Ilona Andrews

Cover image

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #4
Publisher: NYLA
Copyright: 2019
ISBN: 1-64197-104-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 310

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Sweep of the Blade is the fourth book of the Innkeeper Chronicles and the first with a main character other than Dina. The identity of that main character and the nature of the plot are spoilers for parts of One Fell Sweep, the previous book in the series, so don't read further in this review if you would prefer to avoid those.

Maud was the wife of a vampire (which, as in previous books in this series, are more like religious Klingons than the typical fantasy creature). She learned their forms of combat, their languages, and their customs. Her behavior and willingness to fit in were unquestionable. For her trouble, she and her daughter were treated like curiosities and trophies, pawns in her husband's ambition. His schemes left her exiled and fighting for her and her daughter's life on a lawless desert planet. By the time she made her escape (in One Fell Sweep), she was utterly done with vampires. But then she met Arland.

Arland, being the Arland that readers of this series have come to know, is determined to win her heart and her hand. Her heart may be a lost cause. Her hand is another matter. Maud had promised herself to never return to the Holy Anocracy to be rejected a second time, or to return Helen to a life of being bullied as a mongrel child. Arland nonetheless convinces her to meet his formidable family, determined to convince her to marry him.

Maud's requirement is that they take her and Helen on their own terms, or not at all.

This is not the sort of book you read for the plot twists and surprise endings. If you've read much at all, you're going to know the ending within the first few chapters, and are likely to be able to predict most of the story beats. If that's not what you're in the mood for, if you want something less expected and more uncertain, save this for another time. But if you're in the mood for a kick-ass heroine facing down assholes and winning the respect of all the people who matter while protecting her adorably feral child (and it takes a lot for me to like child characters), this is great.

The reader knows, going into this book, that Maud is worthy of Arland, and that Arland can probably manage to be worthy of Maud. The authors know that the reader knows and don't call that into question. The only question is exactly how they're going to demonstrate that, how long it will take the other vampires to figure it out, and what Maud will do to her enemies along the way. The setting is a complex inter-species negotiation mixed with vampire politics and a somewhat strained conspiracy, which gives Maud plenty of opportunity to use her innkeeper background and the vampires lots of opportunities to utterly fail to understand people who are not vampires. The fun is in Maud letting people underestimate her until just the right moment, and then proving she's the smartest and most capable person in the book.

This series as a whole is great fun, but I think this is my favorite book to date. That's not because of complex plots or detailed world-building (the setting is fun but composed of not horribly original components), but because it's the kind of series that unabashedly delivers on a guaranteed reading experience. I wanted to read a book where I knew the good guys were going to win and all the important people were going to learn to like the protagonist as much as I did, where I could just relax into the story and enjoy myself and grin at Maud cutting down (metaphorically or literally) people who thoroughly deserved it.

Also, Helen is an absolute delight. She's fearless, sincere, and childish in turn, and in just the right amount. Her relationship with Maud has just the right mix of protectiveness and trust. A whole book of the two of them together is a wonderful treat.

If you too are in the mood for that sort of uncomplicated story, this (and the whole series) delivers exactly what it promises on the tin. Highly recommended.

This entry doesn't advance the over-arching series plot all that much, but the teaser at the end of the story implies the next book will. As of this writing, it doesn't yet have a title.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2019-10-31

Last modified and spun 2019-11-01