Sweep of the Heart

by Ilona Andrews

Cover image

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #6
Publisher: NYLA Publishing
Copyright: 2022
ISBN: 1-64197-239-4
Format: Kindle
Pages: 440

Buy at Powell's Books

Sweep of the Heart is the sixth book of the sci-fi urban fantasy, kitchen-sink-worldbuilding Innkeeper series by husband and wife writing pair Ilona Andrews, assuming one counts the novella Sweep with Me as a full entry (which I do). It's a direct sequel to One Fell Sweep, but also references the events of Sweep of the Blade and Sweep with Me enough to spoil them. Needless to say, don't start here.

As always with this series, the book was originally published as a serial on Ilona Andrews's blog. I prefer to read my novels as novels, so I wait until the entries are collected and published, but you can read it on-line for free if you want.

Sean and Dina's old friend Wilmos has been kidnapped by an enemy who looks familiar from One Fell Sweep. To get him back, they need to get to a world that is notoriously inaccessible. One player in galactic politics may be able to offer a portal, but it will come as a price.

That price? Host a reality TV show. Specifically, a sci-fi version of The Bachelor, with aliens. And the bachelor is the ruler of a galactic empire, whose personal safety is now Dina's responsibility.

There is a hand-waving explanation for why the Seven Star Dominion does spouse selection for their rulers this way, but let's be honest: it's a fairly transparent excuse to write a season of The Bachelor with strange aliens, political intrigue, inn-generated special effects and wallpaper-worthy backdrops, ulterior motives, and attempted murder. Oh, and competence porn, as Dina once again demonstrates just how good she's become at being an innkeeper.

I'm not much of a reality TV fan, have never watched The Bachelor, and still thoroughly enjoyed this. It helps that the story is more about political intrigue than it is about superficial attraction or personal infighting, and the emperor at the center of the drama is calm, thoughtful, and juggling a large number of tricky problems (which Dina, somewhat improbably, becomes privy to). The contestants range from careful diplomats with hidden political goals to eye candy with the subtlety of a two by four, the latter sponsored by sentient murderous trees, so there's a delightful variety of tone and a ton of narrative momentum. A few of the twists and turns were obvious, but some of the cliches are less cliched than they initially look.

This series always leans towards "play with every toy in the toy box at once!" rather than subtle and realistic. This entry is no exception, but the mish-mash of science fiction tropes with nigh-unlimited fantasy power is, as usual, done with so much verve and sheer creative joy that I can't help but love it.

We do finally learn Caldenia's past, and... I kind of wish we hadn't? Or at least that her past had been a bit more complicated. I will avoid spoiling it by saying too much, but I thought it was an oddly flat and overdone trope that made Caldenia substantially less interesting than she was before this revelation.

That was one mild disappointment. The other is that the opening of Sweep of the Heart teases some development of the overall series plot, but that remains mostly a tease. Wilmos's kidnapping and any relevance to deeper innkeeper problems is, at least in this entry, merely a framing story for the reality TV show that constitutes the bulk of the novel. There are a few small revelations in the conclusion, but only the type that raise more questions. Hopefully we'll get more series plot development in the next book, but even if we don't, I'm happily along for the ride.

If you like this series, this is more of the thing you already like. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it (start with Clean Sweep). It's not great literature, and most of the trappings will be familiar from a dozen other novels and TV shows, but it's unabashed fun with loads of competence porn and a wild internal logic that grows on you over time. Also, it has one of the most emotionally satisfying sentient buildings in SF.

There will, presumably, be more entries in the series, but they have not yet been announced.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2022-12-28

Last modified and spun 2022-12-29