One Fell Sweep

by Ilona Andrews

Cover image

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #3
Publisher: NYLA
Copyright: 2016
ISBN: 1-943772-71-1
Format: Kindle
Pages: 326

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This is the third book of the Innkeeper Chronicles series, and this isn't the sort of series to read out of order. Each book contains substantial spoilers for the previous books, and the characterization and plot benefits from the foundation of previous installments.

Sean has not fully recovered from the events of Sweep in Peace. Dina is still unsure about the parameters of their friendship, or whatever it is. But some initial overtures at processing that complexity are cut off by a Ku with far more enthusiasm than sense arriving in the neighborhood on a boost bike at two in the morning. A Ku with a message from Dina's sister, asking for help.

One Fell Sweep moves farther and farther from urban fantasy in setting, although it still uses the urban fantasy style of first-person narration and an underground group of misfits who know the "real truth" about how the world works. This story opens with a rescue mission to another planet (aided by Dina calling on favors from previous books), and then segues into the main plot: a hunted species of aliens approach Dina for aid in accessing a solution to their plight, one they've already paid dearly for. The result is an episodic and escalating series of threats, both inside the inn and in some away missions. This is much more entertaining than it had any right to be given the repetitive structure. There isn't a great deal of plot here, and much of it is predictable, but there's a lot of competence porn. And I like these people and enjoy reading about them.

This series isn't philosophically deep by any stretch, but Andrews does do a good job of avoiding pitfalls and keeping it entertaining. For example, the aliens are being hunted by religious fanatics who think killing them will send their executioners directly to paradise, but this isn't as close of an analogy to real-world stereotypes as it may seem in a brief description. Andrews mixes enough different sources together and gives the aliens enough unique characterization that the real-world analogies are muted at best. If there is a common theme, it's a suspicion of hierarchical religions, or just about any other hierarchical structure. (I suspect it's obviously American.)

The main new characters in this entry are Dina's sister and her sister's daughter, both of whom are a delight. Andrews is very good at the feeling of family: Dina and her sister are very different people with very different interests, but they have a family similarity and mutual knowledge that comes from growing up in the same house with the same parents. And Dina's sister is just as competent as she is, albeit in somewhat different ways. She's spent much of her life with what this series calls vampires (more like religious Klingons with some of their own unique traditions), and she's raising a half-vampire child who managed to entirely escape my normal dislike of child characters in adult books.

It's also a refreshing change from a lot of urban fantasy that Andrews doesn't drag out the love triangle established in the first book. For once, the resolution obvious to the reader appears to also be obvious to the characters.

I would say that this book is again a notch above the previous books in the series. Sadly, the climax involves a deeply irritating section that sidelines Dina in a way that I found totally out of character. Key parts of the conclusion happen to her rather than because of her. Given that the agency of the protagonist is one of the things I like the most about this series, I found that disappointing and difficult to read, and thought the way that event resolved was infuriatingly dumb. Andrews is mostly above that sort of thing, but occasionally slips into banal tropes. The grand revelation about the hunted alien race was also just a little too neat. In both cases, I would have appreciated more nuanced messiness and internal courage, and less after-school-special morality.

But other than some missteps at the end, this is another surprisingly good book in a series that is much more fun than I had expected. It's darker and more serious than Clean Sweep, but still the sort of book in which you can be fairly certain nothing truly bad is going to happen to the protagonists. Just the sort of thing when one is in the mood for highly competent characters showing a creatively wide range of villains why they shouldn't be underestimated.

There's a clear setup for a sequel, but neither the title nor the publication date have been announced yet, although there's apparently an upcoming novella about Dina's sister.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2017-12-28

Last modified and spun 2017-12-29