Clean Sweep: Urban fantasy with a galactic twist

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Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews urban fantasy book reviewsClean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Dina Demille, a young woman, runs a quiet bed-and-breakfast in a small Texas town. Her inn is a quirky old Victorian home that looks like “a medieval castle and a Southern-belle, antebellum mansion had a baby and it had been delivered into the world by a gothic wedding cake decorator.” Dina’s only companion is a small black and white Shih Tzu named Beast, aside from her single permanent guest in the inn, but Dina is hoping her inn will become more popular ― with space aliens.

The Gertrude Hunt Bed-and-Breakfast is, in fact, a house with mysterious powers and a symbiotic relationship to Dina, and it secretly caters to otherworldly visitors from all over the galaxy. It’s one of many on the planet Earth, which is a popular way station for alien travelers. The inn’s sole guest is a bloodthirsty former Galactic aristocrat who caused millions of deaths in her former life, and who is now using Dina’s inn as a permanent sanctuary.

As an innkeeper, Dina is supposed to keep a low profile and stay neutral and safe, but when something starts killing the local dog population and threatening humans, what’s a conscientious girl with magical powers to do? Dina tries suggesting to the local werewolf, a buff ex-military guy named Sean Evans, that he step in and take care of the dog-killing alien, but when he blows her off, she decides she has to get involved to protect her community.

And somehow it all gets very complicated from there, but it involves a semi-sentient house, a Shih Tzu with unexpected talents, and some sexy guys, wrapped up in a blend of science fiction and fantasy and liberally spiced with Ilona Andrews’ trademark sarcastic humor. Who knew that werewolves and vampires are actually space aliens?

Clean Sweep, the first novel in the INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series, is slightly reminiscent of Clifford Simak’s classic work Way Station with its galactic inn setting, but takes a more urban fantasy approach. Ostensibly this a science fiction work, but for all practical purposes Dina’s and the inn’s powers are magical. No effort is made to explain scientifically the basis for these abilities, other than Dina’s citing of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Third Law of Prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Book 2

The Ilona Andrews husband-and-wife team has a certain formula that almost invariably appears in their novels: a kickass heroine with extraordinary abilities and a sarcastic attitude, a tough and sexy love interest with whom the heroine has an intense but often antagonistic relationship, and supernatural, life-threatening challenges that serve to bring the two together. That same formula is used in Clean Sweep, but the Andrews team creates such an engaging, humorous read that it’s difficult to begrudge their repeated use of the same basic literary recipe. And within that familiar framework, there is a lot of imagination at play. Elements like the magical, shape-shifting inn, Dina’s similarly shape-shifting broom (which functions at need as a weapon), and Beast the talented Shih Tzu, are delightful creations. And while the story pulls in the standard urban fantasy werewolf and vampire characters, both of these races are given a rich back story and history that both fits the science fictional setting and explains some of the legendary traits of those races. There’s even a wink to the love triangle trope, as Sean the werewolf and Arland the vampire discuss their intentions toward Dina: 

“My intentions are my business,” Sean said.

 

“Mhm,” Arland said. “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.”

Clean Sweep isn’t deep, but it is a lot of fun. I’m anxious to continue Dina’s story in the second volume, Sweep in Peace.


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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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3 comments

  1. You almost lost me with the mention of the love triangle, but the fact that Andrews addressed it (and so cheekily!) redeems the book for me. I’m glad you’re having fun with this series!

    • I did teeter right on the edge of a 3.5 star rating. :) There’s not a love triangle at this point, although certainly one might be in the air. I guess I’ll have to see where the second installment takes us.

  2. This sounds like hilarious fun, and I love the writing style of these two authors, even when the subject matter isn’t my most favorite.

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