One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Note: This review contains some spoilers for the two earlier books in the INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series.
As One Fell Sweep (2016) begins, Dina DeMille, the Innkeeper of the Gertrude Hunt Inn, a secret way-stop on Earth for galactic visitors, is recuperating from the life-and-death peace summit that her inn hosted in Sweep in Peace. She’s also just beginning to pick up her relationship with Sean, the werewolf warrior, when a reptilian visitor brings her a message: Dina’s widowed sister Maud is stuck on the planet Karhari and needs rescuing. Dina calls in a favor from Arland, a buff, blond vampire friend (think Chris Hemsworth as Thor, plus fangs), who takes her and Sean to this ruthless frontier planet to rescue Maud and Maud’s five year old half-vampire daughter Helen.
Arland is instantly intrigued with the warrior-like Maud, but she isn’t interested in any more relationships with vampires after the hell she recently went through with her now-deceased vampire husband. Still, he invites himself for a stay at the Gertrude Hunt, ostensibly to recover from the stresses of his “overwhelming responsibility.” But a relaxing vacation is not in the cards.
Another alien visitor soon arrives at the inn: A Hiru, attired in a repulsively smelly and ugly metallic spacesuit, asks for Dina’s help and protection as an Innkeeper. The Hiru race is being hunted to extinction by the Draziri, another alien race with a religious vendetta against the Hiru, who will stop at nothing to exterminate it. Dina initially tries to turn them down, because it will be too dangerous for her family and guests. But she’s is a sucker for those in need of her help, and only a thousand Hiru are left alive after years of being hunted down by the Draziri. At tremendous expense, the Hiru have hired the Archivarius, a hive mind with several bodies and massive knowledge about the universe, to find them a new planet where they can settle and be safe from extinction. And they want to use Dina’s inn as a place where the Archivarius can assemble itself to give them their answer, offering Dina the chance to also ask the Archivarius a question: how can she find her parents, who have been missing for years?
It doesn’t take long for a group of Draziri to find out that Dina’s inn is sheltering a Hiru. Soon the Gertrude Hunt inn is under siege by an entire clan of Draziri, who are bird-like humanoids with vast resources and a brutal determination to kill the Hiru at any cost. And will there ever be any room for a Christmas celebration at the inn?
The INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series is a highly enjoyable mix of science fiction and urban fantasy, as well as humor, action and some romance. The series continues its trend of getting stronger as it goes along. With an Ilona Andrews book you have to enjoy the urban fantasy romance tropes, where all the characters ― both women and men ― are hot-looking kickass fighters, but the Andrews always add hefty dose of imagination and wittiness to their plots. Although the Archivarius plotline occasionally feels like a video game where all the pieces need to be assembled by the players (at great personal risk, of course), the final resolution of that plot was surprisingly effective, and tied some threads together in a highly satisfying way.
Dina’s relationship with Sean continues to develop, though the two have some hurdles to overcome. Dina’s nemesis, police officer Marais, who just knows that there’s something very fishy going on at the Gertrude Hunt inn, continues to hang around, and inevitably has a run-in with the Draziri who are lurking around the inn’s grounds. There’s absolutely delightful development in Officer Marais’ role in this series.
I also loved the interplay between Maud, who’s sworn off relations with all vampires, Arland, and Maud’s adorable daughter Helen, with her tiny fangs and fearless (and occasionally bloodthirsty) attitude, who is fascinated with all of the new things on the planet Earth. Like, for example, Christmas, and cats:
“That’s a kitty,” Maud said. “Be careful. They have sharp claws.”
“What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have one,” I told her. I hadn’t gotten around to it. “I tell you what, you can name him.”
Helen’s eyes got almost as big as the cat’s. “I can?”
“I’m going to name him Olasard, after he who hunts the evildoers and rips out their souls.”
The Ripper of Souls gave me a befuddled look.
Like the two earlier books in the INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series, One Fell Sweep was initially published on the Ilona Andrews website in weekly installments, prior to publication in its final form. The final ebook is worth the price for Andrews fans; it’s more polished and has several additional scenes, including a much more extensive and gratifying ending.
I read OFS as the web serial, and it was amazing even without the polish. Helen is possibly my favorite child in all of fiction. And their alien chef’s understanding of Christmas is particularly funny.
I agree, Helen was delightful! I hope we see more of her and Maud in the next installment.