Dina DeMille runs a bed-and-breakfast inn that secretly caters to visitors from other parts of the galaxy. The magical, semi-sentient inn can create opulent new rooms and redecorate them at Dina’s wish, with a blithe disregard for the normal laws of physics (what I wouldn’t give to have a house like that!). But Dina is short on both guests and cash, so she’s open to the idea when George, an arbitrator of disputes between different alien races, asks her to host an arbitration aimed at ending a bitter twenty-year-long war between three species, fighting over control of the vast mineral wealth of a desolate planet.
The problem is that the three factions that have to agree to the peace accord are the militant Holy Cosmic Anocracy (i.e., space vampires), the equally aggressive Otrokars (aka the Hope-Crushing Horde), and the Merchants of Baha-char, who look like upright silver-blue foxes and have incredibly devious minds and an unswerving devotion to accumulating wealth. Normally the Merchants couldn’t stand up to either the vampires or the Otrokars, but they have an incredible warrior hero called the Turan Adin who can single-handedly keep the other races at bay. The bloody war among the three races has left thousands dead and the survivors brimming with bloodthirstiness and vengeance. Not a great recipe for settlement negotiations! But even though a successful peace agreement between the three is unlikely, George is offering Dina a payment of a million dollars if the arbitration succeeds and half that if it fails. So Dina, against her better judgment, agrees to host the summit. She stands to lose her reputation and incur a devastating cut in her inn’s star ranking if anyone is killed at her inn.
Sweep in Peace, the second novel in Ilona Andrews‘ INNKEEPER CHRONICLES, improves on the first book, Clean Sweep. Now that the main characters and their world have been introduced to readers, there’s more room for character development and intricate plotting, and it shows. Each of the factions has its own divisions and dissentions within it, and some of the participants have their own secret agendas. Almost everything that could go wrong with the peace summit does … but a few important things go right as well. The ending is heart-wrenching as well as exciting.
In a rather bemusing but fun cross-pollination from the Andrews’ THE EDGE series, George Caramine shows up as the galactic arbitrator, along with several of his friends from that series. George has grown up to be a fascinating and cunning man, a master manipulator who, just possibly, is not as heartless as he seems to be. Dina’s empathy as well as her determination ― including judicious use of her magical powers to quell disturbances ― continue to play a key role in her stories.
The subplots include Dina’s amusing adventures in hiring and keeping happy a new chef, Otro the Quilllonian, who lives for both gourmet food and drama. Caldenia, an occasionally deadly galactic aristocrat and the inn’s only lifetime guest, highly approves:
A Quillonian chef. My dear, you shouldn’t have. Well, you should have months ago, but one mustn’t be petty. Finally. I shall be dining in a style to which I am suited. Fantastic. Does he have moral scruples? I am reasonably sure that this summit will result in at least one murder, and I have never tasted an otrokar.
Ilona Andrews’ INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series is a fantasy with a thin veneer of science fiction. As Dina commented in Clean Sweep, higher physics is indistinguishable from magic for those who don’t understand it, and this series takes that concept and runs with it. For practical purposes, Sweep in Peace is in the urban fantasy genre, with just a touch of romance in this installment. The engaging, imaginative plot and liberal doses of the Andrews’ trademark snarky humor made this a highly enjoyable read.