Sweep with Me (2020), the fifth book in Ilona Andrews’s INNKEEPER CHRONICLES series, finds Dina DeMille fretting with her boyfriend Sean about an upcoming official review of Dina and the Gertrude Hunt, her magical inn for interstellar travelers. The innkeepers’ Assembly is concerned about some of the goings-on at the Gertrude Hunt and whether Dina and Sean have been keeping their rules, including not letting anyone on Earth know that their inn isn’t an ordinary one.
In the meantime, though, it’s the annual Treaty Stay holiday for earth’s galactic inns, and the tradition is that no innkeeper may turn away a guest during Treaty Stay. So, naturally, Dina and her inn are asked to host a set of particularly troublesome guests: the Drífan liege lord of Green Mountain, originally an Earth woman who’s now the powerful leader of a mysterious and highly magical people, and who is being harassed by her unscrupulous multi-millionaire uncle; two feuding groups of koo-ko, who consider themselves philosophers and look like oversized chickens with hands under their wings; and a Medamoth, a wily hunter and natural predator who ostensibly just wants to visit the Alamo, but makes Dina nervous about whether the plump and presumably delicious koo-ko are safe from him.
This volatile combination of guests causes all sorts of trouble, but it’s fun to watch Dina and Sean (a particularly powerful werewolf) and the magical semi-sentient Gertrude Hunt inn rise to the occasion. The most interesting of the subplots involves the Drífan, a magically-talented ruler who is not entirely happy with her life: she’s hemmed about by well-meaning but strict advisors, she’s homesick for a lot of things about her Earth life (including fast-food burgers and fries, which is making chef Orro’s brain explode) and she’s concerned about her upcoming meeting with her ambitious uncle, a man who’s made a living out of ruthless corporate takeovers. And Uncle Rudolph’s actions, like sending mercenaries to attack the inn where his niece is staying, certainly show that the Drífan has good cause for concern.
On the other hand, it seems clear that the koo-ko — or as Sean calls them, the “space chickens” — are there for comic relief, but I never really connected with these chicken-based philosophers who spend far more time squabbling than philosophizing. Apparently my brain is fine with space werewolves and vampires but balks at accepting space chickens.
Sweep with Me is a novella-length book, quite a bit shorter than the prior books in this series: it clocks in at about 140 pages. All of these INNKEEPER CHRONICLES books are light sci-fi/fantasy mixes, but the first three books still had a sense of emotional depth and intricacy that I didn’t get with Sweep with Me (or, for that matter, with the prior book, Sweep of the Blade). There are several ongoing story arcs in this series, like Dina’s search for her missing parents, but none of those progressed in Sweep with Me. It’s still an engaging and fun read, though, and I’d certainly recommend it to fans of Ilona Andrews.