A fun outing in the Innkeepers world, with a bit of seriousness…
Sometimes the books that are almost, but not quite, at the end of a series can be a bit slow – acting more-or-less as set-ups for the grand finale. But Sweep of the Heart, whose authors have hinted on their blog that there are probably only one or two more Innkeeper tales to go, doesn’t suffer from that problem at all. Instead, although there is some subtle scene-setting in the background, Sweep of the Heart is mostly a wild romp, as twelve different candidates and their hangers-on converge on Gertrude Hunt Bed and Breakfast to compete in an intergalactic “spouse-selection”. Think The Bachelor, with 12 candidates from as many different planets. And what can go wrong when you have those candidates debating each other, competing in a talent show, and playing the advanced version of intergalactic Civilization? Plenty – and Innkeepers Dina and Sean (and Gertrude Hunt) have their hands full helping the bachelor, who happens to be the Sovereign of the Seven Star Dominion, end up with the right spouse. Oh, and keeping everyone alive too.
Fans of the series will be pleased to know that their favorites (or their relatives) are all there: Karat from House Krahr; Dagorkun, Under-Khan of the Hope Crushing Horde; Nuan Couki from Clan Nuan of the lees; Gaston and George from the Arbitrators; and even Tony the ad-hal, there in his official capacity, and not just to mooch food from Dina’s Red Cleaver chef, Orro. Caldenia has a starring role, and becomes much more fleshed out as a person, and not just as an intergalactic tyrant. And although we don’t see much of Wilmos, Sean’s werewolf mentor, his kidnapping sets off the whole chain of events. (A note for folks who are new to the series: I think the authors have provided enough background for you to enjoy Sweep of the Heart, but I’d still recommend starting at the beginning and reading in order – there are a bunch of wonderful little Easter eggs that I think you’ll miss if you don’t.)
As always, I’m in awe of the imagination of the authors, who range effortlessly from characters based on classic human myths to some of their own creation – somehow we manage to end up cheering for (and caring about) a highly evolved fish who communicates by flashing his fins. And there are some moments of sheer (but kind) parody – anyone who has spent any time at all in an academic environment will recognize First Scholar Thek. The authors’ sharp sense of humor appears throughout, and makes this, at least for me, a read-by-myself book, since I’m likely to bust out laughing at any point. At the same time, though, it’s not all cotton-candy – there are several moments that make you think, and even one chapter that made me cry, which is pretty rare for me when reading a book.
As a disclosure, if you haven’t already figured this out, the Ilona Andrews duo are one (two) of the very very few authors that I fan-girl about, which is a bit odd for me, since I’m mostly a mystery reader. But, their books, which are well put together, have wonderful world building, and meticulously researched backgrounds, appeal to a wide range of readers. And Sweep of the Heart is an excellent example, although, as above, I think I’d start with the first in the series, and read in order. I’d like to give it nine stars, in honor of the Seven Star Dominion (you’ll have to read the book), but five stars seems to be the limit. And, finally, my thanks to the authors for the advance review copy.