Pros: Creative and fascinating
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ilona Andrews’s Clean Sweep, the first book in a new series, reminds me superficially of Tanya Huff’s Keeper series. Dina runs a bed and breakfast that caters to unusual and potentially dangerous guests. Only in Andrews’s version, we take a left turn into science fiction that has its roots in urban fantasy, rather than straight urban fantasy itself. Any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic, and we very quickly learn that what looks like magic is, in fact, technology. The werewolf was genetically engineered. The vampire is an alien. And as for the Innkeeper, her people run sanctuaries for guests, and go to great pains to make sure those guests are not endangered. The inn is somewhere between sentient and just hugely technological–or maybe both. Dina is much more powerful when she’s within the boundaries of her inn. In this case, a local werewolf is driving her insane–he insists that her inn is within his territory, and she’s mad that he doesn’t seem to want to figure out why nearby dogs are dying. Then horrible stalker-beasts put in an appearance, an important vampire arrives to hunt the alien in charge of the stalkers, and these unlikely three people find themselves having to work together to figure out what is going on and deal with it. Preferably in a way that doesn’t alert the neighbors.
Since one of my recent reviews harped on the extensive info-dumps, summaries, and extensive explanations of things, I have to say that Clean Sweep got it right. Sure, there’s info to be imparted, but it’s communicated with personality, spread out a bit at a time, and applied to the current situation rather than stuck on randomly. This is the right way to give readers background and insight. It’s also done only when necessary–most things we find out from observation.
I would have liked to see a little more depth from one of the major vampire characters. As a whole the vampires have quite a bit of personality and fascinating cultural aspects, but one of the vampires had a bit of a one-note thing going on. The innkeeper, Dina, has some nice layers to her, and I particularly enjoyed a scene that takes place at Costco of all places. It both adds to her character and does so much to show what she can and can’t do magically when away from the inn.
Things pick up at a fairly steady pace, and I absolutely loved the battle at the end. It included interesting strategies and unexpected difficulties, and I found it fascinating. I look forward to reading the next volume. Since I’m familiar with some of Andrews’s work already (her amazing Kate Daniels series), I came in hoping for more of the author’s fantastic worldbuilding and characters. The characters need some more time to grow, but the worldbuilding and story are great. I’ve already picked up the sequel!