Review: Sweep of the Heart by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep of the Heart by Ilona AndrewsSweep of the Heart (Innkeeper Chronicles, #6) by Ilona Andrews
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: fantasy romance, paranormal romance, science fiction, science fiction romance, urban fantasy
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #6
Pages: 454
Published by NYLA on December 13, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

From the New York Times #1 bestselling author, Ilona Andrews, comes a fun and action-packed new adventure in the Innkeeper Chronicles! We invite you to relax, enjoy yourself, and above all, remember the one rule all visitors must obey: the humans must never know.

Life is busier than ever for Innkeeper, Dina DeMille and Sean Evans. But it’s about to get even more chaotic when Sean's werewolf mentor is kidnapped. To find him, they must host an intergalactic spouse-search for one of the most powerful rulers in the Galaxy. Dina is never one to back down from a challenge. That is, if she can manage her temperamental Red Cleaver chef; the consequences of her favorite Galactic ex-tyrant's dark history; the tangled politics of an interstellar nation, and oh, yes, keep the wedding candidates from a dozen alien species from killing each other. Not to mention the Costco lady.

They say love is a battlefield; but Dina and Sean are determined to limit the casualties!

My Review: 

Dina Demille is not exactly a typical innkeeper, and Gertrude Hunt is far from an ordinary inn of any stripe whatsoever. And that’s not just because Dina’s lover, partner and fellow innkeeper, Sean Evans, is an alpha strain werewolf.

The inn that Dina and Sean keep is both a portal and a crossroads, a place where worlds literally collide – and sometimes come for tea. Or sanctuary. No matter what species they are or what world they might have come from.

Inns like Gertrude Hunt are special in that their existence and their services keep Earth safe from all the many, many powers in the big, bad galaxy that would otherwise roll right over us – possibly even with the equivalent of hyperspace bypass à la The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The network of inns, and the Innkeeper Assembly exist to provide neutral ground for contentious groups that need a place to negotiate. And by their existence they cement Earth’s position in that wider galaxy as a protected planet not to be messed with, or conquered, or eradicated for interstellar highway construction.

But there is a great big galaxy out there which people on Earth are kept from being aware of. A galaxy that Dina, Sean and Gertrude Hunt are very much a part of. A galaxy that hosts at least one entity that is gobbling up inns and innkeepers, and seems to have a special hate on for Dina, her family, and her inn.

A vendetta that seems to have extended to anyone who has helped them, meaning that one of Sean’s friends and mentors out in that wider galaxy has been kidnapped and dragged to an utterly inhospitable planet as bait to lure them into a trap.

A trap that they know they’ll need to walk into with eyes wide open, once they manage to jump through all the hoops that will give them what they need to get there.

Not that those hoops don’t constitute an entirely different kind of trap. In order to go after their friend, first Dina, Sean and Gertrude Hunt will need to host an intergalactic edition of The Bachelor, so that Kosandrion, the Sovereign of the Seven Star Dominion, can find a spouse to become the other parent of the Heir (yes, you can hear the caps) to the Dominion. The game is rigged, the contestants all hate each other and everyone knows that Kosandrion is the quarry of multiple assassins.

All Dina and Sean have to do is keep the Sovereign and all of the various factions, contestants, security contingents and observers alive until the end of the ‘show’ even though each and every group has deadly plans to eliminate one or more of their rivals, the Sovereign and/or every single being on hand to watch the proceedings.

This is a job that absolutely nobody wanted, but Dina and her crew are the ones who have to complete it. Flawlessly. ALL their lives hang in the balance – or on the point of more than one very sharp knife.

Escape Rating A: The Innkeeper Chronicles, the series that began with Clean Sweep and is now six books and hopefully counting, sits on that border between science fiction and fantasy. On the one hand, the inns are magical and give their keepers a whole array of magical powers. And on the other, part of their magic is to host beings from other worlds who may very well arrive at the inn via spaceship – whether they are supposed to or not.

Spaceships, after all, can be hard to hide, and the first rule of the inns is that the humans must not know about the wider galaxy.

In addition to sitting on that science vs. magic divide, this particular entry in the series is caught between two plotlines that only relate to each other at the messy points. As in, Dina and Sean have to get through this mess to get what they really need out of the whole thing. But this isn’t part of their own whole thing – which is even messier in it’s own way.

So the framing story is their need to save their friend, which is part of the overarching plot of the series that Dina’s parents, also innkeepers, disappeared without a trace and that in the process of searching for them someone has started hunting her, Sean, anyone who helps them in general and other inns and innkeepers in particular. And all of that is fascinating but none of it is exactly lighthearted. It’s the complete opposite of fun and lighthearted.

Howsomever, the other – and the larger part of this entry in the series IS frequently lighthearted, even though it is not all fun and games. At all.

Instead, this intergalactic episode of The Bachelor embodies the whole “SF is the romance of political agency” concept in a way that is even more entertaining than the TV series could ever possibly be – as well as potentially more deadly.

Because the contest to become the spouse of the Sovereign isn’t only what it appears to be and that’s what gives the whole thing it’s sometimes gallows humor as well as the kind of wheels within wheels political machinations that I always love.

That it also manages to include an actual romance as part of its many plots and counterplots is just icing on a bittersweet cake that gives fans of the series the answers to questions they’ve been asking since the series began.

I had an absolute blast with Sweep of the Heart. For those who have been following the series, it’s a delight. The Bachelor plot has pretty much all the plots, counterplots and wry humor that any reader could ask for, while still pushing the overall story forward AND giving out a few more hints on what all that awfulness is truly about.

I think that a lot of readers will enjoy the intergalactic Bachelor game even if they are new to the series, but that overarching plot forms the beginning AND the end and may keep those readers from getting to what they would consider the juicy middle. On the other hand, series readers are going to eat the whole thing up with a spoon. Or at least this reader did.

Also be advised that, as much as I loved this book, it is not the novella that some of the blurbs make it out to be. It’s more like FOUR times that length. Not that its nearly 500 pages don’t go absorbingly fast, but it’s not a quick lunchtime read – more like an all afternoon binge. Although an absolutely glorious one.

It’s clear from the way that Sweep of the Heart ends that Dina and Sean’s adventures, trials and tribulations are far from over. It’s probably going to be a year or more likely two before we get to find out what happens next. And that’s going to be a damn long wait.

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