Review: Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews

Review: Fated Blades by Ilona AndrewsFated Blades (Kinsmen, #3) by Ilona Andrews
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Kinsmen #3
Pages: 222
Published by Montlake on November 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

An uneasy alliance between warring families gets heated in this otherworldly novella from bestselling author Ilona Andrews.
At first glance, the planet Rada seems like a lush paradise. But the ruling families, all boasting genetically enhanced abilities, are in constant competition for power―and none more so than the Adlers and the Baenas. For generations, the powerful families have pushed and pulled each other in a dance for dominance.
Until a catastrophic betrayal from within changes everything.
Now, deadly, disciplined, and solitary leaders Ramona Adler and Matias Baena must put aside their enmity and work together in secret to prevent sinister forces from exploiting universe-altering technology. Expecting to suffer through their uneasy alliance, Ramona and Matias instead discover that they understand each other as no one in their families can―and that their combined skills may eclipse the risks of their forbidden alliance.
As the two warriors risk their lives to save their families, they must decide whether to resist or embrace the passion simmering between them. For now, the dance between their families continues―but just one misstep could spell the end of them both.

My Review:

This book was an absolutely delightful surprise in more ways than one!

First, I have to say that it was a surprise that it existed. The first two books in the Kinsmen series, Silent Blade and Silver Shark, came out over a decade ago. When I reviewed them both in 2014 for the late and much lamented Science Fiction Romance Quarterly, they were all there were.

But that’s a long time ago in, let’s call them, “book years”.

They were both terrific – although unfortunately terrifically short – and I stopped hoping for more a long time ago. Yet here we are.

After a very long hiatus, the Kinsmen series is back in Fated Blades. And it’s every bit as much fun as the previous books, as well as blissfully more than a bit longer.

That’s always been my one complaint about the series – that the books aren’t nearly long enough. And it’s still true – although getting better each time.

The story, on its surface, is simple enough. This is an enemies to lovers story with a vengeance. Literally. The Adlers and the Baenas have been enemies and rivals for centuries – all the way back to the founding of the colony on the planet Rada.

A rivalry that has occasionally bloomed into a hot war, but has always simmered as a lukewarm if not cold conflict between merciless rivals. An evenly matched antagonism between rival clans with the same business interests and the same dedication to continuing the extreme martial training of their ancestors.

But the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And this story begins when Ramona Adler stalks into Matias Baena’s office – into the heart of her enemy’s territory – because she and Matias have a desperate common cause – he just doesn’t know it until her one-woman invasion of his family’s corporate tower.

His wife has run off with her husband. Not that either of them loves their arranged spouse any more than those spouses love them. Or anyone but themselves. This betrayal isn’t nearly that simple.

Both companies have invested all their resources, pushing themselves to the brink of collapse, in order to research the genetic modifications that made them both the warrior clans that they are. And both of their spouses have run away with each other and with all of both companies’ research with the intent to sell it to the highest bidder.

Leaving both companies, and both families, destroyed in their wake. Not that either of their errant spouses give a damn.

Ramona and Matias must ally with each other – their deadliest rival – in order to stop the destruction of everything they hold dear.

In their hunt to stop their traitorous spouses, they discover two things. That said spouses are even bigger traitors than either of them thought.

And that Ramona and Matias, the heirs of generations of mutual hatred, are each other’s perfect match. In love and in war.

Escape Rating A-: Fated Blades is a tremendously fun use of all of the best tropes in science fiction romance – not that most of them can’t be applied to other types of romance as well!

But seriously, the thing about SFR is that both sides have to be balanced. The SFnal worldbuilding has to be self-consistent and hold together, and the romance has to be a solidly satisfying romance set in that well-built SFnal world.

Fated Blades delivers a story that walks that tightrope balance beautifully.

Even three books in, the world of the Kinsmen has plenty of facets to explore – but what we do have feels solid. It’s a well-established Earth-diaspora colony in a sector filled with more of them. The world of Rada and its sector read like a livable place that is just enough like our own time and place to seem familiar while being just different enough to seem exotic. Rada and its sister worlds have an established history that we get just enough glimpses of to think we know what’s going on and what went on in their past.

While the real enemy that they face is the stuff of SFnal nightmares that combine the Reavers from Firefly with every 21st century totalitarian nightmare into an enemy that must be feared, respected and eliminated to the last soldier and damn the diplomatic consequences.

At the same time, the romance combines the classic enemies to lovers trope with just a touch of fated mate syndrome and more than a bit of the crash and mutual rescue dynamic of Shards of Honor. A winning combination if ever there was one.

I had a great reading time returning to the Kinsmen universe, even after all these years. I loved the stuttering, back and forth relationship between Ramona and Matias, although I wish I’d gotten a bit more about their families and how their part of this universe came to be. I’d love to read more in this world, hopefully sooner rather than quite this much later after the previous book.

And they’re still too damn short.

Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona AndrewsEmerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5) by Ilona Andrews
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, science fiction romance, urban fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy #5
Pages: 391
Published by Avon on August 25, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart. 
The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won't rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that's tearing their world apart. 

My Review:

If the Big, Bad Wolf went hunting for Catalina Baylor’s grandmother, he’d be the one eaten – because she is definitely the bigger, badder predator. Catalina wouldn’t have to marvel at what big teeth her grandmother had, because she already knows and is appropriately wary every single time she even thinks in Victoria Tremaine’s general direction. Someday she will need to test herself against her completely amoral and totally formidable grandmother, but that day is not yet. But it’s definitely coming by the end of this entry in the series.

Emerald Blaze is the second book in the second trilogy in the Hidden Legacy series. So don’t start here. Start with Burn for Me in order to get fully up to speed with this world and totally invested in these characters.

Because the world that has been created in this series is utterly fascinating.

The world of Hidden Legacy is a not too distant future of this world, but a future in which science run amuck has led to magic running even amucker – which really needs to be a word. In the search for a super-soldier, science created the Osiris serum. The serum granted superpowers, its distribution was not regulated, and absolute power always corrupts absolutely. The super-beings that survived the serum’s 50% mortality rate fought for control of what was left of the world after their superpower-fueled rampages.

The story in Hidden Legacy wraps around their descendants. The effects of that serum altered their DNA, and the alterations bred true. A century later, the Houses led by Prime talents quite literally rule the world.

The “hidden legacy” that the series title refers to also loops back to Victoria Tremaine, the baddest grandmother to ever rule a house – not that Frida, Catalina’s other grandmother isn’t fairly badass on her own. Frida’s just badass on a somewhat more human scale.

In the first trilogy, the Baylor sisters, Nevada, Catalina and Arabella, discover that the grandmother they never knew about is the most hated and feared mind talent to ever walk the face of the earth and make it tremble in fear. And that Victoria Tremaine’s legacy requires them to form a fledgling House to prevent her machinations from either dragging them under or chain them to her side forever.

The first trilogy focused on Nevada, the oldest sister, and her romance with head of one of the other powerful houses, her formation of House Baylor and, in the end, her handing the reins of her own house over to her sister Catalina to marry Connor Rogan.

The second trilogy is Catalina’s story. In Sapphire Flames we saw Catalina forced to take the reins of a House about to come out from under the protection that follows formation. Catalina was 21 and just not ready for the series of crises that barrels towards her at breakneck speed.

She’s also not ready to fall in love with the playboy assassin Alessandro Sagredo. But she saves her House, falls in love, and gets her heart thoroughly broken by a man who can’t make himself give up revenge in order to have a real life.

In Emerald Blaze, trouble comes for Catalina and House Baylor yet again. And so does her assassin. But this time she might get to keep him.

The odds on that are about as good as their odds on surviving. In other words, terrible but worth striving towards – no matter what it takes. Or what it takes out of them.

Escape Rating A: This was a “read in a day” book. I started at lunch and while I’d like to say I finished at dinner, the fact is that I was so engrossed in the story that I skipped dinner and just kept reading. It was THAT good.

The world in this series is a tasty stew of urban fantasy, science fiction and paranormal romance. Because magic, and super-soldiers. But science created the magic AND the super-soldiers. While the traditional monsters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance don’t seem to have been accidentally created in this world – no vampires or werewolves – there are certainly PLENTY of monsters.

Some of them even walk on two legs and make a pretense of being human. And some of those make real monster-y monsters. Like the weird hybrid plant/animal/human/super-soldier Abyss that has taken over the Pit that has taken over Jersey Village Texas. (Jersey Village really exists. I have friends who live in Houston who might even recognize it under the slime the monster has coated the place with!)

As is usual with this series, there are three threads to the plot that braid into something utterly absorbing from beginning to end.

The first thread is the mess. Actually so are the second and third threads – just different types of messes.

Catalina first has to solve the problem in the Jersey Village Pit. Five Houses got together to reclaim the swamp, and now one of the representatives is dead and his father wants revenge. It’s Catalina’s job – literally – to figure out which of the four survivors is responsible for the murder. It’s Alessandro Sagredo’s job to end whichever of those survivors is the guilty party. Which means that Catalina has to find a way to work with Alessandro without killing him and without letting her heart take anymore of a beating than it already has. If she can.

And then there’s Alessandro’s own side of this mess. He’s involved because his hunt for the man who murdered his father has led him back to Houston, to Catalina, and to this case.

Underneath all of that, like the Abyss monster hiding below the swamp, is a case of stolen Osiris serum, Alessandro’s really screwed up family, and Victoria Tremaine. Not necessarily together – at least not as far as we yet know – but not exactly separate, either.

Because power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and there is something rotten and corrupt at the heart of the world that the Houses have created. Something that Catalina, Alessandro, House Baylor and House Rogan are stuck in the center of.

This series is not over – thank goodness! There will be one more book from Catalina’s point of view, and I’m terribly curious to see where it goes. As Catalina has more or less figured out where her heart has already bestowed itself by the end of this one, the next book will probably feature a threat to that relationship and further exposure of the rot at the heart of the world. Most likely with grandmother Tremaine spinning her spider webs at the center of it all.

Whatever it will be, I can’t wait to read it!

Review: Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep with Me by Ilona AndrewsSweep with Me (Innkeeper Chronicles, #4.5) by Ilona Andrews
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #5
Pages: 144
Published by Ilona Andrews on January 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

A charming, short novella in the Innkeeper Chronicles, from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ilona Andrews.

Thank you for joining us at Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, during the Treaty Stay. As you know, we are honor-bound to accept all guests during this oldest of innkeeper holidays and we are expecting a dangerous guest. Or several. But have no fear. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your hosts, Dina Demille and Sean Evans, will defend you at all costs. [But we hope we don’t have to.]

Every winter, Innkeepers look forward to celebrating their own special holiday, which commemorates the ancient treaty that united the very first Inns and established the rules that protect them, their intergalactic guests, and the very unaware/oblivious people of [planet] Earth. By tradition, the Innkeepers welcomed three guests: a warrior, a sage, and a pilgrim, but during the holiday, Innkeepers must open their doors to anyone who seeks lodging. Anyone.

My Review:

I’ve just realized that this is a holiday story. And that the guests at the Gertrude Hunt for this particular holiday match the traditional guests for this season as far as the Innkeepers are concerned.

The traditional guests are a warrior, a sage and a pilgrim, to celebrate the guests that were present with the Treaty was signed that established the rules for inns, innkeepers and their intergalactic guests.

But this is the Gertrude Hunt, on Earth, in Red Deer Texas. The pilgrim is also a warrior, the warrior is also a human from Earth, and the sage – well the sage is an overgrown chicken. All in all, that’s kind of a typical guest list for Gertrude Hunt – especially when you include the epic beat-down that the warrior has to deliver to her evil uncle. Who is just as human as she is – or isn’t.

The story in Sweep with Me goes directly back to the main line of the series that began with Clean Sweep, following Innkeeper Dina Demille, her Inn, Gertrude Hunt, and her “adventures” on Earth trying to juggle the needs of her inn, the rules of the Innkeepers’ Guild, and the needs of her guests without bringing the intergalactic equivalent of World War III to her door – again.

The events of this book, although they come after Sweep of the Blade, aren’t really dependent on what happens in that story. But they are a direct extension of the story in the previous three books, Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace and One Fell Sweep. To the point where this story feels like one continuous story with one sidebar (Sweep of the Blade) and you really need to read all of it to get into it. The series is awesome, the individual entries are relatively short, so reading the whole thing is no hardship at all.

Sweep with Me feels like a sweep back, to get the reader back into Gertrude Hunt and to deal with the fallout, of which there was plenty, from previous events.

It also sets up a new dynamic, with intergalactic alpha werewolf Sean Taylor finally joining Dina as an Innkeeper. Mostly in charge of taking care of the security of the inn, because past events have proven that her damaged but impressive security might not be enough.

And it’s a holiday story. The specific holiday is not an Earth holiday, but Treaty Stay, the holiday that marks the official start of the Innkeeper system. Dina has “welcomed” for select values of welcome, a variety of potentially contentious guests to the inn to add to the already motley crew that inhabits the place.

One uber-dangerous planetary warlord has come for a terrible hamburger and an even worse meeting. One warrior-turned-pilgrim has come to figure out how to survive the unsurvivable. And a whole flock of philosophic chickens has come to debate the origins of their species – until the feathers fly.

It’s all a typically atypical day for Gertrude Hunt. Dina and her inn will survive. Again. Hopefully with no additional damage – this time.

Escape Rating A-: This was terrific and a fun addition to the series. It’s also a bit short – even in comparison to the previous books in the series. It feels a bit like a reset after the off-world adventures in Sweep of the Blade.

As with all the entries in this series, there’s always plenty of comic relief mixed in with a surprising amount of serious stuff – either serious events for Dina and Gertrude Hunt or serious stuff for the reader to think about. Or both.

The comic relief this time around is provided by the Koo-ko, who are, yes, the chickens. Intelligent chickens. Philosophical chickens. Beings who will debate anything and everything, and get so wrapped up in their “discussions” that no method of making their side’s point is too far – not even mass murder. At the same time, there’s really no deliberate harm in any of them – they just tend to get carried away – very far away. It’s up to Dina to let them have their debate without actually killing each other – or any of the Inn’s other guests – when they take things much, much too far. As they do.

And Dina’s methods for dealing with their increasing extremes is ingenious. Also taxing. And frequently hilarious.

But the series, with just a touch of this series’ trademark tongue-in-cheek asides, is the story of the warlord. Her very evil uncle. And just a touch of nostalgia in the form of an objectively tasteless fast-food burger. The tastelessness of the burger drives Dina’s resident alien chef beyond crazy and straight into depression. But the heart of that story, and what turns out to be the heart of the entire book, is all about greed and selfishness and the willingness to set aside one’s personal wants and desires in order to serve one’s people. And about the quality of mercy.

So this one is fun and marvelous all the way through, but as is so wonderfully typical, the ending zings.

Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona AndrewsSapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4) by Ilona Andrews
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy #4
Pages: 393
Published by Avon on August 27, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society…

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

My Review:

Sapphire Flames represents a pivot in direction for this series, after the events in Diamond Fire. The focus has shifted from Nevada Baylor, the heroine of the first three marvelous books (Burn for Me, White Hot and Wildfire) to her sister Catalina Baylor, now the Prime of House Baylor.

The shift was necessary on multiple levels. First, the whole point of Diamond Fire was wrapped around Nevada finally marrying Connor Rogan, Prime of House Rogan. And possibly the only person who could really outstubborn Nevada – and vice versa.

But that means that Nevada has found her happy ever after – for occasionally explosive definitions of all the words in that phrase. She can only be loyal to one House. Not only is it natural for her to switch her primary focus to Rogan, but she and Rogan are still cleaning up the high-stakes political mess that brought them together in the first place.

So sister Catalina is now the Prime for House Baylor, a fledgling House that consists of her youngest sister – the next Prime – and the rest of their family including their mother and grandmother. This is a world where the Head of Household status rests with the person with the most supernatural power – and that’s neither of the women in the previous generations.

That family tug of war between Catalina needing to step up and be Prime and her mother and grandmother still having family power over her as the women who raised her is just one of the many interesting tensions that arises in this story, the first of what looks like a trilogy (at least) of books focusing on Catalina.

Catalina is in a similar position to the one that Nevada occupied in Burn for Me. She’s suddenly in charge of the family, forced to make decisions that affect everyone who depends on her, and isn’t sure that she’s the right person for the job that she doesn’t actually want anyway. And, to cap it off, she’s stuck working with a man who pushes all her buttons – of every possible kind – and who wants to take care of everything for her so that she doesn’t have to worry her pretty little head about it.

Not quite. More in the sense the the very Prime (in multiple senses of THAT work) Alessandro Sagredo, when he can’t manage to warn Catalina away from a case that will involve her House in warfare above their paygrade and way over their capabilities, offers to take care of things for her in order to keep her and hers out of the inevitable crossfire.

But that has never been the way that the Baylors roll. The pay their bills, they honor their contracts and they always get their man. Eventually.

Escape Rating A-: I have loved all of the previous books in this series, so I was thrilled to see that it was being continued with another of the Baylor sisters.

Part of what makes it so much fun is that it sits right on the border between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, but with a science fictional twist. In this near future, there has not always been magic in the world. But there sure has been science. And that’s how magic came into this world, via science.

Somebody invented a superhero/supersoldier/supervillain formula, and just like any other arms race, every country on the planet decided that their needed their own super-army. But, and there’s always a but in cases like this, those super-people had powers that could not be contained by any government – and those powers bred true.

Decades later, the formula is supposed to be under wraps, and those with powers, the Houses, exist not so much above the law as outside it. And that’s where this story comes in.

House Baylor has just begun as a House. The process from forming a House to surviving as a House is long, arduous and deadly. Few survive intact and independent. A narrow path that Catalina is determined to walk.

But when a friend comes to her for help, she can’t refuse. No matter how dangerous or how high the cost. At first it seems, while not cut and dried, fairly standard for House politics. Nasty, dirty, deadly, but for all that business as usual among the Houses.

Until Catalina kicks over the anthills, and discovers not just entire companies filled with assassins for hire, but an actual threat not just to the houses, but to the world itself. Someone has opened the Pandora’s Box of the super-formula, and it’s up to Catalina to stop it. And to stop herself from falling for the one man who seems to be able to resist her quite literal siren’s allure.

As always in this series, political machinations are simply war by other means, and as dirty as they come. Catalina, just like Nevada before her, shines as a character who is willing to play the game, but still manages to compromise herself but so far and no further. She’s a survivor, but there are lines that she just will not cross. Watching her figure out what those lines are adds depth to a character that began the series as a shy, retiring little wallflower, but who now commands the stage, even as she’s not sure she’s ready for the role she’s been thrust into.

At the same time that Catalina stands more clearly in the light, Alessandro steps even deeper into the shadows. Who he really is, what truly motivates him, is obviously just a part of what will be revealed in future entries in the series.

And I can’t wait to read them.

Review: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona AndrewsSweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles, #4) by Ilona Andrews
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction, space opera, urban fantasy, vampires
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #4
Pages: 314
Published by NYLA on July 16, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Maud Demille is a daughter of Innkeepers—a special group who provide ‘lodging’ to other-planetary visitors—so she knows that a simple life isn't in the cards. But even Maud could never have anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her young daughter, Helen, were exiled with him for his treachery to the desolate, savage planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud—completely abandoned by his family—has spent over a year avenging his debts. Rescued by her sister Dina, she's sworn off all things vampire.

Except... In helping Dina save the world, she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr, one of the most powerful vampire houses. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Arland is not used to hearing the word ‘no;’ and try as she might, Maud can't just walk away from Arland. It doesn't help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is extremely influential and Maud knows that a woman—a human, with a very questionable past—who's turned down a proposal from its most beloved son won't get a warm reception. Maybe she’s not sure about marrying Arland, but House Krahr isn’t going to decide for her. Maud Demille has never run from a fight, and House Krahr will soon discover that there's a lot more to Maud than they’re expecting.

My Review:

Vampires and politics. They go together like love and marriage. Complete with ALL the possibly messy endings. Along with the occasional happy ever after – as well as the rare but not unheard of “red wedding”.

This is also a book that manages to be both considerably different from the previous books in the Innkeeper Chronicles and follow directly from its immediate predecessor, the marvelous One Fell Sweep.

In this version of the universe, there is interstellar travel, and there are plenty of places and peoples in the very big galaxy, not all of whom are even humanoid. But Earth is not a participant in any of what’s “out there”. Because Earth sits on a very large and very rare nexus of space travel conduits, it has been declared a kind of intergalactic Switzerland – albeit one kept a bit in the space-faring dark ages.

Earth is off-limits to every species out there, and it’s an off-limit that’s enforced by everyone in return for safe passage through that nexus. Earth’s knowledge of the wider galaxy is confined to a group of people called innkeepers, who have complete control over the grounds of their inns. Inns that provide safe harbor, safe haven and safe rest-and-recuperation for any beings traveling through the nexus.

The story of the first three books has revolved around Dina Demille, daughter of two lost innkeepers, returning to Earth and taking control of the inn her parents left behind – and defending it from all comers, of which there have been entirely too many.

Dina’s adventures have been the heart of the first three books, and they are awesome. This is also a broad hint to start with the first book, Clean Sweep. This worldbuilding in this series is fascinating and grows with each new book in the series.

Sweep of the Blade is the story of Dina’s sister Maud. Formerly Lady Maud. Exiled and disowned ex-wife of one of the lesser ruling Vampiric Houses. There are vampire knights in this universe, but they are not much like our versions of vampires. On the other hand, the werewolves seem to be pretty much on the legendary nose.

I digress.

Maud survived a prison planet that spit her lying, deceitful, cheating husband out in little tiny pieces. And she, in her turn, avenged his death on every single one of his killers. Now she’s out, and safe, and home with her sister Dina.

But safe is not what Maud is built for. She could make a home with her sister, or become an innkeeper on her own. She could also, and more likely, become an enforcer for the innkeeper’s guild. Because Maud is a fighter – and she’s good at it.

However, Maud has a daughter, Helen, who is five years old and half-vampire by genetics, but all vampire in spirit. Earth, and the Innkeeper network, may be safe for Helen, but not what’s best for her. She’ll always be isolated and alone.

Maud’s other option is a tall, handsome hunk of vampire Marshall, who loves her, wants to marry her, and can provide Helen with a place where she can be who she is. Maud just has to accept.

But she can’t. She spent years as one vampire house’s trained human monkey, only to be discarded like trash for a crime her husband committed that she had no part of. She’s not willing to be anyone’s second class citizen ever again.

Arland offers her a place where she can fight to be first, for herself and for her daughter. She just has to survive every single thing, and every person, that his House can throw at her. Including a murderous attack by her potential mother-in-law and a pirate coup led by his House’s enemies.

And a very red wedding.

Escape Rating A+: This was a book that I gobbled up over dinner, and didn’t let go of until it was done. It starts with a bang, ends with a mic drop, and in the middle there’s the biggest and most delicious story of political skullduggery, underhanded betrayals, complex negotiations and epic romance.

This series is awesome from beginning to end, but this entry is a bit different. The previous stories have been set on Earth, with the ever expanding galaxy of characters making their way to Dina’s inn. While there have been some epic battles, the fighting has all been defensive, protecting Dina’s inn and her varied guests.

Maud goes away from Earth and she goes on the offensive – even if that is sometimes in the sense of the best defense being a good offense. She has a goal, and for the most part it’s the same goal she’s always had – to protect her daughter at all costs.

She wants what’s best for Helen, and that means making a place for them among Arland’s ancient, respected and feared House. He is, in effect, a prince among his people, and if Maud is to stand at his side as his equal, she’ll have to earn that place. That’s the story here, of her earning that place – not by pretending to be a trained monkey, as she did in her first marriage – but by being her fighting self. And by letting Helen fight an appropriate number of her own battles.

It’s that fight that makes the story so much fun. There are maneuvers, there are counter-measures. There are wheels within wheels within wheels. The vampires respect strength, so that’s what Maud must project at all times – no matter how much she hurts or how wounded she is.

At the same time, she is underestimated at every turn, and has to walk a fine line between lowering her enemies’ guards and not letting them walk all over her. The way that she eventually earns her place is by combining her strengths, both as a warrior and as a human. And it’s glorious. And so is she.

I enjoyed this book so much because I really liked Maud and wanted her to succeed. She is both kickass and clever, and both of those characteristics were needed in order for her to defeat her enemies – as well as to earn her place in Arland’s House by defeating theirs!

Sweep of the Blade ends, thank goodness not with a cliffhanger, but with a truly thunderous mic drop that promises more story in this universe. I can’t wait.

Review: Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews + Giveaway

Review: Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews + GiveawayDiamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, #3.5) by Ilona Andrews
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Hidden Legacy #3.5
Pages: 160
Published by Avon Impulse on November 6, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Nevada Frida Baylor and Connor Ander Rogan cordially invite you to join their wedding celebration. Summoning, weather manipulation, and other magical activities strictly forbidden.

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

My Review:

Although Nevada and Rogan’s wedding is the setting – or the excuse – for this story, this is definitely NOT Nevada’s story, unlike the rest of the Hidden Legacy series so far.

This is Nevada’s sister Catalina’s story, which makes this novella a kind of bridge book in the series, as the focus switches from Nevada, who has found her happy ever after with Connor Rogan. Future books need to feature other characters, and it looks like we’re going to be treated to watch every member of the Baylor family come into their own and find their HEA, starting with Catalina.

The setup of this variation on our world began in the awesome Burn for Me. Diamond Fire is not meant to be read as a standalone, it is an integral part of the series and I think that too much is left to previous knowledge. After all, why would you care about Nevada and Rogan if you hadn’t watched their struggle?

Also, the house rivalries, politics and downright internecine warfare probably only make sense if you start at the beginning. This series is so awesome that it is no hardship whatsoever.

But this is Catalina’s story through and through, and it is not a romance. I think there’s going to be one on the horizon for her, eventually, but Catalina has to learn to love herself and accept her gift before she can manage to love anyone else.

That’s more true for her than most, because Catalina’s gift is love. Not real love, but obsessive love. Love-potion-type-love along with stalker-level obsession. Their world doesn’t have a name for her gift, but we’d call her a siren. When she lets her gift loose, anyone she focuses on is compelled to love her to the exclusion of all else.

Which means that Catalina is never sure whether someone likes her for herself, or because she wanted them to. The only people who seem to be immune are her family – but then, they love her anyway.

The story in Diamond Fire is all about Catalina protecting her sister from too many distractions while she’s playing bridezilla (just a bit) and to keep Nevada from using her invasive gift, truthseeking, to break the minds of her in-laws in order to find out just who wants to sabotage her wedding.

Instead, it’s up to Catalina to not just follow the more mundane clues, but to convince whoever those clues lead to to tell her everything she needs to know – by whatever means necessary – and whether she wants to know or not.

Catalina’s afraid that she’ll end up with a trail of mindless love slaves following her around – and that she’ll like it that way. But she’ll do anything for Nevada – no matter what dark places it leads her to.

There might even be something shiny and sparkly at the end.

Escape Rating B+: This is short, and in the end sweet – but not without plenty of interesting angst in the middle.

It is not a starting point for this series – so start with Burn for Me. Or wait for the first book in the Catalina trilogy that’s coming out in 2019. Just don’t start here. The world of the Primes, while it bears a superficial resemblance to our 21st century, certainly has some hidden depths that are not explained in this novella.

Instead, this one falls much more on the urban fantasy side of the paranormal romance/urban fantasy divide. Catalina is the amateur detective, and she has a case to solve. Someone stole the heirloom tiara that Nevada is supposed to wear down the aisle at her wedding. The tiara isn’t worth much – relatively for this uber-rich family – but it is important. Also well-known, so it’s not an item that can be fenced.

It seems like the only people who would have any motive for the theft are Nevada’s in-laws. Because of their psychic powers, they are also the only people who could have done it. And they are all in attendance for the wedding – however resentfully or reluctantly.

So Catalina has to do what detectives do, sort through all of the possible suspects, suss out their possible motives, and eventually figure out whodunit – not that the result isn’t a complete surprise. And not that she doesn’t uncover a whole lot of other crap that the family wishes had remained unknown. But that’s what House Baylor Investigations has always done – discover the truth – even when it hurts.

But the point of the story is on Catalina coming out of Nevada’s very tall (metaphorically speaking) shadow. And it’s the making of her. She learns that she can trust herself, and that’s one of the hardest lessons of all.

I can’t wait to see what she does next!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

To celebrate the release of DIAMOND FIRE by Ilona Andrews, we’re giving away one paperback set of the Hidden Legacy trilogy!

LINK:  http://bit.ly/2Nnhq6v

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to internationally. One winner will receive a paperback set of the Hidden Legacy trilogy by Ilona Andrews. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance.  Giveaway ends 11/12/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Limit one entry per reader. Duplicates will be deleted.

 

Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews + Giveaway

Review: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews + GiveawayWildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3) by Ilona Andrews
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, eboook, audiobook
Series: Hidden Legacy #3
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…
Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.
As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

My Review:

This was absolutely awesomesauce. And I’m also glad that now I know what the series title means. I won’t spoil it for you, but that is one of those things that just didn’t make a whole of sense, until now. And now, well, sister, does it ever!

Wildfire is the third book in Ilona Andrews’ marvelous Hidden Legacy series, after Burn for Me and White Hot. This is a series where the action, the suspense and the romance built on each other, and the worldbuilding gets deeper and more layered, the more you get into the series. Read from the beginning. You’ll thank me later.

The setting for this series is at the intersection where urban fantasy and paranormal romance meet. And have surprisingly wild and wonderfully weird offspring.

Like much of urban fantasy, this is a near-future or same-time-as-ours-but different version of our world. Like most of urban fantasy, this is a version of our world where magic works. Unlike the usual run of the genre, however, the magic in this world works because of science. Think of it as the mad scientist division of magic. Once upon a time, about a century or so ago, some mad scientist cooked up a formula that bestowed magic powers on those who took it. Exactly how it worked and exactly why different powers manifested in different families is still anyone’s guess.

That those powers are passed down genetically is not a guess. Generations of carefully documented breeding can mostly predict what powers will manifest in children of which parents – and what powers won’t. But just like the 50/50 chance that each baby will be male or female, without reference to previous outcomes, an 80% chance that a child will manifest particular magical abilities also means there’s a 20% chance that it won’t manifest the so-called “correct” magic – or any at all.

However, unlike most urban fantasy, there is also a romance at the heart of all this politicking and power-mongering. And it’s mostly a successful romance, admittedly between two extremely stubborn and hard-headed people who push all of each other’s buttons – both the sexual kind and the seriously-needing-anger-management kind.

Connor Rogan is an extremely powerful telekinetic. He’s also a Prime, which means that he is head of his house, House Rogan, and that many of the laws that apply to us lesser mortals don’t apply to him – not just because they are unenforceable but because the collateral damage of making the attempt is just too high.

Nevada Baylor has just learned that her grandmother, the powerful truthseeker Victoria Tremaine, will do anything, no matter how unethical, to capture Nevada and her sisters. Victoria is the Prime of House Tremaine, and her House is dying. Nevada is her best hope of keeping her House intact. Why? Because Nevada is her granddaughter, and has inherited her truthseeking powers in full measure. A fact that Nevada only became aware of at the end of White Hot.

But the reason that Victoria needs Nevada is also the reason that Nevada has options – admittedly options that she was hoping not to have to exercise. House politics and inter-house rivalries make the bloodshed on Game of Thrones look like the proverbial Sunday school picnic. Nevada has never wanted any part of any of it – but now she has no choice. Filing to become a new house, House Baylor, should protect her from her grandmother long enough for the fledgling house to get itself on a stable footing. If they pass the trials for house creation. If they even manage to get to those trials.

Because there’s a conspiracy afoot, as uncovered in White Hot, to remove even the few restrictions that currently impede the houses from doing whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want. There are those among them who believe that their absolute power gives them the right to rule absolutely everyone and everything.

It’s up to Rogan and Nevada to stop them yet again. Even as the conspiracy threatens to split them apart and kill everything they hold most dear. By any horrific means available.

Cat 7 hurricane, anyone?

Escape Rating A+: I inhaled this book in a day, finishing at about 2 in the morning with one hell of a book hangover. The story was marvelous, and the world it is set in is absolutely fascinating. I want to go back.

One of the things that makes it all so absorbing is the amount of depth in the characterizations and their backstories. The romance, while marvelous, is far from all there is to either Rogan or Nevada. A very big part of Nevada’s story is just how much she cares, not just about Rogan, but about her family, her family’s business, and anyone she decides is part of her team. At the same time, this is also a story where the child is forced to become, if not exactly the parent, certainly the head of household. It’s not so much about the torch being passed as the dropped torch being picked up and run with. The scene where Nevada has to call her mother on a whole bunch of shit is awesome. Not because Nevada’s mother is in any way a bitch or even that she was wrong in the past, just that some of her decisions have had rather unfortunate consequences, and Nevada is the one who is forced to deal with all the crap and pick up all the pieces. Because while her mother’s solutions may have worked in that past, the world has changed, and they won’t work any longer. A fact that Nevada is all too cognizant of but her mother is extremely reluctant to acknowledge.

I also loved that the solution for Rogan’s ex wasn’t for her to find her own man, dammit, but for her to find her own power and finally own it. It’s a much more empowering solution both for her and for the reader than for Rynda to continue to be such a damned princess. It’s always better to rescue your own self.

This series just keeps getting better and better. And I really, really hope it continues, because the ending left plenty of possibilities for future stories in this world, and I want to read them all.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Avon Romance is giving away a romance print prize pack, including Hate to Want You, Just One Touch, White Hot and Wildfire

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Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews + Giveaway

Review: White Hot by Ilona Andrews + GiveawayWhite Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2) by Ilona Andrews
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Hidden Legacy #2
Pages: 389
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


The Hidden Legacy series by #1
New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews continues as Nevada and Rogan navigate a world where magic is the norm…and their relationship burns hot
Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.
Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice …

My Review:

Welcome to my recap of how I spent Memorial Day. I started White Hot at breakfast, kept picking it up all day long, and finished it at dinner. (Yes we read at the table). But once I started this I just couldn’t put it down. And since it was a holiday, I didn’t. And it was AWESOME!

This is the second book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, after 2014’s Burn for Me. A book which I loved at the time, and then completely forgot I’d read until I picked it up a couple of weeks ago thinking I hadn’t. (Three years is a long time between series entries.) But as soon as I re-read the first page, I remembered that I had read it, way back when.

And even three years later, once I began White Hot all the details I needed from Burn for Me came flooding back.

The world of Hidden Legacy has everything I love about urban fantasy, or any story that is not quite the world we know. Things are similar, but not the same, and the ways that the world differs from ours are solidly built and all make sense.

And the characters are all terrific. And that’s true whether they are terrifically good like Rogan, Nevada and her family, or terrifically bad like the villains. And while the villains are a bit bwahaha evil, they are not JUST bwahaha evil. They are arrogant and smart and have a deep and scary agenda.

Part of the underlying theme of this story and this universe is the classic about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. The Primes have tremendous amounts of magical power, and society has warped itself to cater to their whims and their desires. If only because mundanes aren’t capable of standing in their way.

There’s even a law that lets law enforcement beg off when the Primes battle each other, because there realistically isn’t any way for them to bring the Primes to account. They are literally above the law, because they make enforcement impossible.

And, as we see in the story, that kind of power makes them a little, or in some cases a lot, less human. It’s that lessening of humanity that Nevada Baylor fears, not just in “Mad” Rogan, but also in herself. Because Nevada knows that she is a monster that even the other monsters fear. If she lets herself lose track of her humanity, she could be an evil beyond nightmare. So she clings to normalcy by her fingernails, hoping that if she whistles loudly enough past the graveyard, the monsters won’t drag her inside.

But it’s much too late for that. The vultures are circling, not just Nevada, but also the family that she loves. And the only ally she has who might just be powerful enough to help her fight back is the one man who seems to want to drag her into his world and under his thumb by any underhanded means he can find.

In order to fight the devil she must uncover, she has to dance with a different devil, and possibly even become one.

Escape Rating A+: My second A+ of the year. Things are definitely looking up!

I swallowed this book in a single day – or perhaps wallowed in it over a single day. Or both. I didn’t let it go until I finished, then read the preview of the next book and almost dove right back in. (Wildfire is coming out at the end of July, and thank goodness I have an ARC!)

This is a world where magic works. And it’s even codified scientifically!

The way the families works reminds me a bit of the Psy in Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. While the Primes in this series do not cut themselves off from human emotion in the same way that the Psy did with Silence, they have certainly cut themselves off from their humanity in the broader sense. And they have also banded together into large, wealthy, power-hungry and self-protective family corporations, that seem to operate similarly outside the law.

But the way that the two align most closely, and a way that affects this and future stories in this world, is the way that children are created. Not that there are artificial wombs or anything high-tech, but that the Prime families marry and breed their children in order to produce more powerful Primes. There is a sense that children may only be valued for their magic potential and not for themselves.

Nevada is a powerful argument against this idea. Her family is everything to her, and she is everything to them. They are all valued for who they are and whatever it is they contribute, whether that is through their magic or just their skills. And they are all loved. It’s the love of her family that gives Nevada her greatest strength, and is also her greatest weakness.

And that’s where Connor Rogan nearly pushes her away. He’s a very powerful Prime, and in the first book, it was clear that they were not equals, and that the lack of equality was not in any way that could be easily fixed. But in White Hot, Nevada grows into her own powers, which are formidable – or will be when she’s finished training them.

But in the meantime, her desire to stay normal as long as possible and her need to retain her independence run headlong into Rogan’s need to protect her weaknesses. Because, whether either of them is willing to admit it or not, she’s his weakness.

If I go on, I’m going to start fangirling. I loved this book, and am just itching to dive into Wildfire right now. There is a lot to love in this series. The story is deep, the stakes are high, the hero and heroine are oh-so-wrong and oh-so-right for each other, often at the same time, and it’s the heroine’s journey that carries the story.

But there’s one scene I can’t get out of my head. It’s when they use two ferrets and a badger to steal a computer hard drive from an estate on security lockdown. The animal heroes are straight out of twisted Disney, and break the case wide open. Then they come back for cuddles!

Cuddle up with Burn for Me and White Hot. You’ll be a warm and ecstatically happy reader.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

The Andrews are giving away a print copy of Burn For Me to one lucky US entrant on this tour.

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Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona AndrewsOne Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, #3) by Ilona Andrews
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #3
Pages: 257
on December 20th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog.
Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.

My Review:

sweep in peace by ilona andrewsThis one is all about family. The one you are born to, and the one that you make. With Dina stuck in the middle, trying to protect all of them. Not just because that’s her job, but because that’s who she is.

This is also a story about grace under pressure, or under fire. Laser fire.

The plot is driven by the two things that drive Dina – the need to find her missing parents, and the need to protect her guests. In this story those two things become inextricably entwined, thanks to a little push from George the interfering Arbitrator. While this whole mess could be payback for the way he screwed Dina over in Sweep in Peace, knowing George it is much more likely that he has plans to use Dina again in the future. We’ll see.

Our story begins with Dina receiving the one thing she can’t ignore – a message from her sister Maud. Maud is in big trouble. And she’s on a remote planet in the middle of the Holy Anocracy, which is vampire territory. So Dina sends out the equivalent of an intergalactic distress call to her vampire friend, Lord Arland of House Krahr. Dina needs his help to rescue her sister. And she’s more than willing to ignore Arland’s fascination with her in order to get it. Fortunately for Dina, her werewolf, Sean, is not willing to let Arland try to fascinate Dina without his presence.

And besides, the planet where Maud is marooned is completely lawless. It’s where the vampires send their castoffs and casteless. Dina is going to need both of them to rescue Maud.

Except its more of an extraction than a rescue. Maud is holding her own just fine, but she’s accomplished what she came to do and it’s time for her and her daughter to leave. Even though Maud is human, just like a good vampire wife she has taken vengeance on all of her late and actually unlamented husband’s killers. It’s time for her to go.

And while Dina is relieved to get Maud back to earth, along with Maud’s daughter (and Dina’s niece) Helen, Arland is absolutely mesmerized. Maud’s combination of human frailties with vampire sensibilities is something he can’t resist. Maud’s doing plenty of resisting for both of them. And Sean is grateful to have Arland out of the competition for Dina. Not that the two alphas aren’t metaphorically, and occasionally literally, still pissing on trees to mark their respective territories.

But it’s a good thing that they have mostly settled their difference, because Dina is going to need all the help she can get. She’s received an offer that is much too good to be true. She can get an answer to her question about where to find her parents from an unimpeachable source. But in order to do so she has to accept the most literally noxious guests in the galaxy – and fend off their fiendishly devious and mindlessly fanatic killers. For as long as it takes.

Or as long as she can.

Escape Rating A: They say that blood is thicker than water, but Dina’s story proves that its not just the blood you share together, but also the blood you shed together. Because her mission in One Fell Sweep places the Gertrude Hunt in the middle of an all out war.

There is a lot of commentary hidden in this particular fight. Her guests are the Hiru. They have been hunted to extinction by the Draziri. For religious reasons. Or unreasons. The Draziri priesthood labeled the Hiru as anathema, and told their followers that killing a Hiru would wipe away the sins of the killer and all their ancestors, no matter how heinous the crime. Even killing a priest could be washed away by killing a Hiru.

And the Hiru are totally unobjectionable as people. They are kind and peaceloving. But their planet was destroyed by the Draziri, and they are biologically incapable of living anywhere else without environmental suits. The worst part is that these are truly awful environmental suits, and they apparently stink to high heaven. Which makes Hiru difficult guests at best, and dangerous at worst. Not because the Hiru do anything dangerous, but because the Draziri ruthlessly hunt them down wherever they go. And the fanatic Draziri do not give a damn about Earth’s neutrality or the possibility of exposing the inn network. They’ve already been banned from Earth altogether, and they ignore that prohibition as well. In pursuit of a Hiru, they have no scruples and no morals and will let nothing get between them and their target. Until Dina puts the Gertrude Hunt between the Draziri and her Hiru guests.

And all hell breaks loose.

Anyone who misses the commentary about the damage done by religious fanaticism and religious intolerance isn’t reading the same book the rest of us did. The lesson is sharp and brutal and the ending makes it stick with the reader long after the story is over.

Religion, particularly religious fanaticism, is a tremendous force. When it is turned towards evil, it is a terrible one. We all make our own gods. And all institutions protect themselves first.

One of the other things I loved about this particular installment of the series is that every single member of Dina’s family gets their chance to shine and to contribute to the fight. I also love the way that the author resolved the love triangle. That could have gone all sorts of wrong. Instead, we have the opportunity for another beautiful love story and one that makes sense in the context of the series.

A couple of thoughts about this particular book before I finish. The Hiru, at least in their environmental suits, are ugly in so many ways. The Draziri, on the other hand, are physically beautiful even if morally bankrupt. I’m not sure whether the appropriate aphorism is the one about “all the is gold does not glitter” or the one about “pretty is as pretty does, but ugly goes clean through to the bone”. Maybe both.

clean sweep by ilona andrewsI have fallen in love with this series. I started Clean Sweep one night, and simply couldn’t let go until I had read the whole thing. These were books well worth staying up late to finish. And now I’m waiting, just like everyone else, for Ilona to begin serializing book 4 on her website, just as she did with the first three books. It will give me another reason to look forward to Fridays.

Blood is thicker than water, and family is more important than anything else. But that includes family of choice. Definitely and defiantly.

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Review: Sweep in Peace by Ilona AndrewsSweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles, #2) by Ilona Andrews
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #2
Pages: 237
on November 13th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina's door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.
Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn...and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it's all in the day's work for an Innkeeper…

My Review:

clean sweep by ilona andrewsAfter finishing Clean Sweep in nearly one sitting, I absolutely couldn’t resist pouring through the entire series ASAP. Which I did. And it was glorious.

But specifically about Sweep in Peace…this book adds depth to the world the author has created, and to the characters in the series, particularly Dina, but pretty much everyone her life touches. Or is touched by.

Dina is in kind of a pickle. As she always seems to be in one way or another. In order to remain a viable inn, the Gertrude Hunt needs guests. Her symbiotic relationship with the people who stay with her means that the more guests she has, the more powerful they are, the more she is able to do. And be.

So when an Arbitrator asks her to host an intergalactic peace conference, Dina feels that she needs to take the job. She needs the money AND she needs the guests. So even though she knows that she is literally the inn of last resort, and that keeping her warring guests from bringing the more active parts of their conflict inside her walls, she still needs the money and the guests. And hopes for an increase in the inn’s rating if she is successful, even as she knows that she has about as much chance of success as a snowball in hell.

Speaking of hell, that’s what the fight is all about. The planet Nexus is hell. Or the nearest equivalent that anyone wants to see. But the vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde and the space merchants of Baha are all fighting over it. It may be hell, but it’s a hell that contains valuable minerals that the vampires and the Horde both want. And the merchants sit on the only land stable enough to have transportation facilities to get those minerals off-planet.

And nobody wants to give an inch of ground, even though it is in their bests interests. The vampires and the horde have both spilled too much blood, and the merchants, as it turns out, have nowhere else to go. It’s a stalemate, until Dina and the Arbitrator step in.

Or rather, until the Arbitrator backs Dina into a corner and forces her to step in. Whether she will step out alive is anyone’s guess. No one gets out of hell unscathed. Not even by proxy.

Escape Rating A: I love this series. Did I say that already? Probably multiple times?

Dina reminds me quite a bit of Marley Jacobs in A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark. Both Dina and Marley wield the same kind of quiet power. And also espouse the same flavor of “neutrality” that will defend those it chooses to the death. Of the other person. Or thing. Or whatever.

The most interesting character in this story is George, the Arbitrator. His tactics in every situation are the exception that proves the rule about whether ends that unquestionably serve the greater good can possibly justify extremely questionable means. Every once in a blue moon, the ends actually do justify the means. Which doesn’t make those means any less terrible. It might just make them even more terrible. George knows that every lie he tells, every truth he omits, every action he takes, is designed to move all his pawns, especially including Dina, into the exact right position to achieve his aims, and he does not care how much he damages those pawns along the way, as long as he achieves his goal. Which is admittedly, a worthy one. And might possibly be worth the cost. Or would be if George were the one to pay it. But he isn’t.

Normally, one says that one would not want to be on someone’s bad side. In George’s case, being on his good side isn’t actually any less dangerous.

That love is all there is is all we know of love is all too true. And terrible the lengths it will drive us to. Which is a big part of what George is counting on, to Dina’s cost.

In the end, this story comes to be about the cost of war and the price of peace. Robert E. Lee was right, it is a good thing that war is so terrible. In this particular case, it isn’t just that war is hell, but this war is on hell. And for hell. Each party in this war is wallowing in their own hell. Once they understand that they are all in it together, they are finally able to break free. Together.