Saturday, January 18, 2014

Review: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Title: Clean Sweep
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles, Book 1
Genre: Sci-Fi / Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 2 December 2013

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can't leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night....Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

Ilona Andrews originally wrote this as a serialized publication, for free, on the web. I read the first couple of chapters as they were released and quickly came to realize that I'd never have enough patience to wait week to week to find out what was going to happen. So I deliberately ignored that it existed. I was anxiously awaiting the day when it would be available for me to buy.

Clean Sweep has an utterly original idea; sure there are werewolves and vampires and magic, but it's all so much more than that. There's intergalactic travel, and aliens, doors through space and incredible weapons. I'm not sure how they do it, but the husband and wife writing team of Ilona Andrews always manages to come up with the most interesting stories and tell them in the best way possible. I'm always utterly engrossed in their books and devastated when I finally reach the end, because there's no more to read.

I've known for a long time that I can count on finding an abundance of subtle humor in books by the Andrews. Clean Sweep is no exception. I laughed out loud more than a few times while reading it. Another thing I can count on is kick-ass heroines that hold their own, don't cow to the uber-alpha heroes (who manage to not be assholes), said heroes that are actually complicated and interesting character in their own right, and beautifully described action scenes.

I know you've read that blurb, and if like me you hate love-triangles (with the passion of a thousand fiery suns), you might be slightly concerned. There is a love triangle that's formed in this book, BUT - hold onto your hats - I liked it. I really liked both Sean and Arland and, most importantly, how Dina reacted to them. The chemistry is fantastic, and I just find myself wanting more, more, more! I have my guesses about who she'll end up with - it's pretty clear to me - but I'm still going to enjoy each moment of the dance between the three of them.

Dina is a great character. She's young, with some tragedy under her belt - and there's an overall mystery to her past and present that I'm dying to see solved - but she's got this great sense of life about her. She's vivid and uncompromising - I mean that she won't give up. She loves life and cherishes it. She wants to enjoy it, so she sets out to follow her path and earn what she wants. She's logical and thinks (why is this such a rarity in books these days?); Dina doesn't let anyone else control what she does or doesn't do, and she takes her responsibilities seriously. And when two alpha males start showing interest in her she doesn't fall all over herself in an attempt to please one, or both, of them. She maintains herself. I love that.

Speaking of the two males: Sean and Arland. Sean's a werewolf stronger than other werewolfs; the alpha-strain werewolf, bred to be faster, stronger...more. I liked that he didn't really know the truth of everything when it started. He takes it pretty well though, and at the end I can completely understand (and agree with) his decision. Once he realized that Dina's not a helpless female, I loved how he treats her. With respect and care. Intent on keeping her safe, but at the same time realizing that she's able to do that herself too. He trusts her to keep herself safe, and helps her when she asks for it. I can't help but respect that. And ... well, hell, I just want him. When he starts flirting? Damn. Sexy as heck.

And then there's Arland. Just as sexily flirtatious. When he turns on the charm I admit I wondered at his motivations at first, but by the end I was healthily intrigued. He's honorable - in fact that's nearly everything to the vampires - but he's also a predator, through and through. And I love, love, love how he reacts to coffee. Made me laugh out loud. He treats Dina like a warrior, worthy of respect. There's no looking down on her because she's a woman - he knows that women can be just as powerful, just as deadly as the males. Misogyny? You can trust that you won't find it in this book (or any book by Ilona Andrews).

Though I normally hate the grand-standing that happens between ALPHA males in books, I loved how Arland and Sean came to terms with each other. How they got to know one another, and gained some respect for each other. Their last interaction made me laugh out loud and had a grin splitting my face for the last few pages of the book. In fact I'm still grinning like a fool here.

I haven't even touched on the plot. It drives the entire story - isn't that what is supposed to happen? Yes, yes it is. Maybe I've been reading too much crap lately, I don't know, but it's such a breath of fresh air when I read a book that combines all the things I love into a single set of bound pages. The plot here is fascinating. It allows us to learn more about the characters, the world, and pulls the reader through the pages of the book to inhabit the world we're reading about.

I want to live there by the way. I want to visit this inn, travel the worlds, meet these characters.

Ilona Andrews' books always reduce me to feeling like a squeeing fangirl, mostly because that's what I become. With such great characters, an actual plot, in an intricately conceived world...who can blame me?

Grade: A-

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