Sweep in Peace is the second installment of the Innkeeper Chronicles, a series from the beloved writing pair known as Ilona Andrews. Dina is an innkeeper living with and caring for her Inn (the semi-sentient Gertrude Hunt) in rural Texas, as three diverse groups of magical warrior species converge on the Inn to host a deadly peace negotiation.
The story is a unique blend of urban fantasy, magic, and science fiction with all the elements fans of Ilona Andrews have come to expect: unique world-building, original stories, magic, battle-hardened warriors, etc. It get’s overwhelmingly 5-star reviews on Amazon.
So why am I unable to go higher than 2.5? I am a horrible person, apparently, as overwhelmingly people adore this book. But I struggled to finish for the following reasons:
- Dina is the hero of the story. Who is she? What does she care about? What drives her? Who the hell knows. There is a loose back story involving her parents that is meant to provide character motivation but doesn’t. She wants Gertrude Hunt to thrive and an Inn needs guests to do so, thus she accepts the insanity of the peace negotiations out of desperation. She drinks a lot of tea.
- Too many characters. The Kate Daniels series suffers from this as well, but with three separate groups populating the Inn, the character explosion was unusually problematic here. So many secondary characters become a blur. This is exacerbated by many of them having alien or similar names (ex. Nuan Cee and Nuan Sama).
- Buckets of exposition dumps. Essentially this is a story of backstory through paragraphs of soliloquy as aliens relate their cultural history to Dina over a cup of tea.
- So. Much. Tea. Not since A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness) have characters dished exposition over so much tea.
- Deus ex machina. Part of the beauty of Gertrude Hunt is that we don’t fully understand what it is or what it can do. Mystery is a good thing. However Gertrude Hut is essentially the sonic screwdriver of the story, able to do anything that is required to solve the current problem.
- Basic story structure follows the following pattern: Put your hero up a tree, throw stones at them, figure out how to get them gracefully down. Dina needs the peace negotiations to work out because it would improve the rating of her Inn, but not until the final pages is she directly put into peril. There are rocks being thrown near her, but not at her.
This review will get me tossed out of the Ilona Andrews fan club although I staunchly consider myself a fan. But as writers, I think they need to consider stories with fewer characters with more flushed out motivations and growth. Worldbuilding shouldn’t happen in large chunks of exposition spewed over tea but through propulsive action that drives the story. The Innkeeper concept is interesting but Dina needs to be in peril beyond “this won’t help my Inn thrive.” Dina flirts with mary-sueness; motivation and flaws would help.
I suggest you give this a pass however the Kindle version is loanable so ping me if you want to borrow my copy so you can tell me how wrong I am in my disliking it wrongness.