In previous reviews of Ilona Andrews books, I’ve commented on the general superiority of both their world- and character-building. I am more impressed with their skill in this than ever upon finishing Sweep in Peace, which cleverly crosses over the Innkeeper universe with that of their Edge series. With one neat trick and a handful of universe-hopping characters, Andrews teases the insinuation that all of their series might plausibly be connected. It’s not enough for them to have those three other established series, each with their own detailed and unique systems of magic; no, they have to go all string theory on us and bring in parallel universes. Bring it on, Ilona.
I learned the term “competence porn” over at SBTB, and all of Andrews’ books are basically that. Dina is a heroine who is intimidatingly skilled with her magic, which is partially her birthright, but a lot more really hard work at it. As an Innkeeper, when she’s on her home turf at the Gertrude Hunt Inn, she is impressively confident in her authority — as she should be, since she’s earned it. Her main goal as an Innkeeper is to keep her inn open, which is accomplished by having a steady stream of magical or otherwordly guests; the inn has a reciprocal relationship with these guests by becoming increasing its magical potential for every guest, and in turn the increase in potential allows Dina to ensure a higher level of safety and comfort without overdrawing her or the inn’s magical resources. The more magical and prosperous the inn, the higher its star rating. Gertrude Hunt has an average rating: it’s a good enough inn, but it’s not at a very highly-trafficked location in the universe and is therefore always hungry for guests.
An opportunity to increase the Hunt’s rating presents itself when an intergalactic Arbitrator comes to Dina asking her to host a peace conference between three of the universe’s most contentious species, currently locked in a neverending war over one planet. It’s an impossible, bad situation and any sane Innkeeper would refuse it (and, in fact, they all had,) but Dina needs both the money and the magical resources that the deluge of new guests would provide. It takes all of her observational skills, magical cunning, and detailed knowledge of her guests’ cultures to provide them each with a comfortable stay conducive to bargaining for peace.
One notable thing about this installment in particular is that, typical of Andrews’ books, there is a love interest; however, he is barely present in this book, which allows Dina to get the chance to do her thing on her own. Though Andrews always threads the needle well in terms of letting their heroines handle their problems and not play second fiddle to their (usually alpha-styled) men, it’s even more obvious here as Dina’s man isn’t around to provide even secondary support. Since I’m sure he’ll be back in the third book, it was nice to see a part of Dina’s story played this way. The Innkeepers as a group are seemingly a little bit underestimated by others in terms of their power, so it’s particularly valuable that Dina can assert herself independently of having burly muscle at the ready.
It sounds underwhelming to say this so plainly, but I really like all of Andrews’ books and really connect to their storytelling style. This book/series are no exception.