*** 3.5 stars ***
I am a huge fan of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. It is one of the most entertaining urban fantasy series I have read to date. So, when I saw that Clean Sweep was finally being published in its entirety—it was previously posted a snippet at a time on the authors’ website—I knew I needed to finally get my hands on it. I deliberately chose not to read it on their blog, because having to wait for the next novel in a series is bad enough. One chapter (if you’re lucky) at a time? I will not subject myself to that kind of torture.
Clean Sweep is also an urban fantasy novel, complete with supercharged werewolves, armored vampires, and magical bed-and-breakfast establishments. However, throw some science fiction into the mix, and you have a re-imagined history of these seemingly well-known creatures that includes alien invasions, inter-galactic wars, and programmable viruses that can alter entire species.
The story begins with innkeeper Dina DeMille, owner of the Gertrude Hunt bed-and-breakfast in small town Texas. The B & B has exactly one guest who has bought a lifetime membership in order to seek asylum. You see, inns are a sanctuary for anyone (read: otherworldly visitors) requesting it as long as the guests abide by the rules. Dina gained possession of the B & B by permission of the Assembly after years of wandering in search of her missing parents and finally needing to settle down in one place. Like her parents, she struggles to remain neutral in the face of danger threatening those needing her help. With the brutal death of yet another neighborhood pet, she can no longer stand aside while her town slowly becomes prey to alien predators.
Upon discovering the kind of predators who have targeted her town, she is drawn into a conflict between vampires from the House of Krahr. With the help of her neighbor—Sean Evans--who happens to be an ex-military, alpha-strain werewolf and Arland, a cosmic vampire soldier and Marshall of the House of Krahr, Dina and her new allies set out to rid the Earth of this malicious killer.
I like the new take on werewolf and vampire history. Genetically bred and modified, alpha-strain werewolves were created in the hopes of ensuring their race’s survival during a time of war. Dina’s alpha-strain werewolf neighbor, Sean Evans, has decided to settle in her small town and like the alpha he is, has claimed the territory as his own. This means that he feels responsible for and needs to protect his own, whether they are wolf or otherwise. Besides being arrogant and unstable, Sean also is surprisingly self-sacrificing. Until he met Dina, he was ignorant of his true heritage and felt unsettled in his own skin. After his parents confirm Dina’s revelation of his origins, he takes everything in stride, even gritting his teeth in cooperation with a vampire Marshall in order to protect Dina.
The vampire Marshall, Arland, is from the Holy Cosmic Anocracy. They are actually a predatory strain of humans. So, forget about the garlic and holy water and stake-through-the-heart myths regarding their weaknesses. They have armor fused into their bodies. Arland is an aristocrat with all the elegant manners and vampire predatory tendencies, making him a tough nut to crack and an even harder one to trust. He takes more than a passing interest in Dina which starts a posturing display of wit and brawn between him and Sean for her attention.
Not so well:
This is a short first novel in what is to be a new series. For something of this length, I want my attention riveted from the get-go, because there is so much to be accomplished in fewer words. However, I found myself sticking it out because of my admiration for the authors and less so because of the story.
Dina is not a very lively female heroine. I guess because of my experience with Andrews’ female leads in her other books—even excluding Kate Daniels—I expected more spunk. Perhaps her neutrality as an innkeeper and a daughter of past innkeepers has molded her to be more unflappable. Only from her wry, internal musings do we get a broader sense of her personality. I found her inn’s quirkiness to be more interesting than her at times.
The first half of the book is pretty much a set-up for all the action in the second half. After all the dust and bodies settle, there are a lot questions left to be explored. I will definitely be reading the second book when it is available in its entirety, looking forward especially to see how Sean fairs on his journey of self-discovery away from Dina and the inn. And of course, Arland will be back to try again for Dina’s attentions, as his success is apparently a foregone conclusion supported by his research on the subject:“I suggest you give up now. According to my research, in a vampire-werewolf love triangle, the vampire always gets the girl.”
We’ll see. As Ilona Andrews has proven in the past, there are always a few twists in store. Review also posted on Fantasy-Faction.com