by Ilona Andrews
Published December 2013
Goodreads: See here
Synopsis at a Glance:
From the outside, Dina Demille is completely normal. She runs a Bed & Breakfast in a small Texas town, and is the perfect neighbor to have ever graced suburbia. But Dina carries a secret. Armed with a broom that becomes a deadly weapon, and a magical inn that thinks for itself, Dina is an innkeeper to otherwordly visitors that need a place to lay low for awhile. But when something wicked beguns to hunt her small neighborhood at night, Dina feels compelled to get involved. Before long, she’s forced to juggle with the annoyingly attractive ex-military werewolf neighbor and a hotheaded cosmic vampire, all while trying to keep her guests safe.
But the enemy stalking the streets is unlike anything she’s ever faced before. It’s smart, vicious and lethal, and putting herself between the creature and its prey might cost her everything.
Having been on Goodreads and part of the blogging community for awhile now, I’ve come across the name Ilona Andrews quite a few times, but this was the first book I’ve picked up by this author, or rather dual authors. A pseudonym for a husband and wife author duo, Ilona Andrews has penned a number of urband fantasy/paranormal novels and series that I have somehow overlooked until I picked up a copy of Clean Sweep. And boy am I glad I did!
As a huge fan of supernatural/paranormal/fantasy elements in general, I can tell that this series is going to hit so many of the right notes for me if a few kinks get ironed out along the way. There’s a lot I really loved here and spoke to me as someone who grew up hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Charmed.
✨Magic everywhere– You got it dude!
✨Cool monster and world building? – Up the wazoo.
✨And it’s got some humorous elements too!
From page 1 it was like being dropped into a fully realized and vibrant new supernatural world that I was eager to explore. I was pleasantly surprised that every time I thought I had things figured out, the authors would unfold some new dynamic or significant bit of information about the world that made me realize we were really only scratching the surface. That makes for some really compelling reading!
I appreciated that the authors attempt to go further than a simple “supernatural creatures live on earth” storyline that we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Expanding the world to include cosmic travel – essentially turning supernatural creatures into alien beings – was a fun twist on the genre and one I think can be used for some really interesting character and culture dynamics in the next books. Not to mention the potential for some really memorable and monstrous baddies in the future.
Along with the creature feature details that I loved, I enjoyed the magic system as well. It’s well defined, makes sense and had some great limitations to it too that ensured Dina didn’t become an overpowered monster slayer every time trouble arrived. This of course allows for the tension to build, especially every time Dina is away from the Inn, where her power is at its strongest. Of course, she’s still strong in her own right, even when her powers are weak, and her broom is one of the cooler and more memorable magic items I’ve read about in recent year.
So why not 5 stars?
There were some a few tiny things that rubbed me the wrong way, and while they didn’t bother me enough to ruin my enjoyment of the story, a book is still the sum of its parts and these parts could have done with one final tune up before they left the starting gate.
The two male leads aren’t compelling enough yet. Dina was wonderfully established, with lots of backstory and I felt engaged by her narrative. However, Sean and Arland kind of paled in comparison, the latter was especially difficult to root for. He’s given one really silly scene which I thought was great, but it wasn’t enough to get me to root for him. I was also left with a strong impression that there’s going to be a love triangle going forward, and Dina’s connection to both the guys could have been done with a bit more finesse if I was going to be meant to buy it.
The Inn and its place in Texas are underutilized. I love the idea of this small town in Texas being the backdrop for all these strange supernatural goings-on, but I just didn’t buy the vibe in the slower scenes as being filled with that good ol’ Southern charm that I had hoped for. Also, the Inn and its guests could have been more vibrant. The Inn is basically another Halliwell Manor from Charmed, except it is full of magic, not just the people that call it home.
While that’s a really cool place to center a story around, I was hoping for more from the denizens that called the place temporary home. There are reasons given in the book, for why the inn only has one guest besides Dina and the two male leads, but I just thought more could have been done with that awesome setting. The additional guest is also treated more like window dressing. She’s often in the background, chewing the scenery when drama starts going down, but never really developed or given anything interesting to do.
Finally, the bad guy just is not compelling enough for a first book. I didn’t feel like there was enough personal threat to Dina and the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, mad props to this creative team that can dream up such creative sounding monsters. The Dahaka was great in the early scenes, but the more we learn about it’s motives, the less I liked it. As a bad guy, it’s reasons for being bad end up being poorly defined and only very loosely connected to the main characters, meaning I just didn’t feel much threat from it.
Had this been an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it would have been one of the middle-season filler episodes. You know, the ones with the “Monster of the Week.” Still fun to watch, but nothing really all that critical ends up going down. I have a feeling the next books in the series will ramp up the tension a bit more though, and I’m excited to see where things go next.
🌟🌟🌟✯✩ = 3.5/5 “surprisingly creative” stars
Have you read this book? Are you familiar with Ilona Andrews other works? I keep hearing about the Kate Daniels series. Any fans?