Quick Pick: “One Fell Sweep”

Title: One Fell Sweep (The Innkeeper Chronicles #3)
Publisher: NYLA
Author: Ilona Andrews
Pages: 338 pp
Price: $4.99 (ebook) / $13.99 (paperback)

The Hook: Dina DeMille is an Innkeeper. She runs the Gertrude Hunt, a bed and breakfast in Texas. But Dina is a very unusual Innkeeper, and the Gertrude Hunt deals with a very select clientele: aliens. Extraterrestrials. Beings of whom most humans are, and must remain, ignorant. It is Dina’s sacred duty as an Innkeeper to safeguard her guests — even if that means taking on a psychotic alien mercenary and his entire clan to save another species on the edge of extinction . . .

The Analysis: The Innkeeper Chronicles might be loosely classified as urban science fantasy, if any label can be applied at all. Magic is real, but it is science that is so advanced that it operates like magic. (For example, Dina can open gates, or Einstein-Rosen Bridges, to other planets.) There are space ships and laser guns in abundance, but also swords and knights and, oh yes, werewolves and vampires — but the werewolves and vampires are alien species. And all aliens who visit Earth are bound by treaty to not expose their existence to humanity, and to respect the neutrality of the Inns.

Of course, not all aliens abide by the treaty, which puts Dina in a difficult position: the Hiru have come to her, hoping to use the Gertrude Hunt as neutral territory where they may consult with the Archivarius. The avian Draziri have declared a religious war upon the pacifistic Hiru: anyone who kills a Hiru guarantees a place for him/herself and their entire clan in heaven beside the Draziri god. The Hiru are desperate to find a new home where their remaining members — fewer than a thousand — can live in peace.

Religion has always played an important role in the Innkeeper books, but here it takes center stage. Religion — sometimes sincere faith, sometimes crass manipulation — is the driving force behind the plot. The Hiru would not be on the verge of extinction if not for the Draziri holy war.

Not so subtle commentary on current events? Possibly. Or maybe just a timeless story about the dangers of fanaticism — of any kind.

The Innkeeper series is also quite polytheistic, and it is a very pragmatic and skeptical polytheism. Different species follow different traditions, and Innkeepers like Dina treat them all with equal respect. Vampires, for example, worship a goddess who demands a life of honor and combat from her followers; she also demands that they respect other species’ traditions. (No, vampires are not afraid of crucifixes; they just back away out of concern that they might be interfering in a religious rite.) Walk through the bazaar on the planet of Baha’char and one will see the adherents of hundreds of different faiths. If you’re willing to risk it, you can even try to consult with the prophets who live behind the toothed walls of the Sanctuary of Eno; but if they don’t want you there, the walls will eat you.

The Verdict: I adore this series. I have changed my mind: I no longer want to reincarnate as a library cat. I want to be an Innkeeper. If I could afford it, I would purchase the illustrated hardcover ominous edition. As it is, I’ll have to stick with checking them out from the library a few times a year.

I understand from her social media posts that Andrews plans to continue the series for a few more books.* I, for one, cannot wait to see what further adventures await Dina, Sean, Arland, Maud, and everyone else who calls the Gertrude Hunt home.

Highly recommended to fans of Devon Monk, Lisa Shearin, Seanan McGuire, CS MacCath, and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Also, um, cough. If either of the Andrews is reading this: any chance of a follow-up series about Helen? Or Klaus? Or Tony? ‘Cause, you know . . . that would be cool . . . Just saying.

*Yes, The Innkeeper Chronicles must be read in order. Each successive book references previous events and characters; even though summaries explain a bit of what has happened, jumping in at the mid-point is not recommended.