Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Review: Clean Sweep

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is...different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, "normal" is a bit of a stretch for Dina.

And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night....Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

Just so we're clear I own this three different ways - audiobook (read by Renee Raudman), dead tree copy (because of course I need to) and e-book (cause why not).  It has the distinct honor of being one of only three books I own three different ways (THE WAY OF KINGS and WORDS OF RADIANCE by Brandon Sanderson being the others).  For the purposes of this review I both read my dead tree copy and listened to the audiobook.

As I've said in the past, Ilona Andrews' books just speak to me.  Not just the Kate Daniels' books, but their shorter more outside the box stories (such as SILVER SHARK or SILENT BLADE) also interest me quite a lot.  CLEAN SWEEP is a purely self-pubbed novel, first in the Inkeeper Chronicles, that the Andrews' originally published chapter by chapter on their website.  Which I'm sad to say I didn't read as it was posted because I honestly have no patience for serial stories (its torture to only have a few pages here or there).  Once finished they touched it up and slapped it up on Kindle for sale more or less as an experiment.

As I understand it the book did phenomenally well and they're hard at work on Book 2 (amongst their other many projects).

In this more cut loose sort of style you can tell the Andrews' special brand of different writing.  Its hard to point to the specifics of what I mean, its more of a feeling.  The characters are just a shade not your customary urban fantasy archetypes and the world building is a mash up of urban fantasy, science fiction, magic and mystery.  As Dina explains (paraphrasing here), advanced technology looks as like magic to the unadvanced as to be undifferentiated.

I had more trouble getting along with the characters in this book.  Partially I think because Dina grated me the wrong way and partially because Renee Raudman (the audiobook narrator, who also does the Kate Daniels books) had a different twang to Dina's voice then I was hearing my head.  Dina spoke more like Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats in my head (which I have no idea how accurate that accent is for the South, the few folks I've met from the South all had flat accents more like the Mid-Atlantic where I'm from).  Then also Dina was just so...southern.

Born and bred in the north I find the South to be so laid back as to be practically sleeping next to the way I'm used to life.  Why do one or two things when you can accomplish four tasks for the same amount of effort and time?  Why does every meeting have to be a long conversation about how that person's family is getting on?  I know its cliche'd but by golly whenever I'm in any southern state I feel this jittery energy to get stuff done.  It used to amuse (then piss off) my friends down in Georgia.

Dina is the South personified.  The amount of courtesy chatter and pot boiler chit chat that occurred made me want to rip my hair at times.

That said I'm so thoroughly intrigued by the universe I paid extra hard attention to everything. I'm still a little iffy on the particulars, but I loved Her Grace (who is played by Helen Mirren in my head and no one can convince me otherwise understand?) and the rivalry of Sean and Arland. Khahn, in her review, remarked that their rivalry with each other outweighed their interest in Dina is so very true. Yes they both like her, and yes she's attracted to them, but these two would fight over anything if it meant beating the other.  Dina literally says at one point she's got bigger things to worry about then who she wants to sleep with.

Book two is currently being serialized on their website (here - SWEEP IN PEACE) which I'm waiting for the complete book before I dive in.  All in all I enjoyed this romp through a new world and I'm interested to see how things pan out.