RogerBW's Blog

Clean Sweep, Ilona Andrews 11 October 2017

2012 modern fantasy short novel, originally published as blog posts on the author's web site. Dina Demille keeps a faded bed-and-breakfast in small-town Texas. But it's actually a way station for travellers from other worlds.

And that's "worlds" in the sense of "planets": although there are werewolves and vampires and other things here, as urban fantasy largely requires, they've travelled through space, and they're biological entities rather than supernatural creatures. Sure, there's magic, but it's presented as technology that's sufficiently advanced. In spite of the subject matter, the treatment of it is distinctly more science-fictional and questioning in tone than one usually expects from urban fantasy, which I rather welcome.

In the short term, though, something's killing neighbourhood dogs, and there's no reason to think it won't work its way up to humans. Which is complicated for Dina: she wants to do something about it, but her powers are largely defensive, and very limited outside the grounds of the inn. More significantly, while attacking an inn is accepted as a great big error by everyone, if she violates neutrality by getting involved in outside events she will have no backup at all.

Yes, all right, our heroine gets involved in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf (it's in the contract, probably) but she's rather too busy working out what's going on and staying alive to let herself get all mushy. And at least everyone involved is aware that this is a cliché.

The moment-to-moment writing is refreshingly free of Portent and heavy-handedness; it's light and humorous even when dealing with grim subjects. Sure, the two men in the triangle do macho bullshit at each other, but the heroine (and first-person narrator) has entirely sensible reactions to it.

In fact that's possibly what distinguishes her most from many urban fantasy heroines: Dina is very much the protagonist and driver of the narrative. There are things for which she has to rely on other people because of the nature of her (and the inn's) powers, but that just means she has to be a leader as well as a fighter in her own right.

Very light but highly enjoyable, and I certainly plan to read more. Followed by Sweep in Peace.

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See also:
On Distinguishing SF from Fantasy

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