Review: Sweep of the Heart, by Ilona Andrews

Russ Allbery eagle at
Wed Dec 28 19:01:07 PST 2022

Sweep of the Heart
by Ilona Andrews

Series:    Innkeeper Chronicles #6
Publisher: NYLA Publishing
Copyright: 2022
ISBN:      1-64197-239-4
Format:    Kindle
Pages:     440

Sweep of the Heart is the sixth book of the sci-fi urban fantasy,
kitchen-sink-worldbuilding Innkeeper series by husband and wife writing
pair Ilona Andrews, assuming one counts the novella Sweep with Me as a
full entry (which I do). It's a direct sequel to One Fell Sweep, but
also references the events of Sweep of the Blade and Sweep with Me
enough to spoil them. Needless to say, don't start here.

As always with this series, the book was originally published as a
serial on Ilona Andrews's blog. I prefer to read my novels as novels,
so I wait until the entries are collected and published, but you can
read it on-line for free if you want.

Sean and Dina's old friend Wilmos has been kidnapped by an enemy who
looks familiar from One Fell Sweep. To get him back, they need to get
to a world that is notoriously inaccessible. One player in galactic
politics may be able to offer a portal, but it will come as a price.

That price? Host a reality TV show. Specifically, a sci-fi version of
The Bachelor, with aliens. And the bachelor is the ruler of a galactic
empire, whose personal safety is now Dina's responsibility.

There is a hand-waving explanation for why the Seven Star Dominion does
spouse selection for their rulers this way, but let's be honest: it's a
fairly transparent excuse to write a season of The Bachelor with
strange aliens, political intrigue, inn-generated special effects and
wallpaper-worthy backdrops, ulterior motives, and attempted murder. Oh,
and competence porn, as Dina once again demonstrates just how good
she's become at being an innkeeper.

I'm not much of a reality TV fan, have never watched The Bachelor, and
still thoroughly enjoyed this. It helps that the story is more about
political intrigue than it is about superficial attraction or personal
infighting, and the emperor at the center of the drama is calm,
thoughtful, and juggling a large number of tricky problems (which Dina,
somewhat improbably, becomes privy to). The contestants range from
careful diplomats with hidden political goals to eye candy with the
subtlety of a two by four, the latter sponsored by sentient murderous
trees, so there's a delightful variety of tone and a ton of narrative
momentum. A few of the twists and turns were obvious, but some of the
cliches are less cliched than they initially look.

This series always leans towards "play with every toy in the toy box at
once!" rather than subtle and realistic. This entry is no exception,
but the mish-mash of science fiction tropes with nigh-unlimited fantasy
power is, as usual, done with so much verve and sheer creative joy that
I can't help but love it.

We do finally learn Caldenia's past, and... I kind of wish we hadn't?
Or at least that her past had been a bit more complicated. I will avoid
spoiling it by saying too much, but I thought it was an oddly flat and
overdone trope that made Caldenia substantially less interesting than
she was before this revelation.

That was one mild disappointment. The other is that the opening of
Sweep of the Heart teases some development of the overall series plot,
but that remains mostly a tease. Wilmos's kidnapping and any relevance
to deeper innkeeper problems is, at least in this entry, merely a
framing story for the reality TV show that constitutes the bulk of the
novel. There are a few small revelations in the conclusion, but only
the type that raise more questions. Hopefully we'll get more series
plot development in the next book, but even if we don't, I'm happily
along for the ride.

If you like this series, this is more of the thing you already like. If
you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it (start with Clean
Sweep). It's not great literature, and most of the trappings will be
familiar from a dozen other novels and TV shows, but it's unabashed fun
with loads of competence porn and a wild internal logic that grows on
you over time. Also, it has one of the most emotionally satisfying
sentient buildings in SF.

There will, presumably, be more entries in the series, but they have
not yet been announced.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2022-12-28


Russ Allbery (eagle at             <>

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