In the fourth installment of the Sci-Fi Fantasy Innkeeper Chronicles, Ilona Andrews write from the perspective of Maud Demille, older sister of innkeeper Dina. Maud and her daughter Helen were exiled from the Holy Anocracy and the vampire house that Helen was born into three years prior. After raising Helen in a wasteland, fighting for their lives every step of the way, Maud finally left her exile on Karhari and rejoined her sister on Earth only to be tempted back to space, and to the Holy Anocracy, by charming vampire Arland of house Krahr.
What is Sweep of the Blade about?
Unlike the previous three books in this series by husband and wife writing duo Ilona Andrews, this novel is not told from Dina’s perspective but instead her older sister Maud’s. Maud’s story begins with a flashback to her time on Karhari, giving greater detail to the story that was begun in the previous book in the series. Maud has followed Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr, to his home in order to determine if she is willing to engage in a relationship with him and in order to figure out what Helen’s place in the universe is.
Despite having given up vampire politics years ago, and swearing to not become the same woman she’d been when married to Melizard, her deceased ex husband, Maud finds herself embroiled in the politics of an upcoming vampire wedding. The houses involved raise Maud’s suspicions, political guests of other species become involved, and Maud must balance her emerging duties to Arland and House Krahr with the doubts of the house due to her rejection of Arland’s proposal.
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction
This series has long treaded the line between fantasy and sci fi. While the creatures involved have the familiar names of vampires and werewolves, and the beginning of the series took place on Earth, this book definitely launched into a new degree of sci fi. The alien world of the Holy Anocracy was expanded upon with a greater degree of history, detail, and politics that really transformed this book into an alien themed political intrigue novel. There was a lesser degree of the urban fantasy, but also a higher degree of romance as Maud and Arland’s relationship is the jumping off point for the novel’s plot.
Tropes: Respecting Women Juice, Plots on Plots on Plots
The two biggest themes of this novel were the romantic plot between Arland and Maud, and the political intrigue involving three Houses of the Holy Anocracy. Due to this the tropes swing back and forth between romantic conflicts–the mother in law, fighting for approval, etc–and political ones with secrecy and plots the big focus there. Altogether, the intensity of the political plot and the delightfully romantic non-romantic way Maud and Arland interact make for a delicious reading cocktail.
Plot: Intergalactic Trade War!
Without giving away any spoilers, this plot is easily one of the more space-heavy of the series. In the previous books, a lot of the conflicts are narrowly focused on a particular guest at Dina’s inn, and the plot spirals out from there. In this case, Maud and Arland are not the focus of the plot because of the presence of two other vampire Houses and their complicated impending marriage.
I absolutely loved the combination romantic and political plot. I felt that since Maud herself was unsure of her romantic entanglements at the beginning of the novel, using the complexity of navigating House Krahr and their allies to occupy both Maud and the reader was better than letting Maud go into out of character soliloquies in her bedroom about Arland. I also enjoyed the way Arland was portrayed as patient, never pushy and respectful of every boundary Maud placed. He even goes out of his way to enforce these boundaries with others, making it clear that their pressure on Maud is unacceptable to both of them. Arland drank his respecting women juice every damn day of this novel.
While I did enjoy the political navigation Maud engages in, occasionally it was done in a strange way and I’m not sure if it was a writing style or a character thing. Maud was raised, like her sister, in an Inn on Earth and thus has a variety of skills taught to her by her Innkeeper parents. She also lived in the Holy Anocracy for some time, as well as in exile from them. So while it’s not unusual for Maud to display savvy with an alien species’ customs, or to know a piece of obscure alien lore, the introduction to this information was always a bit off. Maud would almost subconsciously do things that required her intellect, then realize what she was doing and somewhat explain it to herself and to the reader. Her martial prowess, arguably the greater of her skills, reads like second nature to her, but her intellectual accomplishments she almost has to remind herself she’s capable of. It sounds like a characterization, but she is never shy or lacking confidence in these things, so the writing style around these moments doesn’t quite sync up.
I don’t really have anything for the bad section. While I was hesitant to read Maud’s perspective at first, due to my attachment to Dina, I enjoyed it. This was a nice little foray into the world of the Holy Anocracy, and into Maud’s version of the world as opposed to Dina’s. I’m looking forward to returning to the Gertrude Hunt Inn and to Dina’s life, but I wouldn’t mind more installments in this series from Maud’s perspective. There’s already a new installment in the series out, I just haven’t had time to get to it yet. But mark my words, I’ll be reading it!