Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to a very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.
But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that!
I usually end up having read this story three to four times by the time I finish it on release day – it’s because Ilona Andrews publishes these stories as a serialized novel, online, for free, first. And there’s something incredibly gratifying about reading a new installment every week. But, for me, it’s eminently more satisfying to read it in its entirety, published.
Something that I never consciously noticed before was that Ilona Andrews purposefully writes the online version to be PG rating – there’s less … brutality in the fighting and less romance in the romance. Now that I know this, I actually love it. It means that I can have my daughter read these stories, and I think she’ll love them. But it also means that when I read the full, published version, I’m getting something that’s meant more for me, and my level of maturity. I won’t say one is better than the other, because they’re both excellent – and both well worth the time – but the book that’s released in whole is always my more favorite read. Serial novels always have mixed results with me. I’m not patient and the only reason that Ilona Andrews’ novels work for me is because I adore everything they ever write and I make myself be more patient.
I feel like these novels always hit me at a very real place when I read them. In the first book Dina was dealing with discovering her own power, fending off an outside attack from a vicious enemy, choosing to become involved. And it felt manageable, even when things were at their worst in the story, I never doubted that Dina would figure out a way through it. There was the loss of Sean going off at the end, and the sense of a bittersweet victory. Dina learned a lot about herself in this novel.
In book two, there was the drive for peace, for accord, and for the hatred that had been building for centuries to be cast aside in favor of hope. It felt insurmountable, as pain-driven war often is. When no side can look at, with empathy, what the other has suffered, the war continues on indefinitely. It takes compassion to end such pain. And hope.
Here, in the third book in this installment, Dina takes a stand against xenophobia of the worst sort. The Hiru are being hunted into extinction by the Draziri – who believe that they’ll be assured a place in their heaven if they manage to kill a Hiru. Simply because they exist. Dina knows the danger to herself and her inn, but she can’t turn down the simple request of the Hiru to be able to have a sanctuary so they can find their true home. Dina is the person that I think all of us want to be. Despite the potential (and often real) cost to herself, she’s not going to give up, not going to give in, and she’s going to help as much as she can.
The characters, as always, are the best part. I love how real they feel. They aren’t simply caricatures of themselves, but as elaborate and complicated as any person I know. Arland, I think, has finally met his match. Sean is recovering from the events that took place in the last book – and I love how realistically this recovery is handled. And Dina, as always, is one of the strongest characters. She continues to impress me, going above and beyond. There are all of the previous favorites, and some wonderful new characters that step onto stage.
This world is another thing that I adore. There’s so much complexity and variety here – everything that I’m looking for in a science-fiction novel, including the “human” connection. I love how I get to explore this vast universe with an assortment of eyes and experiences. I love that Ilona Andrews always manages to make this diversity incredibly beautiful.
And the ending – oh man. Talk about ramping up the tension and leaving me salivating for the next book. I cannot wait to see where we go from here.