Sweep of the Blade is the swashbuckling conclusion to the romance of Arland and Maude, which began in One Fell Sweep, book three of the Innkeeper Chronicles. It very much reads like the completion to their love story, so I would recommend starting the saga at its very beginning with Clean Sweep. There are a lot of complex relationships that will be impossible to fully understand without the framework laid in the first three books. Be warned, this review contains spoilers for those novels.
When Vampire Arland proposed at the end of the last novel, human Maude was both elated and concerned. Elated because she loves him, concerned because her last marriage to a vampire ended with that man’s banishment and subsequent death. Mostly that was her husband Melizard’s fault. He tried to kill a family member and take over an important position of leadership within their vampire clan, forcing his parents to throw him out of the tribe. Still, the family didn’t have to banish Maude and their daughter Helen along with him. They didn’t have to have their names stricken from the family tree and abandon them on Karhari, where most residents have a life span of less than three years. It was only due to her own combat skills and tenacity that she and her daughter survived until her sister could rescue them. Maude wants Arland but she doesn’t want to return to the Holy Anocracy, the vampire quadrant of space ruled by powerful houses. She doesn’t want to place herself and Helen in a situation where they are once more far from home and family, dependent on a man for status within their tribe and culture.
Arland is frustrated by the fact that Melizard’s family’s poor handling of Melizard’s misdeeds caused Maude to be wary of the Holy Anocracy. Maude and Helen had earned their own ranks within the family, as all vampires do, and their own stellar behavior should have saved them from banishment. It is clear that bigotry played a role in their punishment and Arland needs to show her that won’t happen in House Krahr, so he takes the unexpected step of inviting her to come to their home planet for a visit. Only family, political allies and revered guests are typically extended access to a vampire clan’s homeworld so this is an unanticipated honor and privilege. Maude accepts. This will give her extra time to see just how deep her feelings for Arland run, as well as give her a chance to see if his family will hold her in higher regard than her previous husband’s clan did.
Of course her visit goes anything but smoothly. House Kozor and House Serak, warring vampire clans, have determined to cease fighting with a marriage between Kavaline, daughter of House Kozor’s Archchaplain and Tellis, son of House Serak’s Preceptor, planned to seal the peace. They need a neutral location to ensure a peaceful ceremony and have asked House Krahr, their near neighbor, whose wealth and military might have made them a beacon of stability, to host.
Maude, Arland and the leadership of House Krahr see through this thin veneer of tradition and civility and realize that Houses Kozor and Serak must be planning some kind of coup against House Krahr. However, the stringent etiquette code of the Holy Anocracy prevents them from taking any action until they’ve gathered sufficient evidence, which means that Maude and her daughter, Helen, who appear like helpless humans to these enemies, quickly become the primary targets of some nasty pranks meant to lure Arland into breaking protocol and starting a fight with his guests. But House Kozor and House Serak don’t realize who they are messing with, for Maude is not helpless and she’s had quite enough of being pushed around by vampires.
Series fans will find plenty to love in this latest installment. It has all the action, adventure and romance that the Andrews’ books are known for and does a wonderful job of extending the narrative of the Innkeeper Chronicles. Where the first three books followed Dina, Innkeeper of The Gertude Hunt, this novel moves us off Earth and into the wider galaxy of the Holy Anocracy which we heard so much about in previous installments. The authors do a great job of making this a unique story while still taking (very small) steps towards answering the saga-wide questions regarding Dina and Maude’s brother Klaus and their missing parents.
Maude is shown to be the ideal partner for Arland, who had once had a crush on Dina. I liked the conversation they have surrounding that issue and also how the matter of Maude’s first marriage was handled. We know from One Fell Sweep that Melizard was a man of questionable judgment and morals but he is never made out to be a complete villain. There is actually a sweet moment when Maude recognizes a positive trait in her daughter as coming from him. I hate when a former partner is made out to be absolutely unworthy of love and while it is made clear that Arland is the better man, that doesn’t happen here. The story also does a nice job of showing that Maude has worked through her complex feelings for Melizard and is ready to move forward in a new relationship. I was really pleased with how both characters’ romantic pasts are handled within the context of this book and their new relationship.
I liked how Helen was handled as well. She is an integral part of Maude’s life, and her relationship with Arland - who is stepping into the stepfather role - and his extended family - who will hold an important position in her life - is executed beautifully. They aren’t instant best buds but trust and friendship grows between all parties involved, and we close the book knowing she has landed in a good place among people who will care for her.
Literally my only complaint is that Maude skirts dangerously close to perfection. She’s an awesome fighter who can kill as easily with a fork as a sword, has an impressive knowledge of alien species and their customs, speaks obscure vampire dialects, handles delicate politically sticky situations with ease, is a loving mother - the list of her positive qualities could go on and on. It would have been more natural for her to have stumbled a few times on her way to the HEA but she never does. It was as if the mistake of falling for the inadequate Melizard was the only one she was allowed to make. Given that humans tend to be flawed, I would have preferred to see a few more chinks in her armor (and if you’re a fan of the books, you’ll totally get that metaphor!)
That’s a minor flaw, though and didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. Sweep of the Blade is a nice addition to the imaginative, fun, and captivating Innkeeper Chronicles which left me eagerly anticipating the next installment.
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