“I’m so glad you decided to throw the rulebook out the window,” Caldenia said. “Living here is getting more exciting by the minute.” (138)
I loved this book, it’s extremely cute, lighthearted, and fast-paced. After reading this, I 100% want to open an inn, magical or not. I flew through this during a particularly nasty book hangover after A Conjuring of Light and it was the perfect cure.
I’ll be honest, it’s not as complex as others I’ve read recently. Some characters can be taken at face value with little clue of (or desire to discover) their motivations or intentions. The worlds are fairly well built, Dina’s Inn and the other-world marketplace Baha-char specifically, although I feel like Ilona Andrews made some assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of a Texas suburbia outside the Inn. Reviewing some portions again though, I realize now that I probably spent less time immersing myself in the descriptions than Andrews intended because I was much too busy speeding through the scenes in search of the next great dialogue section or descriptions of the people involved (which were both excellently done).
The various mini climaxes of the book left something to be desired. (E.g.: unprompted, Dina was suddenly being attacked by a Stalker sprinting onto the Inn grounds while Sean was off rescuing Lord Soren from the dahaka, and then she was suddenly facing a random Stalker in Costco on a grocery trip.) I was never particularly fearful for Dina’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I hate when books kill off the main character, but I enjoy a good suspenseful scene where I’m not sure if this is going to end like Game of Thrones and leave me sobbing into my pillow. The final climactic scene was a bit more thrilling, so it wasn’t a complete wash for suspense, and regardless of the “believability”, I couldn’t put this down.
I want to say that I particularly loved how Andrews alluded to the background/story of the characters involved without information dumping on the reader. Having read no synopsis of this ahead of time (I bought this purely on a friend’s recommendation), I loved how even from the beginning Andrews left the reader confused what Sean was, and the slow reveal of details continued throughout the book, e.g. her parents disappearance and the surrounding circumstances; what Caldenia did in her past life worthy of bounty hunter obsessions.
I absolutely loved Caldenia, Dina’s only permanent resident, a dignified, murderous fugitive with a universe-renowned refined palate who consistently asks if she can sample (i.e. eat) everyone who appears at the Inn. She was by far my favorite character and I hope she appears in the sequels, playing a similarly amazing role with her “helpful” comments that left me literally laughing out loud.
“I boiled him, my dear. It is still the only sure way to separate hard bits from all that flesh. And you have the added advantage of your captive being already dead, so there will be none of those annoying screams to alert the neighborhood. Good luck.” (86)
Finally, the romance of this novel wasn’t overbearingly spontaneous or instant, which I greatly appreciated. The slow build of actual interest in Sean was believable, but Dina’s rather…flattering descriptions of another man (Arland) created some nice love-interest suspense. Dina’s fierce independence and lack of “collapsing into blushing giggles” (ugh) was wonderfully refreshing in this genre and left me rooting for her specifically, while still hoping she started something with one of these good-looking men. Her way of halting their advances again left me laughing and cheering her on.
I loved this book, it is definitely worth reading. I only give it 4, maybe 4.25 stars, due to the lack of suspense in the mini climax scenes and generally limited complexity to the story, but I highly recommend this book for a wonderfully light, humorous, and fast page-turner.