Genre: Urban fantasy/sci-fi/romance
Synopsis: Maud was born into an Innkeeper family, and taught the customs of the varied alien races who used the inn as a waystation—or a safe house. But she left her family to marry a vampire, entering a society that viewed her as weak due to her humanity, despite her martial prowess. She had a daughter. And then her husband got all three of them exiled onto a dangerous planet where they had to fight to survive.
Flash forward and Maud is a widow, a single mother, finally reunited with her Innkeeper sister. Once again, a vampire proposes marriage to her, this one from an even more prominent House. Maud is cautious, aware of her responsibility towards her daughter and the difficulties of integrating into vampire society as a human. But Arland isn’t her late husband, and Maud decides to give him a chance on his own terms. She and her daughter join him when he goes home, in order to decide whether this is what they want.
Series: A short novel currently being posted as a web serial (eight chapters are available), continuing after the events of Ilona Andrew’s Innkeeper novellas.
Ilona Andrews is creating another installment of the genre-bending Innkeeper novellas, currently eight chapters in, and it’s a lot of fun.
This story follows Maud, as she enters a society filled with preconceived notions about her and her daughter. And as she smashes all of them. Which is super satisfying to read about.
Unlike her sister, Dina (the protagonist of the previous novellas), Maud is a warrior. They both grew up with the innkeeper training, so she’s decently versed in interspecies diplomacy, and this comes out as well. But Maud isn’t managing and protecting neutral territory like an Innkeeper would, bending time and space within her Inn to accommodate guests and prevent them from causing trouble.
She doesn’t have to be impartial. She gets to have a side. We watch her fight to move from outsider to insider status for that side, all the while protecting it from threats.
It’s interesting to think of her potential place in vampire society. She’s not the neutral party and diplomat that her sister is, but she’s much closer to it than any of the vampires are. Yet she also has the combat skills to earn respect from the extremely martial vampires, between her childhood training, her time among another vampire House, and her years of exile. In theory, she could help the vampires bridge the gap between themselves and other races—but they’re so insular at this point, that they may not want that.
Helen, Maud’s daughter, is also a huge consideration here. She’s half human and half vampire—and it remains to be seen how well accepted she’ll be for that. (In her previous House, she wasn’t.) She’s also aware of the dangers of the world at a very young age, due to those years she spent in exile with her parents. She isn’t any closer to being what the vampires expect from her than her mother is.
Maud questions whether or not Helen can fit into vampire society, and whenever Helen is taken away to play with the other children, she’s worried whether her daughter will hurt someone. (Amusingly, the vampire adults tend to assume she’s worried about the other kids hurting Helen—but those kids didn’t live through exile on a cutthroat planet.)
There’s a lot of fun stuff at play here. Maud’s been underestimated by several factions at this point, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold real dangers for her. There’s her maybe-or-maybe-not fiance’s mother, who’s quite put out that her boy’s been running all over the galaxy, only to come home with a human exile from another House who had—to make things worse—refused his proposal. There are two whole other vampire factions who intend to use Arland’s home as neutral grounds for a wedding, and are totally planning something nefarious. And then there are all sorts of alien guests present, all of whom interact with Maud in a different capacity than they do with the vampires.
It’s an exciting set-up, and I’m really enjoying each installment so far.