Book 6 of the Innkeeper Chronicles pushes its mix of fantasy and sci-fi humor to the edge of the ridiculous with this galactic version of "The Bachelor". The Spouse candidates are a fantastically diverse group of aliens and according to rumor at least one of them wants to assassinate the Sovereign of the Dominion instead of marrying him. But behind the "show" there is a surprising amount of substance. The metaphorical spotlights are on several minor characters from previous books and at long last we learn Caldenia's backstory.
First, the highlights. There are several alien Spouse candidates and since any species whose DNA can be combined with the Sovereign's to create a child is acceptable it's a wildly diverse group. One is a sentient fish and there is also a felinoid. Each candidate is sponsored by a group or planet that will win a boon from the Sovereign for reaching the finals, so this is more a matter of politics and economics than love. Or so one would think. I was also delighted by the return of several minor characters who get active roles in this plot. Since there are so many candidate characters it was nice that the expansion of Dina's team were all familiar people who's previous role was too small for development. As a permanent resident of the Inn Caldenia has always been present but we knew nothing about her except she was a former galactic tyrant with lots of contracts out on her. Turns out the Sovereign is her nephew and it was his father, her brother, that she killed.
On the downside they added in an element from the free serialized version of the book and got a new narrator for the audiobook. Chapters of this book were posted on their website each week where they added a humorous recap of the previous chapter at the beginning of the next. Because fans liked it that recap also appears in the published versions of the book. Since I read e-books, and it's only a couple of sentences, it wasn't a serious detraction but it didn't add anything for me personally. Audio listeners seem to find it even more irritating since they can't skim over it. Another issue for Audio listeners is the new narrator, Nora Sofyan. Although her performance is rated at 4.7 stars many still lamented that she wasn't as good as the previous narrator.
Overall, this book is as fun as Sweep of the Blade making it tied for my favorite in the series. I admit that I was worried at the beginning that it would turn into a farce but husband and wife Ilona Andrews have an amazing ability to skim that line without falling off the cliff. The return of previous characters suggests that this book is best for those who have read the others but since they all had extremely minor roles there's no backstory required to enjoy most of this book. The intro and ending do play into the continuing series plot and include Dina's first real clue about what happened to her parents.