Sweep of the Blade - Innkeeper Chronicles #4
This series continues to develop both in seriousness and entertainment with Blade being the snarkiest yet. At the end of book three Arland, who swears he's nothing but a simple warrior, eloquently asked Maude to marry him. She said, maybe? Arland is the epitome of a young male vampire and the pride of his House and Maude has experience with being the human bride among vampires. She wants to make sure that his House, and especially his mother Lady Ilemina, accept her and her half vampire daughter Helen. They both arrive on his home planet in the midst of a treaty wedding between two rival Houses being hosted by House Krahr as a neutral third party. They are of course up to something and have set their sights on House Krahr's shiny new mobile battle station. In a culture where the wrong words require a duel to the death Maude finds herself playing the clueless human to draw them out.
Maude is actually well acquainted with vampire culture as she can speak several dialects of ancient vampiric and is a skilled warrior. Fencing, both literally and verbally, with Lady Ilemina has her on edge, and also in the medical ward. She actually wants this life, and Arland, for herself and for Helen who is finally around other children. And promptly gets into a fight that leaves the boy in a cast. The next day Maude demonstrates that same move for, and on, the boy's mother. The usual meet and greet of vampire culture.
She never wanted to be an Innkeeper but the knowledge Maude soaked up as a child is now a great asset. As are the galaxy wide connections of the Demille family. Since House Krahr's Maven recently died, their culture expert, Maude has a value to their House that she never did to her husband's pretentious family. Outmaneuvering the rival houses without losing honor is not easy but it proves to both House Krahr, and Maude herself, that this is where she belongs. Then, when Helen's life is threatened she rediscovers another aspect of her Innkeeper heritage, one she never allowed herself to think about as a child, her greatest weapon.
The vampiric culture is all about honor, political maneuvering, and martial prowess. There are plenty of politely veiled insults and not-so-subtle threats leading to some entertaining conversations. The plot moves along at an easy pace until the climactic ending on the battle station and Maude's triumph. Against this amusing and occasionally ridiculous backdrop are the more serious themes of what family means and self-empowerment even as an adult. There is a surprise development at the end that is the obvious kick off of book five. And while Maude is offworld Dinah is back at Gertrude Hunt entertaining some unusual guests in book 4.5 which isn't a full length novel, called Sweep With Me. It's probably optional reading but if you like the series then it is well worth it. I may not have mentioned that the series is illustrated with pictures of some of the characters...I like this one of Lady Ilemina.
Reviews of this new narrator on Audible seem to be a bit mixed which is a shame.