Venom

51hysbk6ehlAs I’m still on my Elemental Assassin kick, I’m going to move on to book 3, Venom. This book starts out with Jennifer Estep having the crap kicked out of Gin Blanco by Elliott Slater, Mab Monroe’s enforcer. Why? Because Jonah McAllister (rightly) believes that she has something to do with his son’s death.

When beating the crap out of her doesn’t get the response he’s looking for (read: a confession), Mab orders a stop to it. See, she assumes that no assassin would willingly allow themselves to get beaten to a pulp. They’d kill their attacker first.

Ordinarily, they would be right. Gin would be all over that shit. But since she’s smarter than the average bear (or mafioso), and more patient, she does just that. She’s beaten almost to death but a campus cop assuming that he found another dead body (imagine that job. Ugh), calls it in and the police realize that she’s alive despite the strong resemblance to ground chuck.

After Finn brings her to Jo-Jo and gets her set back to rights, Gin decides enough is enough. She is going to go after Mab and her people personally, starting with Elliott Slater. It’s not entirely revenge on Gin’s part. Elliott has recently formed an unhealthy obsession with one of Gin’s associates, Rosalyn Phillips, and everyone is fairly certain she’s headed for an early grave if Gin doesn’t do something.

Not only that, but Gin’s recently rediscovered little sister, whom she thought was dead, has come to Ashland. As the detective taking Donovan Caine’s old place. And Mab Monroe wants her dead with a passion.

Gin has to save her sister, save the girl and take care of the Elliott Slater all without getting dead herself or alerting Mab Monroe to the fact that Gin Blanco is the assassin she’s looking for.

Again, these books are great. We see some real development here of the relationship between Gin and Owen, who knows what she does and doesn’t give her grief about it like a certain police detective. Again, I’m not saying that Caine should have turned a blind eye, but if you knowingly hop in bed with an assassin, you shouldn’t use the fact that they’re an assassin as the reason you need to break up with them.

This book kicks off what we’ve all sort of been expecting since book one, Gin going after Mab fully. It’s a good book, well written and made me jump right into the next book. Rating: A.

Web of Lies

Courtesy of jenniferestep.comOkay, so I have been plowing through these Elemental Assassin books by Jennifer Estep. Seriously, there’s good. Book two is Web of Lies, where Gin Blanco, our anti-heroine, is living with retirement. And she’s not really enjoying it. She’s restless, which his why when someone tries to rob her business, the Pork Pit, she and her dwarf cook Sophia take them down with prejudice.

This sets up quite the series of events:

  1. We’re introduced to Eva Grayson, sister of wealthy Ashland business owner Owen Grayson, who makes an appearance later on in the book.
  2.  We see just how much of Ashland Mab Monroe controls as the son of her lawyer, Jonah McAllister, who just happens to be the lead robber, gets released so quick it’ll make your head spin. We also get our first intro to Jonah himself as he tries to brace Gin into withdrawing her charges. HA! Like that would happen.
  3. Jonah’s pressuring of people to avoid the Pork Pit leads Gin to having the time to help hapless Violet Fox, who comes in looking for the Tin Man (now deceased Fletcher Lane).

With time on her hands, Gin and Finn decide that it’s worth the time and effort to figure out who is going through the trouble to try and torture Miss Violet, a sweet and bumbling college student who just so happens to be fast friends with Eva Grayson. Lot’s of little coincidences in this book.

Gin and her people learn that Violet and her grandfather Warren are being braced by dwarf mining magnate Tobias Dawson to sell their land. If you know anything of Southern culture, you know that a family’s ancestral land is sacrosanct and the Foxes have been there for centuries. Warren won’t sell, especially not to a creepy schmuck like Dawson. Gin and company also learn that the reason Dawson is so keen to get his hands on Fox land is that they are sitting on a literal diamond cache.

Dawson has mined as far as he could but any further and the Foxes would feel the mining equipment going through their living room floor. Gin decides to take out Dawson, if only to keep Violet safe from the torture that Dawson is willing to inflict upon her. This leads to a lot of trouble, including the killing of Jonah McAllister’s son in Mab Monroe’s own home and a couple of near death experiences for Gin.

We also see Detective Donovan Caine bow out of the novels, at least up to the book I’m in the middle of reading. Donovan can’t handle that he’s compromised his principles twice for Gin, so much so that he’d wished she’d died in the elemental duel she’d had with Tobias Dawson, rather than living through it.

I kinda feel like Donovan Caine is a sanctimonious prick. Honestly, you can live with wishing someone you care for dead but you can’t live with the fact that she took out a seriously bad dude? Murder is pretty awful, no matter how you look at it, but it seems pretty cowardly to me to wish for someone’s death because it would make things easier on you. Gotta say, I wasn’t too sad to see Caine go.

Caine’s departure opens up the field for Owen Grayson, who is intrigued by Gin from the get go and has no problem with her former field of work, that occasionally pulls her back in. Owen has the sort of moral flexibility that’s better for Gin and she still hasn’t gone all save me big strong man. A+ for that. As I’ve said, I hate it when strong female characters roll over for the first guy that comes along.

I highly recommend these books. And you don’t really have to read them in order either. You can just jump right in. So go ahead and pick one up. You won’t regret it. Rating: A+

Spider’s Bite

Courtesy of Amazon.comSo I tried the Elemental Assassin series a while ago (read: years) by Jennifer Estep, and I just couldn’t get into it. I think that the little blurb I read wasn’t enough to catch my interest. I recently picked up the first book of the series, Spider’s Bite, and was blown away.

We follow assassin Gin Blanco, through a job at the beginning of a book. A grieving family has hired her to take out a creepy pedo shrink who runs an asylum in Ashland (I think North Carolina?). Said creepy doc seduced a 17-18 year old kid in her care through abuse of her role and he ended up killing herself when she moved on to her next target. Ugh. Gross. She also took out a rapey orderly pro bono.

Gin successfully does the hit, gets away into the wilds of Ashland and heads back to her handler, Fletcher Lane. Fletcher runs a barbecue place called the Pork Pit and was himself a very successful assassin codenamed the Tin Man. Gin is codenamed the Spider, due to the melted silverstone spider run embedded in her hands.

Instead of taking a long deserved vacation with lots of umbrella drinks and skimpily clad cabana boys, Fletcher pushes another job on Gin. It should have been an easy one, but nothing is as it seems with this one. Because of the quick turnaround (1-2 days), Gin can’t do her usual in depth research. She’s forced to make the hit at the opera house and things go sideways.

Because she was taking the time to admire a handsome cop named Donovan Caine, apparently the only honest cop in the city of Ashland, another assassin (Brutus) gets the drop on her. Apparently he was hired to take her out when she’d finished her job (not the cop but the man the cop was trying to talk to named Giles something or other, a finance man for a successful company) so she could take the fall for the whole thing.

Unfortunately for the buyer, Gin is damn good at her job. She gets Brutus and manages to take out his partner before he finishes Gin’s original job. By the time she gets back to the Pork Pit, Fletcher is dead and Gin has to find his son, Finnegan (Finn) before he gets just as dead. She manages it, if only just.

Together, Finn and Gin (heh, that rhymes) have to find out who killed Fletcher and betrayed them. Finn, while not an assassin, is an excellent handler (having been taught by his father). Together, they figure out that an air elemental is behind everything. While hunting her down, the manage to save the life of good guy Donovan Caine, pulling him briefly into their world.

Donovan and Gin have a steamy affair in a broom closet while waiting for an opportunity to get the drop on their bad guy, a marketing chief for her original mark’s company who is trying to get the company back from mobster fire elemental Mab Monroe. She’s also a little nuts.

Gin manages to come out on top of an elemental’s duel and gets revenge for her father figure Fletcher but she doesn’t manage to get the guy. Which I like to see. Not that I think an assassin doesn’t deserve happiness in these books but it’s nice when there isn’t quite a happily ever after. I also like that neither Gin nor Donovan compromises on who they are to be together.

Donovan is just too moral a man to end up with an assassin and Gin is unapologetic about who she is. She isn’t going to change to be with a man and she shouldn’t have to. All too often I see a strong female figure who caves on her ideals at the first sign of a hard cock and some good sex. I hate that trope, which is probably why I’ve already bought and read the next two books in the series and am shortly going to buy the fourth.

This is a world where humans, creatures (i.e.-giants, dwarves, vampires) coexist together. It isn’t perfect, there’s a lot of corruption, but it was fairly realistic for a urban fantasy novel. I also like that there wasn’t some sort of Big Reveal. It really just seems like this mix was just always the way things have been. It’s a nice change.

At any rate, I really enjoyed the hell out of this book and would highly recommend it. Rating: A+

Chronicles of a Demigod

Courtesy of goodreads.comA while ago I bought this book cheap off Amazon but couldn’t really get into it. I think mainly because I was on a steampunk kick at the time and just couldn’t get back into an urban fantasy frame of mind. That being said, Chronicles of a Demigod by Adam McNamee is pretty good.

It starts off with Coyote (the Native American spirit) deciding that his people needed a weapon of godly make, something super cool. Unfortunately there isn’t really a smithy spirit in the Native American pantheons (I say pantheons because while the many tribes believed a lot of similar things, they all have their own myths). So Coyote decides to trick Hephaestus into making him the ultimate sword by playing off his jealousy of Ares.

And it works, sort of. Hephaestus makes the sword…but he curses it so that only a Greek (or a Greek demigod) can wield it. So Coyote takes the sword and, pissed off and a trickster, he gives it to a Greek demigod. One of Ares’ get. 🙂

Enter Ambrose, who lives in Las Cruces and is one of many Greek demigods in the world. As you no doubt already know, the Greek gods were not known for their fidelity. What I like about them in this world is that they can basically live forever as long as they get ambrosia, which is actually supplied by the gods and run around the demigods by Hermes’ offspring.

Ambrose is a son of Ares but he doesn’t fight. Or at least, he hasn’t fought for roughly one hundred years. Why, you ask? Because he fell in love with the daughter of Hades, Selene. Hades made him a deal: you go 100 years without fighting and I’ll allow you to date my daughter. Which first of all, boo. My dad wouldn’t have that sort of say over my love life, why should hers? Second of all, why bother with deals when you’re the lord of the underworld? Can’t you arrange to disrupt the flow of ambrosia or higher someone to take him out if you really didn’t approve?

Anyway, moving on. Las Cruces is one of two areas in the country which are sort of supernatural safe zones. The other being Portland and if you’ve ever been to Portland, you’ll know that wouldn’t be all that far fetched. 😀 Groups of supes live in Las Cruces that normally wouldn’t get to stay in one place. They follow the rules set down by a guy named Alistrov (whom we don’t meet), which ensures the supes stay under the radar and don’t kill each other. Most other places, it sounds like a free for all. And in Portland, the supes are basically serfs of one guy.

Unfortunately, Alistrov disappears and the alpha of the local werewolf pack gets murdered, leaving Las Cruces open for the taking. The supes who live there don’t want to leave. It’s their home and there isn’t any place else in the country that’s as stable and prosperous. So they band together and try to get Ambrose to fight for them, since he’s the only real fighter in the lot.

Ambrose turns them down. He wants to finish out his 100 years and get Selene back. His best friend, a son of Hermes named Dorian, keeps trying to tell him that this deal is not the way to get her back, that it’s changed him but Ambrose doesn’t listen…until Selene shows up and tells him the same thing. And dumps his ass. The reason being that neither Ambrose nor her father consulted with her on this stupid deal, which she would have shot down because Hades can’t make her do anything. Which is kind of cruel when you think of it. She didn’t make the deal so she could have gone to Ambrose any time and told him that. She chose not to and then dumped him. Kind sounds like he’s well shot of her.

With nothing holding him back from fighting, Ambrose decides that he likes Las Cruces too much and he’s a little too mad to not do anything. He agrees to fight their enemy, a bear shifter named Ursa (not original but it’s exactly the kind of name this character would have given himself). And have I mentioned that he’s got to keep his half sister Selia off his back? She wants the Trickster’s Blade like none other but she’s a nasty bitch and Ambrose isn’t going to let her have it. It was a gift from Coyote himself because Ambrose was the Ares kid who was most like Coyote, tricky.

This is pretty clearly a first novel but it was surprisingly good and the world building was pretty decent. I’m a sucker for Greek demigod stories in my urban fantasy, so I ended up quite enjoying this. It definitely ended on an open note, hinting at a follow up book though I haven’t seen one yet. I hope he comes out with one. I really like Ambrose. He’s not your typical Ares kid in fantasy. He’s got layers. Like an onion. 😉 Rating: B+. Good, but could use some polishing.