So 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+