By a Thread

Courtesy of jenniferestep.comSo after a bit of a break to re-read some Jane Yellowrock, I’ve come back around to Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin Series. I started up again with book 6, By a Thread. This one picks up just a few weeks after Gin, a.k.a. – the Spider, killed the infamous Mab Monroe. Now there’s a power vacuum in Ashland and, oh yeah, every two bit thug is gunning for her. Whether it’s because of a bounty or to prove how tough they are, there isn’t a day going by where Gin isn’t killing a couple people just to survive.

Frankly, she’s getting tired of it and her foster brother, Finnegan Lane, talks her into a vacation with him, her sister Bria Coolidge and lover Owen Grayson. Bria talks them to Blue Marsh, which is where she grew up. Bria is anxious to catch up with her best friend/may as well be her sister Callie. Gin is more than a little jealous, mostly because she’s afraid that she’s going to lose Bria to moral indignation. See, Bria is a cop, and an honest one as well. This is a rarity in Ashland and the only other honest cop Gin met, Donovan Caine, broke her heart and left both her and the city.

So Gin tries her damndest to play stupid tourist and to enjoy Callie’s presence. It doesn’t always work, and she gets more than a little snarky from time to time with her fellow restaurateur. Bria’s less than pleased but the jealousy takes a back seat to trying to protect Callie as it becomes apparent that she’s in real danger from Blue Marsh’s version of Mab Monroe, Randall Dekes a vamp with a taste for elemental blood.

To make matters worse, cop Donovan Caine turns up as Callie’s fiancee. He still has a stick up his ass about Gin’s profession, and refuses her help when she offers. In the end, Gin decides to help anyway because Dekes made the stupid mistake of trying to get her and Bria killed in their own hotel room.

Of course, things don’t quite go to Gin’s plan. Usually she takes her time, feels things out and plans, plans, plans. But she’s in something of a hurry and wants to use Dekes’ upcoming press conference as an opportunity to strongly dissuade him from his course of action against Callie. Dekes almost kills Gin, but she gets away and luckily gets healed by Jo-Jo, whom Finn and Owen made sure to bring with them.

Thinking that the Spider is dead, Dekes kidnaps Callie, forcing Donovan to work with Gin and the others – much to their chagrin. In the end, Gin kills the bad guy (with the help of his own wife) and rescues the girl (in this case, girls). It wasn’t much of a vacation, but something important happened for Gin. She finally and firmly told Donovan to shove it when he said he still wanted her, wanted to be with her. Which kinda makes him even shittier in my estimation because he has a frickin’ fiancee! He’s ready to drop Callie like a hot rock because at the moment, he wants Gin? What an asshole.

Gin, however, is perfectly content and in love with Owen and leaves the old temptation of Donovan Caine behind. The only part I didn’t really like about this was Callie thanking Gin for letting Donovan Caine go. WTF? I think Callie could do a hell of a lot better than someone who clearly wants her to be a “good” Gin Blanco. Despite this little rankling of my feminist spirit, the book itself was quite good. 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+