Widow’s Web

Courtesy of goodreads.comAfter a nice little break for the long 4th of July, we’re back with the seventh book of the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. For Widow’s Web, it isn’t Gin’s past that comes back to bite her and her makeshift family in the ass. It’s Owen’s.

Owen Grayson grew up on the streets, much like Gin did for a while. The difference was, he got help off the street from an air elemental named Cooper who is an amazing blacksmith. With Owen’s weaker elemental talent for metal (weaker meaning not one of the major four elements), Cooper realized he could make a good living at blacksmithing. It gave Owen a way to get his sister off the street.

What he never mentioned before was that it wasn’t just him and his sister living rough. It was him, Eva, Philip Kincaid (one of Ashland’s underworld bosses) and a pretty water elemental named Salina. Owen had some sort of falling out with Kincaid years ago that he doesn’t talk about and Salina broke his heart by leaving Ashland soon after.

Gin gets pulled into this whole mess of backstory by Kincaid, who hires her to cater an event on his riverboat casino. A water elemental kills one of his bodyguards by pulling the water out of his body (nasty) and then tries to kill him. Gin saves his life and then learns some things that Owen doesn’t know and doesn’t even want to hear about.

Salina is a nasty piece of work. She is, quite simply, a psychotic bitch. She enjoys using her elemental magic to hurt and kill. She’s cruel and nasty with it. Owen was so held over heels with her as a young man that he won’t hear a word against her, which both pisses Gin off and makes her jealous. And worried that he’ll leave her for Salina if she so much as crooks her finger at him.

Eva, on the other hand, holds no such illusions. She tells Gin that Salina spent weeks torturing her in a bathtub (Eva was 4-5 at the time) until Kincaid cottoned on to Eva’s change in demeanor. To Eva, Salina is as bad as Mab Monroe. She makes Gin promise that she’ll kill the water elemental, which Gin does, despite the feeling that this is going to make things bad between her and Owen.

Things come to a head when Salina tries to kill the majority of Ashland’s underworld in one fell swoop, everyone who had stood around while Mab roasted Salina’s father alive years ago. Cracked little girl that she is, she thinks that this would bring Owen back to her. That they can live happily ever after.

By this time, Owen is starting to realize that Salina is extremely crazy, but he still thinks he can save her. Everyone else knows that she is way beyond saving. She’s married and killed several very rich men, not that anyone’s ever come after her for it. He goes to Salina alone, even though Gin asked him not to, and Gin ends up having to come to a very hasty rescue.

It’s a tough battle. Salina is strong in her water magic and she’s ensured that she has a lot of water to work with. Gin, on the other hand, is a very powerful ice elemental, even though ice is considered a secondary element (like Owen’s metal). She freezes all of the water, making it impossible for Salina to use it. And when Gin has Salina at her mercy, Salina begs Owen to save her. Ugh, manipulative bitch. Can’t stand that sort of person. Gin ignores Owen’s pleas for mercy and kills Salina.

Unfortunately, Owen doesn’t take this well and decides that he needs a break from his relationship with Gin. I feel this is a little ridiculous. Owen has always known what Gin does and has always supported her. He knows that she wouldn’t kill out of some petty jealousy. And even when Eva confronts him and tells him exactly what Salina did to her, Owen still doesn’t come back. I mean, Owen has spent all of the books he’s been in trying to protect his little sister and then he completely ignores her? I know love can make people stupid but you’d think that a man as bent on protecting his sister as Owen is would believe her over anyone else.

This is possibly the most emotionally complex of the Elemental Assassin series so far. It takes Gin out of her comfort zone and into a no-win scenario (Kobayashi Maru, anyone?) and still makes her out to be about as good as an assassin can be. She protected her family and saved untold innocent (and not-so-innocent) lives. This is the only book I didn’t really like Owen in. He promised never to pull on Gin what Donovan Caine did, especially after the last freaking book…and then he does.

He gets marginally better in the next book but for right now, I’m very upset with him. I think that’s the mark of a good series, when you get emotionally invested in the characters. You should have seen me after Changes by Jim Butcher! At any rate, this is a very good and therefor very quick read. I highly recommend and you really don’t need to read the preceding books, though it does help to get some of the character backstory. 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+