Deadly Sting

I know, I know. It’s been a while. In my defense, I’ve had some hella busy weekends lately. ūüôā At any rate, let’s move on with Jennifer Estep’s 8th Elemental Assassin book,¬†Deadly Sting.

Courtesy of goodreads.comWe open up with Finn trying to get his adoptive sister, Gin Blanco, out of her post-Owen break-up funk. If you recall, Gin saved him, most of Ashland’s major players and most importantly Owen’s own sister Eva Grayson from certain death at the hands of his ex-girlfriend Salina. Owen had to stop seeing her because he’d begged Gin to not kill Salina, so that he could get her help, but Gin killed her anyway. And good riddance, quite frankly. The character was a grade A, unrepentant psycho. She would have killed Owen eventually, he just doesn’t want to face the fact that his piss poor judgment as a young kid got his sister tortured for weeks as an even younger kid.

Finn’s idea of getting Gin out of her funk is certainly not something Gin would generally volunteer for. He’s taking her to a gala museum event where Mab Monroe’s art will be on display. Gin isn’t terribly interested but she agreed to accompany her brother, even if she does have to suffer through dress/shoe/handbag shopping with clothes horse Finn.

She’s sort of getting into the exhibits when her ex, Owen, shows up with a woman on his arms. The woman could be a carbon copy of Gin, including the supposedly one of a kind dress she’s wearing. Obviously, this portends bad things for the woman. Not from Gin, but from the writer. The only reason to have two similar looking women wearing the same dress at a social function where everyone is wearing bespoke is to kill one of them. That one is not Gin.

See, this exhibit is just too tempting a target. All of Ashland’s richest in one place (seriously, they love to gather. It’s like they¬†want to be robbed and/or killed. See Widow’s Web) plus Mab Monroe’s exclusive collection of art and jewelry? That’s one massive haul. And that is, apparently, what a band of giants lead by one Clementine, her daughter Opal and a nephew whose name I can’t be bothered to remember.

Gin, by now, is known as the Spider, so it isn’t exactly surprising when Owen’s date (Jillian? She didn’t have much of a presence to be honest), gets killed in her stead. That was what she was there for, after all. Gin is devastated, knowing that she was the reason this innocent woman’s face was quite literally blown off, but uses the fact that everyone thinks she’s dead (save Finn, who recognized at once that Jillian wasn’t his sister) to start picking off giants.

When the giants force Owen, who has a minor elemental skill for metal, to open a huge safe holding yet more of Mab’s collection, Gin makes it her mission to rescue him, even though the guy totally doesn’t deserve it at this point. He promised not to do what Donovan Caine did and just leave her because of what she was…and then he did the same damn thing anyway. What a tool.

Gin manages to sneak out of the museum and outside of the range of some cell phone jammers that the giants were using (not stupid, the giants in this series. Or at least, not¬†all¬†of them). She gets a quick message off to her sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, and Bria’s partner Xavier before heading in and rescuing Owen.

Gin manages to get him clear, find what Clementine was¬†really after (Mab’s will) and to kill not only the daughter and the nephew, but big bad mama Clementine herself before the night is through. She also figures out that Jonah McAllister is behind the whole damn thing and, at the end of the book, outs the fact to all of Ashland’s high society. All of which are some sort of underworld presence. They are not happy, to say the least.

Owen pulls his head out of his ass and asks Gin for a second chance, giving her two pendants that he’d swiped from the museum in the confusion. The pendants once belonged to Gin’s mother and eldest sister, and really shouldn’t have been display pieces in the first place. I’m a little upset, though, that it takes Owen thinking that Gin had died for him to realize what an asshole he’d been. He should have come to that conclusion much, much earlier when his sister was on his ass for his stupidity.

The one redeeming thing of that request to get back together is that Gin doesn’t immediately hop in his lap and say¬†take me big boy. She’s justifiably wary and says that he can come around, can try and get back in her good graces but that she doesn’t trust him anymore. He’ll have to earn that shit back. Good for you girl!

While this was a well written book, it was just a little too trope-y for my tastes. The woman in the matching red dress? The supposed death bringing the ex back into the fold? The heist that’s a cover-up for something else? No, it felt like it was a cop-out to get Owen and Gin back together. I would say that you’re not really missing anything meaningful in this story arc if you skip this one.¬†Rating: C.

Tangled Threads

Courtesy of amazon.comYes, I’m still on my Elemental Assassin books kick. So we’re doing book 4 this week,¬†Tangled Threads. This book starts out with Gin taking out small fry guys in Mab’s organization. Naturally, Mab doesn’t just stand by and let this happen. She hires a top notch assassin to take out the Spider, a woman by the name Elektra LaFleur.

Now, kinda lame name aside, it does actually mean something in this assassin bound world, Elektra has the rare elemental ability of lightning which is apparently an offshoot of air magic. And Elektra always leaves an orchid at the site of her kills. She’s not subtle but she’s also never missed. Never. Which makes her a good choice to try and take on Gin.

Gin sees Elektra in action after sensing a pretty obvious trap and taking no action. Elektra takes out one of Mab’s own people in a fit of pique. Doesn’t sound like the most stable of people to me but then again…assassin, so I’m sure that really goes without saying.

So on top of dealing with a very good assassin, Gin also has to deal with Detective Bria Coolidge of the Ashland PD, her long lost sister. At the beginning of the book, Bria still doesn’t know it and Gin is reluctant to tell her after a bad experience with the last Ashland detective she told. She’s worried that Bria won’t accept her as who and what she is, that she’ll be a disappointment.

I find Gin to be a wonderfully complex character, able to kill a bad guy without remorse (and to be patient with it so that she doesn’t get noticed herself) but still be worried about things like whether her sister will like her, whether Owen Grayson really accepts her for who she is.

This book falls around Christmas in Ashland, which apparently can get quite cold. I don’t know much about North Carolina but I guess this can happen? At any rate, after not falling into the obvious trap set by Elektra LaFleur, Gin tracks down who set her up (a bartender at Roslyn’s club) and sets out to make the guy pay for it…only to end up rescuing him after overhearing one of Mab’s people threatening to rape his daughter. Gin doesn’t do kids. Ever.

Gin needs to rescue the kid, kill the assassin and figure out whether or not to tell her sister who she really is. Can she do it? Please! She’s the Spider. She can do anything! This might be my favorite of the series so far. It was a really, really good read. And Gin still hasn’t gone all save me sweet prince with Owen. If anything, she’s usually trying to protect him. I love it.¬†Rating: A+

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+