I will undoubtedly have plenty to read this weekend! And it is a long weekend, Monday being Family Day here in Alberta.
Happy Friday everyone and enjoy the weekend.
Gin Blanco is a stone elemental and an assassin known as the Spider. She also works part time at the Pork Pit in Ashland, at the junction of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. A job goes south when she discovers she has been set up and now an air elemental is after her, along with the local police. With her handler dead and her base of operations currently unsafe, her resources are limited. However, she does gain a temporary ally – Detective Donovan Caine. The stage is set for Gin to fail spectacularly – and she knows it. The knowledge that the cards are stacked against her won’t stop her from taking out those that set her up.
This was a fun addition to the urban fantasy genre! I liked that it was more action and character development than romance, though there is a touch of that sprinkled in here. The story starts off in a mental health asylum. Gin is there undercover as that is the only feasible way of getting to her target. I had a lot of fun with this opening as it was not what I was expecting. Gin’s limited morals make her an interesting character right from the start. I like that she doesn’t go all emo when it comes to killing people. She’s already figured out what her limits are and where the lines are drawn for her in the matter of killing humans.
Her adoptive family trained her and now act as her partners in the business. Fletcher Lane is her handler, setting up the jobs and keeping her from direct contact with those that require her services. Fletcher’s son, Finn, is really good with documents and can make nearly anything that Gin might need for her jobs. They’ve been working together for years, and with the Pork Pit as their base of operations, they have a really good thing going. That is until someone set’s the Spider up for assassination herself.
So I wasn’t expecting things to get personal for Gin in the first book, with her adoptive family targeted along with her. That made this story much more exciting! As the injuries occur and the body count increases, we meet other magical misfits that have worked with Gin and her family for years. Jojo is a Dwarf beautician and a healer. Gin definitely needs access to a healer. Regularly. Sometimes desperately. Jojo’s Goth sister, Sophia, is good at disposing of bodies; another must for the assassination business. I really enjoyed Sophia and her usually monosyllable responses to queries. The image of a grunting, aloof Goth Sophia is awesome!
Then we have the problem of Donovan Caine. He’s a straight arrow detective and he has a personal beef with the Spider; his partner was killed several months back by the Spider and now he wants this assassin behind bars or dead. Yet Gin saved his life even as she was busy taking out targets that were there to set her up. So now he owes her and agrees to help her on this one case. Pretty soon it becomes clear there is an undercurrent of attraction between the two, even if it is an unwelcome distraction for Gin and an undeniable fact for Detective Caine. Gin had very good reasons for killing Donovan’s partner but she holds off on telling him. After all, she doesn’t have to defend her actions to this detective! Part of me wants Donovan to ask and learn all the facts and part of me wanted Donovan to figure it out on his own – he’s a detective after all! This situation added a delicious dollop of tension to the book.
In the end, I really enjoyed this story. It was a fun mix of magic and mystery. The romance was an undercurrent and didn’t become the main feature – which is just how I like it! Gin is a very interesting character that already has a strong sense of who she is and what she will and will not do. I liked that we learned some keys things about her past but the book wasn’t flooded with flashbacks. Over all, a most enjoyable urban fantasy romp!
I won a physical copy of this book from AudioGals (thanks!). As always, my opinion is my own.
Narration: Lauren Fortgang was great with her southern twang for the Spider. She had distinct voices for all the characters and her male character voices were masculine. She did read the one sex scene in a kind of monotone, like she was bored with it, but that is my only criticism.
Gin has been on her own since her family was tortured and burned in a fire. She is eventually taken in by a BBQ restaurant owner and he teaches her the skills to be an assassin. She easily masters her craft and becomes known as The Spider. Soon she finds herself in trouble after a routine job doesn't go as planned, and she must fight, once again, to survive. She'll do whatever it takes to find the person responsible for turning her life upside-down.
This one was a little tough for me to rate. I really enjoyed the main plot. I felt for Gin and her struggles growing up alone, being taken in and taught to survive. She's made a life for herself and has a new "family" that cares for her. However, there were a few things that prevented me from connecting to the story. There were a couple of scenes that contained some steamy tension between Gin and a police detective. While it was good in theory, the scenes were so scarce and felt forced. I just couldn't believe what the author was trying to portray. The other main issue that got to me was that there were several phrases repeated. In almost every fight scene, or scenes where she was preparing for a fight, I was reminded everywhere she places her knives. Same places, every time. I found myself skimming those places because I knew what they were going to say. My initial thought was to rate Spider's Bite a 3, but ultimately I went with 4 because I did like how independent and confident Gin was. She made a great protagonist and I can see her skills as an assassin only getting better throughout the series.
Although I'm a huge fan of the Elemental Assassin series, I have not read the first five books. Reading SPIDER'S BITE was a complete joy for me, as I "jumped back in time" to go back to Gin's beginnings. There were SO MANY assumptions that I had made about Gin and her life that were wrong.
I find it difficult to write an "untainted" review of the book, since I know what becomes of Gin and the characters first introduced in SPIDER'S BITE. With that said, I feel that Ms. Estep does a solid job introducing Gin, building this fascinating world full of magic, vampires, dwarfs, and giants, and creating an interesting backstory.
Ms. Estep weaves an exciting tale, complete with heart-stopping action. The story is filled with vivid details, creating imagery so sharp, I can see the scenes in my head. I enjoyed learning Gin's early history with her handler, Fletcher, as well as watching Gin slowly begin to accept her elemental magic as part of what makes her a strong assassin.
The narration by Lauren Fortgang is perfect. Her southern drawl is ideally sweet yet biting and hard when necessary. I feel that she has Gin's voice and expressions down perfect. She modulates the tone and sometimes speed of her narration for the supporting characters, each to various degrees of success.
My Rating for the story: B+
My Rating for the narration: A