Search This Blog

Saturday, July 10, 2010

'Spider's Bite' Elemental Assassin #1

From the BLURB:

My name is Gin, and I kill people.
They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South -- when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way -- good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction...especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

Gin Blacno is ‘The Spider’. She is an elemental assassin – a woman who can talk to and control rocks, and has a little ice magic. She’s good with knives, won’t kill kids or pets, and you won’t know you’re on her hit list until your artery is severed. When we meet her Gin has just been double-crossed. Her handler and father-figure, Fletcher, has been murdered. Fletcher’s son and Gin’s brotherly friend, Finn, has been brutally beaten. Whoever is orchestrating this double-cross has put a one million dollar finder’s fee on Gin.
Payback is a bitch when you’re in the Spider’s web.

‘Spider’s Bite’ is the first book in Jennifer Estep’s new series ‘Elemental Assassin’, and it is damn good. I’d describe this book as ‘noir Urban Fantasy’. It is a very dark series that is set in the city of ‘Ashland’, in a world that is ours but with a few differences. Vampires exist – but they’re not of the Dracula variety; it’s more likely you’ll find them downtown working a street corner and pimping their bodies for blood. Magic belongs to a select few, and it works according to elements – earth, fire, air. Estep writes about Ashland’s sinister underbelly – crooked cops, a paedophile police chief, and one woman who controls the streets. Mab Monroe is a beautiful, refined society darling – she is also a fire elemental and not afraid to burn her way to the top (and anyone who gets in her way winds up extra crispy).

Ashland is a town to rival Gotham and Sin City for its daring depravity, and Gin Blanco is a vigilante to admire amidst the gloom. Gin has secrets – her narration hints at a dark past, of her family’s murder and a life lived on the streets until Fletcher discovered and trained her at the age of 13. For an assassin, Gin is surprisingly sane. She seems very self-aware of her short-comings and killer instincts – but that doesn’t stop her from casual sex with willing co-eds or having a healthy dose of lust for Ashland’s only clean cop, Donovan Caine. Never mind that Gin murdered Caine’s partner and will incur his wrath.
When I read the blurb I was half afraid that Gin would be a robotic maniac and we’d have to wade through passages of her coming to grips with humanity and empathy. But Gin isn’t like that at all. She has warmth and familial ties to Fletcher and Finn – she does have a switch that she can turn on and off, flip between hot and cold, loyalty and butchery. But that just makes her a hard, intimidating kick-ass heroine. She has scruples – like no killing of kids or pets – and she prefers to kill those who deserve the Spider’s bite. I loved her!

Her ‘romance’ with Caine is H*O*T, mostly because it’s so razor-edge. Caine is a sexy, caramel-skinned macho man and Gin likes what she sees. Donovan Caine hates Gin for killing his partner, but he wants her. He is turned on by her and hates himself for it. Their chemistry is insane and sizzling, but tempered with bouts of resentfulness and reluctance. It makes for a complicated romantic mix that’s as fascinating as the ‘whodunnit’ plot.

Estep’s writing is very modern noir. She tips her hat to some good old clichés – just little things, like calling a woman’s legs ‘gams’ or naming her villainess ‘Mab Monroe’. But then some of Estep’s paragraphs sound like they should be read by Humphrey Bogart, in voiceover to an old black and white film that starts with a wide shot of a shadowed city shrouded in smoke;

Maybe it was his dark good looks or the air of confidence that radiated off Donovan Caine. Maybe it was the perpetual scowl that tightened his face. Or the strain of being an honest man that sat on his shoulders like he was Atlas bearing the weight of the world. Or perhaps it was the simple fact that he still clung to ideals I’d given up long ago. But something about him fascinated me.
“Maybe I find him... interesting,” I admitted. “Attractive in an uptight sort of way. But that won’t keep me from killing him if he does something stupid – like try to double-cross us. That is something that’s nonnegotiable, no matter how much fuck potential Donovan Caine might have.”

The writing is deliciously dark. This is certainly a rougher Urban Fantasy than the genre is used to, and a welcome breath of fresh air. I can’t wait for more in this series, and I must thank Mandi from Smexy Books for recommending it to me!



  1. Great review. I wasn't sure abvout this series, but now i think I'll give it a try.

  2. I've heard so many amazing things about this book, I actually bought it and book 2 as well... both are in my shelf waiting LOL

    It does sounds amazing and as soon as possible I;ll give it a read!

    Awesome review!

  3. This was an awesome read for me. Gin is so ice coldely (pun intended :D) different from the heroines we see in Urban Fantasy. I found her reluctant "romance" with Caine delicious in this story...but was quite disappointed in Web of Lies. The 2nd story was still good though. Are you getting or have gotten the 2nd book?


  4. Wonderful review! This sounds like my kind of UF.

  5. I've read several good reviews of this book and have it in my TBR - I guess it's time to bump it up a bit!

  6. Love this seris...and I think they are getting better with each one....Venom is calling my name!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.