Reviewed: August 7, 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Elemental Assassin, Book 2
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 400 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
The Spider is retired. The assassin's alter ego Gin Blanco, on the other hand, now owns and runs the Pork Pit, the barbecue joint that her handler, Fletcher, left her upon his death. He's the one who wanted her to retire, and she's been doing the best to follow his last wishes. Problem is, she's bored out of her mind. The sort of bored no amount of restaurant managing, baking, or auditing classes at Ashland's Community College can quite ease. It's been two months since she went head to head with the Elemental Mage who was responsible for Fletcher's death, two months of mourning the man who was like a father to her, and two months with nothing more taxing to do than making sure no one followed her home or had been to her house while she was working. She's more than ready for a little excitement. She should've known excitement would find her eventually.
First there was the robbery...well, the attempt, anyway. Two goons storm into her place with ill intent and one is the son of a very affluent, connected, and, of course, crooked attorney, but Gin doesn't much care who beget the bastard. He threatened her place and almost killed a customer. No one does that to her. She doesn't kill him - witnesses, more's the pity - but she is intent on pressing charges. Even after the powerful daddy pays her a less than pleasant visit. Gin doesn't scare easy. Or, you know...at all.
That one event brings Donovan Caine back into her life - after he'd been pointedly avoiding her since Fletcher's funeral. The sparks are still there, but he's still a supercilious and sanctimonious prig. Soon Gin doesn't have time to deal with his issues even if she wanted to, because someone's taking shots at her restaurant. At first she thinks it's the goon with the Daddy issues, but no - the shooter is after someone else entirely, and Gin is drawn into a situation not of her making. A corrupt businessman is threatening the life of a childhood friend of Fletcher's, as well as attempting to rape and murder his granddaughter. Maybe that retirement was a wee bit precipitous, after all.
So here we are again for the second foray into the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. I wasn't totally thrilled with the first, Spider's Bite (see my review here), but I saw potential for the series. Some of that potential was realized in this second book. I did enjoy this one slightly more than the first. One of the things I liked in both books is the complexity and depth in the fascinating character of Gin. I think she's the high point of the book and the series. She's such a fantastic blend of contradictions. An assassin since she was thirteen, she can kill coldly and cleanly with no effect on her conscience, and yet for those few people she cares about, she's wildly protective and will go to any and every length to defend them. She a jaded realist, but there's parts of her that still hope for things that she's never known. She keeps her heart more closely guarded than most countries guard their gold, yet the echoes of past tragedies still make it break. If anyone gets too close, she's quick to stick a blade in them, yet she's one of the loneliest people I've ever seen.
Her relationship with Donovan Caine (who I have to admit, I loathe) is such a good example of the myriad of contradictions that make Gin so special. She wants him, she's drawn to him, and she will never bend for him, or compromise herself to be with him. He condemns her for her profession, part of him despises her for his unquenchable desire, and she knows that he'll never accept her. She could tell him of her past, her childhood, so he could understand. She could seduce him day and night until he gives over to her completely. She does neither. She wants him, yes, but even more than his body, she wants him to accept all of her - to see all of her, and until he does, she accepts that there's no future in it. But she hopes that maybe one day...
I really do enjoy her character, and think she's one of the more interesting ones I've come across in urban fantasy lately. The supporting cast - Finn and the dwarven sisters Jo-Jo and Sophia are back from the first book, as well, and I enjoyed spending time with them again. There are a few new faces that have some interesting potential. I'm really hoping to see more of Owen in the next book, even if I thought the timing of his arrival in the book was a little convenient.
Unfortunately, the drawbacks of the last book have also carried over into this one. I wasn't thrilled with the plot. It wasn't as cohesive or as complex as I would've liked, and it took a while to really get into it. The book started a bit slow for me, even with the robbery, and I felt Estep was a little too conscientious in introducing new readers to previous events. Yes, this book could be read as a stand-alone, and that's all well and good, but after the massive amount of exposition heavily lathered into the first third of the book, a reader new to the series doesn't even have to bother reading the first book to be as familiar with it as those of us who did.
In the first book, also, I had a problem with repetition in the narrative, and again I felt like this was an issue here. In much the same way. Often about the same things. Descriptions are given again and again - like the scars on Gin's hand, or the way Donovan smells, or the coffee Finn drinks, etc. We also hear more than once about how Gin feels about Fletcher and the folder he'd made for her - that comes up through the whole book. At times it feels like Estep is bludgeoning her readers to really, really get her points across and it's just not necessary. Much less repetition would be greatly appreciated as the series continues.
Like I said, I did like this book a little more than the first. I don't think Gin's actions were as intelligent as they were in that one during the events preceding and during the big showdown, but we got a broader glimpse of her personality, and her character was fleshed out even more, with a few more glimpses into her backstory. While the plot wasn't complex, I thought it had more of a human touch to it, and several plot threads engendered a bit more emotion from me than in the last. Plus, there was another nifty series cross-over mention. I love how Estep does that. In this book, Finn's reading a newspaper article written by Carmen Cole who you can meet in Karma Girl, the first of Estep's Bigtime series.
Despite Web of Lies not being quite as good for me as I'd hoped, I have pre-ordered the next book in the Elemental Assassin series, Venom, due out at the end of September. I enjoy Gin too much not to continue with her story for now.
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