Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I go by the name the Spider. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”
This review contains some mild spoilers from the entire series. Continue at your own risk.
Gin Blanco has had a very busy year. An assassin/restaurateur;she has found her long lost baby sister, antagonized and killed a very powerful crime boss, and found a new love interest. Since killing her enemy Mab Monroe, the underbelly of Ashland’s crime syndicate are all gunning for the elusive “Spider”, trying to make a name for themselves. Her friends and boyfriend decide that maybe taking a vacation will allow the town to settle down and give Gin some much needed downtime. She and her sister Bria head for a small seaside resort town where Bria grew up. When Bria’s childhood friend becomes the target of a vicious vampire, Gin offers her services. To further complicate the matter, Gin’s run in with the local police force brings her into direct contact with her old lover-Donovan Caine. Donovan ripped Gin’s heart out when he forcefully rejected her because of what she is. Donovan makes no bones about the fact he thinks Gin is trash and doesn’t want any help from her. As Gin divulges deeper into the vampire’s intentions, she realizes that her knife and magical skills maybe her downfall this time around.
I am a huge fan of Jennifer Estep. A talented writer whose heroines are a wonderful mixture of strength, intelligence, and a deeply buried vulnerability that allows us to relate to them on every level. Her Elemental series is a sharp, witty, dark, action packed urban fantasy that gives us a comfortably familiar world filled with humans and supernaturals coexisting and a heroine who lives her life in the gray area between good and evil. Heavily character driven, this series allows us an intimate view of our heroine and the secondary characters lives. Fantastic plot combined with nerve racking tension and taut suspense makes for a exciting fast paced story that will have you wishing for the next one even before you finish the last page.
Our heroine, Gin Blanco aka The Spider, is a premier assassin. Rescued off the streets by her mentor, Gin was forged in fire and trained in death. Through the series we have watched Gin go from a emotionally closed off loner who lived for the day she could kill the person who murdered her family to a happier more emotionally open woman with friends, family, and a lover who is willing to slay her dragons for her. We aren’t overburdened with ridiculous feats of power nor over emotional angst. There is a nice balance of power and vulnerability in here. Gin has earned every good thing that has happened to her yet there is still that small voice inside her that tells her she is a bad person and doesn’t deserve to be happy or loved.
If Spider’s Revenge was the climatic finale of this particular plot line, then By A Thread is the bridge that helps connect us to a new main plotline. In here Gin has some loose ends to tie up and emotional wounds that have been festering are opened and allowed to heal. Gin is still uncomfortable with Bria and vice versa. She knows that Bria blames her for Mab’s obsession and holds Gin’s job against her. This hurts Gin more then anything; the fact that people can’t accept her for what she is. Gin makes no excuses for her life or the roles she plays in it. She will always champion the underdog and accept money to kill people. She is okay with being the bad guy. I like that Ms. Estep beings these elements into the picture and finally allows Gin to confront the past and lay it to rest. The main conflict balances well with the more emotional aspects of the story.
“…I’m not going to apologize for what I am anymore, and I’m not going to be afraid of losing your love or approval.”
Our secondary characters are all back in full force. Charismatic, funny, and full of life-these characters are strong enough to carry their own stories which guarantees they will never be overwhelmed by Gin and her story. Finn is Finn and that remains a highlight in this series. Greedy, egotistical, and quite the ladies man, Finn continues to charm and annoy us all the while protecting Gin’s back in everything. Bria is different from the rest of the cast and I wasn’t really sure about her from the first time I met her. She is so firmly on the side of good that her black and white mentality felt self righteous at times. Through out the series we see her strict moral code relax a little bit at a time, allowing for deviations as she gets to know Gin and her reasons for what she does. Though she still isn’t 100% on board with Gin’s methods, she has begun to realize that life isn’t black and white and sometimes you have to be the bad guy in order to win the war for good.
“My sister is better then I am because she doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what she is, and she always does exactly what she says she will.”
Donovan wasn’t a surprise with his nasty attitude but Ms. Estep to breathes new life into that plot line and leave us feeling secure that Gin will be okay.
Though I’m not a huge fan of romance urban fantasy, Jennifer hits all the right notes in here. Though not a major part of the storyline, it’s so integrated in to the main arc that it flows naturally in and out without our awareness. The romance with Gin and Owen is still going strong and we are given a delightful look into the more intimate details of their feelings for one another. Owen scares Gin because she can’t believe he won’t reject her eventually like Donovan did. I love Owen. Deeply, completely, and ridiculously love him. Sinfully sexy with a dark commanding presence, he is perfect for Gin. He sees and accepts her for what she is and delights in every facet of her personality. He completes her in a way that tells her with every kiss and glance that no matter what happens-he will never leave her by choice. They have a wonderfully uncomplicated relationship and I for one love it. The antagonist banter between Donovan and Owen had me laughing and shouting out, “Oh hell ya!”
“Hear that congratulations are in order. On your engagement.”
“They are. Callie’s a special woman. I’m lucky to have her in my life.”
“You were lucky to have Gin in your life too but you managed to fuck that up. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.”
Our villain is an evil mastermind of deception and betrayal who focuses on Gin and demands something from her she never would have suspected. His reasoning and methods tie him back to Ashland and guarantee that Gin’s enemies have a rather long reach. Action and suspense explode as Gin fights for her life and the lives of others in a climatic finale that will leave you wild eyed till the last sentence.
Ms. Estep seems to have taken some past readers comments to heart and has toned down the background recaps and food references. While we will never get Gin out of the Pork Pit or stop her from cooking as a stress relief, we aren’t inundated by constant scenes showing this as in some previous installments.
Another winner for Ms. Estep and her wonderful Elemental series. I wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone who loves a well plotted urban fantasy with plenty of action, suspense and dark humor. Though this one could be read as a stand alone, I really feel you should start with the first in the series-Spider’s Bite or you lose out on the overall arc advancement and character development that makes this series such a treat.
Overall Rating: A