Reviewed by Tori and May
Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot.
Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.
Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.
May: This is the eighth book in Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, and nothing is ever quite what it seems in Gin’s world. The assassin slash BBQ joint owner is still recovering from the events in the last book, and Ashland’s underworld is still as seedy as ever.
So, where to start? First I will say that I’m a huge Estep fan, but going into this book I was scared. Would I hate the direction that Estep is taking Gin? Would I recover from the events of the previous book? How painful would this book be to read? I really should have had more faith. Not only did I tremendously enjoy this book, but I think that the depth of development and the way that the threads of this world are coming together are phenomenal. It was a very emotional read – here are a few quotes:
Not for the first time I thought about pulling out my cell phone and calling him. The only problem was that I didn’t know what to say. I love you. I miss you. I killed your ex because it had to be done. Not exactly sweet nothings.
And this one…
My emotions felt as tangled and twisted as the briars around us. And every move I made, everything I did to try and make things better, just stabbed another sharp, brittle thorn deep into the desolate wasteland of my heart.
Gin is so vulnerable, and yet she’s more determined and better than ever.
Tori: I love Estep. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. I read both her adult Elemental series and her YA Mythos Academy series and I can honestly say she has a permanent spot on my favorite Urban Fantasy list. I think all of us died a little at the end of Widow’s Web. Gin had been put through the ringer and the one person she wanted, no, needed, to stand by her side, let her down. Oh, the heartbreak. *sigh* So, going into Deadly Sting, I was nervous. What else would Estep do to torture me? Would she fix it? Could she fix it? Deadly Sting brought forth a range of emotions that left me exhausted by the time I was done. Gin’s development has revealed a more complex character and with the main story line tightening up, we are beginning to see the Gin that will eventually emerge. I felt that trust was the main component on which this story is built. What do you think, May?
May: Absolutely! As an assassin Gin is known as the spider, and in this book I felt like Gin’s world, her web if you will, is really strong and a lot of things are taking shape. Speaking of taking shape, we’re going to have to talk about Owen. While I absolutely detested Owen and many of his actions, I was glad to see that Estep didn’t have him burning bridges completely, and I felt like his actions (while very hard to take at times) were spot on. Up until Widow’s Web Owen was absolutely perfect. The events of that book tested their relationship, and this book shows us both the fall out and aftermath of the choices that were made. I could really see why Owen is not just having a hard time dealing with Gin, but also himself. As a character in a series as intense as this one, I think that the complications and drama surrounding him really add to his depth and make him a better character. Without spoiling the plot by giving my specific reasons, I will just say that I found glimmers of hope where Owen is concerned.
Tori: Well, you’re more forgiving them me. lol Frankly, I’m ready to see some alternative POVs, preferably one where Finn, Bree, or maybe Xavier steps in and has a ‘come to Jesus’ moment with Owen. He broke my trust in Widow’s Web.
But, I agree with you, May. Their relationship was too perfect and this series is too dark to cary that for too long. They (and the readers) needed to see if their relationship could survive conflict. I found myself feeling sorry for Owen as I came to understand that his actions are more penance now because he assumes, and rightly so, that his actions and inability to trust Gin with his past helped facilitate the events in Widow Web.
“I always seem to let down the people I care about.”
The drama existing between Owen and Gin, while heartbreaking, is necessary to the overall character development and evolves the series to a whole new level.
May: Oh, I recall tweeting you some suggestions as to what part of Owen to string him up by when I was reading this. I definitely was not loving his actions at the start of this book, but like you I felt that the drama really has helped this series evolve. As for an alternate POV, I love this idea! I will cross my fingers and hope for someone to verbally backhand him for Gin.
We’ve discussed personal drama, how did you feel about the action side of things and the villain plot in this story? I really liked that so much of the story was based at the one event, and over a short period of time. Not only did it give us a very detailed and intense problem for Gin to sink her knives into, but it also made the personal interactions that much more intense. I am very interested to see who the mystery person turns out to be, and if they are friend, foe, villain, or what Estep has in mind. I like that while Mab is dead and gone she still affects Gin and Bree, and manages to be an important part of this book.
Tori: *laughing* Yes, Owen has had enough time to wallow in self pity, it’s time for him to man up. I enjoyed the action and the timeline of the story. It was an interesting set up that intersected with Gin’s past. Having everything happen in one day and with all of Gin’s friends in one area and only able to help on a basic level really cranked up the tension and suspense. The mystery person has me nervous. I’m also curious to see how things develop between Philip and Eva. Philip being a part of the underworld and Eva being Owen’s sister. Will Philip change? Will Eva?
May: If Jennifer Estep is reading, we need a novella or something that is Philip + Eva. I could so see them getting together and I want all the details! I really appreciate how in depth the supporting characters are, how important they are to the story and how much they continue to grow and evolve. I know we’re both Estep fangirls – but I can truly say she deserves all the praise. This isn’t one of those series where it gets mediocre but you stay with it for sentimental reasons. It continues to impress and delight me as a reader – even when I’ve got white knuckles and am biting my lip from the tension. Estep has amazing writing skills and I can’t recommend this series enough.
Tori: I agree. Lately I have been disappointed in Urban Fantasy because of the dreaded love triangle and how the internal storylines are being dragged out for a couple of books. Estep has a gift for knowing exactly when a particular storyline is done. She doesn’t employ cheap plot devices or radical cliffhangers in order to ratchet up the tension and force readers to commit to the next book. Her world is fresh and action packed with just enough emotional angst to keep you satisfied but not overwhelmed. Each character is strong enough to hold their own story and I can only hope we will get that eventually.
My favorite quote: Hope. Such a foolish emotion. One that could lift your heart to the heavens and then grind into the ground in the very next instant.
I give this a B+
May: I could talk about this book and series all day with you Tori – I am so anxious for Heart of Venom, and just talking about this book has me wanting to re-read the entire series.
My favorite quote: Steel toes tend to bolster a girl’s confidence in her ability to kick some serious ass.
I give this book an A-