Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin, #14
February 23, 2016
Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I have a bad feeling about this…”
Which is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship?
It’s not easy being queen bee of an underworld abuzz with crooks and killers. Wielding my potent Ice and Stone elemental magic will only get me so far—my real secret is my tight-knit makeshift family, a motley crew of cops and criminals, dwarves and playboys. My foster brother Finnegan Lane is my right-hand man, but when his suddenly not-dead relative comes back into the picture, I’m the one on the outside looking in.
It’s funny how life works: one minute your best friend is rock-steady, and the next he’s doe-eyed and buying into this whole loving-relative routine to the point of ignoring you. I’d like to be happy for Finn, I really would. But all of my instincts are telling me that beneath the syrupy sweet demeanor and old-fashioned charm, this sudden interloper is planning something. The whole shtick leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This person might have avoided the grave once, but I’ll put anyone who hurts Finn in the ground—for good.
Finn, Gin’s foster brother, has been a large part of Gin’s life since his father Fletcher rescued her off the streets and raised her alongside Finn. When a long presumed dead relative appears in Asheville like Lazarus rising from the grave and wanting to reconnect with Finn, Gin naturally has some reservations. Everyone is Asheville has a hidden agenda…Gin just has to discover what theirs is before it destroys Finn and everyone around him.
“Hope for the best but always be prepared for the worse.”
The fourteenth installment of Jennifer Estep’s high octane, action packed, darkly drenched Elemental urban fantasy series offers some serious game changers when loyalties become divided from within and shocking revelations are revealed about the past. Set in the small town of Asheville, North Carolina, Gin aka The Spider, is an assassin for hire whose complicated morals and unbeatable skills give her the advantage of picking and choosing who will be the unlucky recipient of her deadly skills. Many changes have taken place since readers first met Gin Blanco. A loner whose life was split into two personalities-assassin by night and restaurant owner by day-Gin’s alter ego is now out in the open and she is surrounded by friends, family, and a lover; all of whom she loves dearly. She also holds a new job title. Gin involuntarily became Asheville’s new underworld boss since she defeated the feared fire elemental-Mab Monroe-in a battle to the death. Gin has a consistently full plate nowadays.
“Everyone thought running the underworld was so glamorous. That I had so much power. That I inspired fear in so many people. Fools. All I really did was take meetings, sit in on conference calls, and listen to people complain about things […] Blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.”
Her plate becomes a little fuller when a strong unknown elemental, Deirdre Shaw, moves into town, claiming to be a relative of Finn’s and leaves a trail confusion, distrust, and anger in her midst. Family is the heart of Gin. After her own family was taken so violently from her, she clings tight to those who she now considers her own. She and Finn have always had a very close relationship. Though not related by blood, he is still her brother in every way possible. Her partner and best friend, they have always known they could depend on one another. With this new person in his life, Finn begins to focus all his attention on them, distancing himself from Gin and everyone else. Jealousy spreads like cancer, forcing Gin to look deep inside herself and ask if her feelings of dread are real or a product of hurt feelings.
“Do care if we leave now.”
“Are you sure? I thought you wanted to keep an eye on Finn.”
I looked over at Finn, who was still standing by Dierdre’s side, chatting with her latest round of admirers. “Don’t worry,” I said in a sad voice. “He won’t even realize I’m gone.”
“And he didn’t.”
Estep gives us a look into Finn that most readers in the series have been waiting on. Portrayed as Gin’s egocentric, money hungry, slightly narcissistic partner in crime,; we’ve never really see a lot of depth to him except in some rare moments. Finn is very vulnerable in here. He’s been given a rare gift, in his opinion, and will do almost anything to keep it. Even if it means excluding everyone else in his life. Estep digs deep into the pain and jealousy he has kept buried. His relationship with his father was uncomfortable at times and Gin’s ability to be what Finn thought his father wanted in a child is a small and painful lesion that festers in silence.
“You really believe that don’t you? That’s your an invincible superhero who always knows whe’s best for everyone, and I’m just your cheerful, carefree, idiot sidekick who shoots people for you on occasion.”
“I don’t think that-not at all.”
“Of course you do. Because that’s exactly what Dad trained you to believe.
It’s rather painful to see Gin’s hands tied. She has never dealt with the possibility that she could lose Finn to anything else besides death. The idea she will have to fight for his love and attention is an alien concept that Gin unfortunately can’t chop away at with her knives. There are some softer moments in here as Gin remembers her’s and Finn’s childhoods-trying to understand and accept that there is a possibility that she is being replaced in Finn’s heart earmarked for family.
Luckily for us and Finn, Gin’s suspicious nature takes over, forcing her to separate herself from her emotions, and forces her to do what she does best. Her investigation brings new enemies and allies come out of the woodwork, all showing Gin that this new arrival in Asheville is anything but a serendipitous event. The past plays a heavy role in this installment. Gin is also given glimpses into the lives of many major players in Asheville’s history; including her parents and realizes for all her memories of them, there are things about them she doesn’t know.
Jennifer Estep certainly takes the bull by the horns in this installment. The action, suspense, and intrigue we’ve come to expect is here in spades as she opens up new storylines, introduces new characters, and once again shows that Gin Blanco is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Especially when her family is involved.