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Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Spider's Bite" by Jennifer Estep (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Jennifer Estep Website
Order Spider's Bite HERE
Read an Excerpt from the Novel
Read Prequel Short Story Spider's Bargain

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jennifer Estep has a bachelor's degree in English and journalism, and a master's degree in professional communications. She works as a features page designer for a daily newspaper when she is not cooking up plots for her books. She has previously published three books in the Bigtime paranormal romance series. She is also is a member of various groups such as of Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, etc. Amongst her many hobbies is cooking which she shares with the protagonist of this series.

BOOK BLURB: My name is Gin Blanco. They call me the Spider — the most feared assassin in the South (and a part-time cook at the Pork Pit BBQ joint.) As a Stone elemental, I can hear the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet and feel the vibrations of the soaring mountains above me, though I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

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

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 395 pages divided over thirty three chapters. Narration is in the first-person exclusively via the protagonist Gin Blanco. "Spider's Bite" is the first book in the Elemental Assassin series and has a self-contained plot line. Spider's Bite has got a very nice cover courtesy of Tony Mauro which is very much in line with the character description in the books.

ANALYSIS: Spider's Bite is Jennifer's Estep first Urban Fantasy book as she has previously written three paranormal romance novels; it flew under our radar at FBC, so I came across "Spider's Bite" and "Web of Lies" on Amazon. The setting and book blurb featured an assassin and a magic setting which seemed a bit akin to Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, but it had its own twist to it. Spider's bite begins in a very calm and captivating manner as you can see from the chapter excerpt above.

We see a confession from Gin Blanco, the Spider as to who she is & why she kills, however it's in an asylum and her audience is most likely her next victim. From this swift start, the reader is given a through picture of whom Gin is and what she's capable of. She then meets up with her handler Fletcher Lane who is also her mentor & an ex-assassin who went under the name of "Tin-man".

He tells her about a new urgent case which she might have to take as it would be very good for her financially as well in terms of her impending retirement. Gin is a bit hesitant but agrees to the task as she does not see it as particularly hard and also because of Fletcher's insistence. The murder being planned is of a corporate employee who seems to be embezzling the company's funds. As Gin sets up the kill, she realizes that there might be more to the set up & this is from where the story explodes into thriller mode & Jennifer Estep shows the reader her writing chops.

I for one liked this assassin tale set in UF mode and the main character of Gin Blanco is the highlight of the story. She's a likable character and a ruthless one at the same time. A lot of times female assassins are portrayed as super powerful without any other background, while this isn't the case over here. There's a back story to Gin which will be explored as the story goes along - Jennifer has been contracted for a total of 5 books in this series.

The story is set in the city of Ashland which is at the junction of Tennessee, Virginia & North Carolina. The elemental power set up is pretty neat with the four elements in question being Fire, Ice, Stone & Air. Most of the people are proficient in a single element, two is rare & 3 or 4 are unheard of.

Gin is an elemental with dual powers of stone and ice. There are also Dwarves, Giants & Vampires who live amongst the humans & their presence is very much commonplace in this world. The city is controlled by a fire elemental by the name of Mab Monroe & Gin has surreptitiously avoided her notice up till now. The secondary cast includes her foster brother Finnegan Lane & the Dwarf sisters Jo-jo & Sophie Deveraux.

Not much is given about them however Finnegan is the one who gets the most time on the pages as he's intimately connected with Gin and the events of the tale. Also rounding up the character cast is detective Donovan Caine who is searching for the Spider due to the events detailed in the prequel short story Spider's Bargain linked above.

There a few negatives as well to this book, namely Gin keeps acting a bit out of character whenever she comes around detective Donovan Caine. While Caine's presence in the book is justified both from a plot point and from a romantic angle. There's one scene in the book which felt totally out of place - I can't reveal much but it occurs in the latter third and felt that it was put there solely just to show off the tension between the two characters. Another quirk which I noticed was that there was a bit of repetition of certain words like the sound "mmm" and the words "Gray on gold" ironically occurring routinely around the presence of Donovan Caine.

It just seemed that the author really tried to showcase Gin's interest in him however it kind of jarred my reading experience as it went against Gin's ruthless streak which had been established earlier and the fact that the repetition just seemed a bit out of place amidst the plot events taking place at that time. Besides these minor issues, I still enjoyed the tale completely as the book ended on a nice action-packed climax and had a perfectly slotted hook for the next book.


Bastard said...

Loved the review, it's sexy. Mmm.

Yeah, pretty much agree with all of it, looking forward to the rest of the series though. There's enough action and violence here to keep my attention, hopefully the plot gets a bit more twisty too.

The Reader said...

@ B.

That's what I liked about the series, the action and the overall plot arc.

I liked Book 2 as well and now I'm waiting for Venom in September.


Bastard said...

I already placed an order for book 2 and 3, so hopefully book 2 arrives sometime next week, and I will read it as soon as it gets here.

You mention that scene that was out of place, oddly enough that didn't bother me much. Though story-wise, it left me scratching my head, but it didn't annoy me as all the erotic fantasies Gin has throughout the novel... the "Mmm" moments.

But yeah, considering that she was about to face a powerful enemy, one would think that energy conservation would be a priority at the very least.


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