The Qwillery | category: Elemental Assassin


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep

Bitter Bite
Author:  Jennifer Estep
Series:  Elemental Assassin 14
Publisher:  Pocket Books, February 23, 2016
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781501111273 (print); 9781501111280 (eBook)

Review: Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep
Which is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship? That’s the question Gin Blanco asks when a friend’s long-lost relative strolls into town. The suspicious reunion is a surprise for everyone—and a big problem for Gin. Book fourteen in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series RT Book Reviews calls “unbeatable entertainment!”

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.

Doreen’s Thoughts

In this 17th* outing with Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, Jennifer Estep once again places one of Gin’s extended family in jeopardy. Gin continues as the queen of the underworld, when she is not cooking at her restaurant, the Pork Pit, or for her family. Her extended family includes her sister, her foster brother, her lover, and various other characters that she has adopted along the way. As an Elemental, Gin has the ability to control both Ice and Stone, which gives her an edge in the assassin business.

As Estep usually does, the last novel ended with the reveal of a new threat to Gin’s world. This time, the threat is aimed at her foster brother, Finn. Unfortunately, while Gin is investigating this new person, Finn is cozying up to one of his new clients, Mama Dee, and before Gin has a chance to prepare Finn, she reveals herself to be his long-lost mother. However, her story of why she disappeared does not fit with the story that Finn’s father left for Gin, and nothing Gin says can dissuade Finn from falling for this woman’s charms.

By now, the stories should feel formulaic, but Estep keeps her writing crisp. Her fight scenes generally last for several pages and are tightly written. You can almost feel the knives slashing and the blood flying. The interactions between the characters seems realistic, and it is easy to sink into the magic of Asheville.

I particularly love that Gin is a cook, first and foremost. When something upsets her world order, her instinct is to fix food, the world’s number-one comfort. I almost wish that Estep would include recipes for some of the meals that Gin prepares for her family and at her restaurant, but that would undermine the seriousness of the tales. Make no mistake, Gin also is an assassin who won her way to the top of the underworld.

I also enjoy the relationships that Gin has with her extended family. When the novels first began, Gin was a relatively solitary soul, with just Finn and a few others. However, she has grown during the course of the series and become more involved with people.

Overall, Estep continues to churn out good solid stories that surprise and delight. As mentioned, she usually sets up her next novel by leaving some hint at the end, and she does so again here. It turns out that the underworld that Gin knows may not be the whole underworld – there appears to be a larger group that masterminds everything. Even worse, it appears that Gin’s mother may not have been the innocent victim that Gin thought she was – but that’s another story.

*14 Novels and 3 Novellas

Review: Spider’s Trap by Jennifer Estep

Spider’s Trap
Author:  Jennifer Estep
Series:  Elemental Assassin 13
Publisher:  Pocket Books, July 28, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print); $7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781501105173 (print); 9781501105180 (eBook)
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Spider’s Trap by Jennifer Estep
The next thrilling book in Jennifer Estep’s New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Elemental Assassin series—“an extraordinary series.…One of the most intriguing heroines in the genre” (Romantic Times Book Reviews).

Keep your friends close but your enemies within stabbing distance.

One important lesson I’ve learned in the assassination business is that to be the best you have to roll with the punches. Now that I’m queen of Ashland’s underworld—by default, not by choice—a lot more punches are being thrown my way. But I suppose that’s the price of victory for taking down some of the underworld’s top dogs. Good thing I have my Ice and Stone magic to help me survive my volatile new position. Just when I think things are finally settling down, someone tries to murder me during a hush-hush underworld meeting. But the real surprise is how strangely familiar my shadowy assailant seems to be.

My job is to maintain order among killers, crooks, and thieves, and soon I’m embroiled in a bloody game where the ability to keep secrets could be the greatest superpower of all. My enemies have all sharpened their knives and laid their traps, waiting for me to fall. But this Spider weaves her own webs of death…

Doreen’s Thoughts

Spider’s Trap is the latest thrilling book in Jennifer Estep’s stories about Gin Blanco, assassin extraordinaire. In this novel, Gin has accepted the fact that she is queen of Ashland’s underworld, but she does not have to like it. Trying to negotiate peace between two troublesome kingpins, Gin is almost killed by a bomb – the question is whether the bomb is intended for her or one of the other dangerous thugs in the underworld.

As is usual, Gin has her friends and family to stand by her and assist when things go wrong. As more potentially tragic accidents occur, it become obvious that someone else is being targeted – but why? Gin’s memory keeps telling her there is something she is forgetting, and she returns to her mentor Fletcher’s files to determine who may be responsible before someone is really harmed.

I love all of the Gin novels, not only because of the characterizations, but also oddly enough because of the food descriptions. Gin runs a restaurant for a living and prepares meals at any time to soothe herself and others. Estep never stoops to recipe listing but she provides enough information and description for me to become hungry throughout the story.

I did find the memory loss trick a little trite and unnecessary. After 12 novels, I find it hard to believe that Gin has that bad of a memory that she could forget such a critical time in her assassin training. I felt that Estep could have handled the memory issue a little more in character with Gin herself.

Overall, Gin’s latest adventure fits in well with the rest of her canon. In addition, Estep does a good job setting up the next adversary to come – one which I never would have seen coming!

Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

Black Widow
Author:   Jennifer Estep
Series:  Elemental Assassin 12
Publisher:  Pocket Books, November 25, 2014
Format:   Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:   $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781476774541 (print)
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Black Widow by Jennifer Estep
Lethal, sexy, and always ready to protect her friends, Gin Blanco (a.k.a. the Spider) takes on the mysterious M.M. Monroe in book twelve of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.

There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan. With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.

The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bull’s-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.

Doreen’s Thoughts

I discovered Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series last spring, and I only caught up to her writing when Poison Promise came out. So I was very excited when I received Black Widow for review. For most of the earlier novels, Gin Blanco’s nemesis was Mab Monroe, the queen of the Ashland underworld, but Gin put an end to her and thought she was finished with threats to her family and herself. Even after ending the next contender for the crown in the last novel, Gin cannot rest on her laurels. As revealed in the last novel, the mysterious M. M. Monroe is actually Madeleine Magda Monroe, Mab’s daughter, and this novel shows that she is just as evil and cunning as her mother, if not more so.

With the unusual elemental power of Acid, Madeleine also may even be stronger than her mother, and Gin’s Stone and Ice powers may not be enough to stop her from taking control of the Ashland underworld. However, it is when Madeleine attacks Gin’s family, surreptitiously causing problems for those she loves, Gin decides that things have come to a head, and she begins to take action against Madeleine.

With Estep’s usual mixture of action and characterization, Black Widow speeds along to its finish. There were several points where I worried whether Gin could actually get out of the fixes that Madeleine set. However, as usual, Gin is able to save the day.

There is a significant twist at the end of Black Widow, one which I did not see coming; however, I felt it was resolved much too quickly. Estep had several directions that she could have taken with the reveal, but chose to use what I would consider a “Deus ex machina” to determine the matter. I can appreciate the major decision that Gin ultimately makes, and it is totally in character with Gin herself, but I just felt there was more that could be done. I hope that Estep revisits the issue that she set up and takes the story further.

All in all, Black Widow was another galloping read that adds to the myth surrounding Gin Blanco. The teaser for the next Elemental Assassin novel, Spider’s Trap, is excellent, and I cannot wait for it's release.

Review: The Spider by Jennifer Estep

The Spider
Author:  Jennifer Estep
Series:   Elemental Assassin 10
Publisher:  Pocket Books, December 24, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781451689013 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: The Spider by Jennifer Estep
How did I end up in a career where I always have blood on my hands? Well, let me tell you a story about an assassin who thought she could do no wrong. . . .

Ten years ago. A blistering hot August night. I remember like it was yesterday. The night I, Gin Blanco, truly became the Spider. Killing people is what I do best, especially now that I’ve honed my Ice and Stone magic. But back then, I had yet to learn one very important rule: arrogance will get you, every single time.

This particular job seemed simple: murder a crooked building contractor with ties to ruthless Fire elemental Mab Monroe. My mentor, Fletcher Lane, had some misgivings, but I was certain that I had the situation under control . . . right up until I exposed my weaknesses to a merciless opponent who exploited every single one of them. There’s a reason assassins aren’t supposed to feel anything. Luckily, a knife to the heart can fix that problem, especially when I’m the one wielding it. . . .

Doreen’s Thoughts

The Spider is Jennifer Estep’s tenth novel in the Elemental Assassin series, and the first to go back in the past a revisit a younger, more inexperienced Gin Blanco. I have enjoyed all of the novels to date, especially watching Gin evolve in her relationships with her friends and family. It was fun to see Gin at an earlier age, when she is falling in love and opening up to a world outside the dark shadows where she normally resides.

Estep also does a good job at involving some of her minor characters in the story in a different way than we normally see them. She introduces us to a younger Xavier, right before he becomes a beat copy, Roslyn Phillips before she created the club Northern Aggression, and even sister Bria and lover Owen before they were on Gin’s radar. Estep also shows us more about Gin's foster father, Fletcher Lane (before he was murdered) and Gin’s relationship with her foster brother, Finnegan. As always, it is the relationships that make up the heart of her novel.

But Gin always must face an opponent and in The Spider she believes she has vanquished the bad guy fairly early. As a reader, it was easy to see who really was the antagonist and how that person was able to get so close to Gin without her realizing it. The mystery in the Elemental Assassin books is always secondary to the relationships, and I appreciate that. This is another worthy entry in Estep’s series.

Review: Bitter Bite by Jennifer EstepBitter Bite Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Estep and GiveawaysReview: Spider’s Trap by Jennifer EstepReview: Black Widow by Jennifer EstepInterview with Jennifer Estep, Review and Giveaway of Poison Promise - July 22, 2014Review: The Spider by Jennifer Estep

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