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"A raw, gritty, and compelling walk on the wild side, one that had me hooked from the first page." — Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author
"My name is Gin, and I kill people."
Normally, my confession would have elicited gasps of surprise. Pale faces. Nervous sweat. Stifled screams. An overturned chair or two as people scrambled to get away before I buried a knife in their heart -- or back. A sucking wound was a sucking wound. I wasn't picky about where I caused it.
"Hi, Gin," four people chorused back to me in perfect, dull, monotone unison.
But not in this place. Within the walled confines of Ashland Asylum, my confession, true though it might be, didn't even merit a raised eyebrow, much less shock and frightened awe. I was relatively normal compared to the freaks of nature and magic who populated the grounds. Like Jackson, the seven-foot-tall albino giant seated to my left who drooled worse than a mastiff and gurgled like a three-month-old child.
A long string of clear, glistening spittle dripped out of his oversize lips, but Jackson was too busy cooing nonsense to the crude daisy tattooed on the back of his hand to pay attention. Or do something sane and hygienic, like wipe his mouth. I shifted away from him so I wouldn't come in contact with the oozing mucus.
Disgusting. But Jackson was typical of the sorts of folks in the asylum. Asylum. The word always made me smile. Such a pretty name for a hellhole.
It was bad enough I'd been stuck here for almost a week. But what really set me on edge was the noise -- and having to listen to the building around me. The screams of the damned and deranged had long ago sunk into the granite walls and floors of the asylum, the way all emotions and actions do over time. Being a Stone elemental, I could feel the vibrations in the rock and hear the constant, insane chatter even through the industrial carpet and my white, cotton socks.
When I'd first gotten here, I'd tried to reach out to the stone, to use my own magic to bring it a bit of comfort. Or at least quiet the screams so I could get some sleep at night. But it had been no use. The stones were too far gone to listen or respond to my magic. Just like the poor souls who shuffled along on top of them.
Now, I just blocked out the damn noise -- the way I did so many other things.
A woman at the head of the circle of plastic chairs leaned forward. She was directly across from me, so it was easy for her light eyes to find mine. "Now, Gin, you've made this claim before. We've discussed this. You only think you're an assassin. You are most certainly not one."
Evelyn Edwards. The shrink who was supposed to cure all the crazies in this magical nuthouse. She radiated professional cool and confidence in her tight black pantsuit, ivory blouse, and kitten heels. Square black glasses hung on the end of her pointed nose, highlighting her greenish eyes, and her sandy hair was cropped into a short, tousled bob. Evelyn was pretty enough, but a hungry look pinched her pasty face -- a look I recognized. The hard gaze of a sly predator.
The reason I was here today.
"I most certainly am not a mere assassin," I countered. "I'm the Spider. Surely, you've heard of me."
Evelyn rolled her eyes and looked at the tall orderly standing just beyond the ring of chairs. He snickered, then raised his finger to his temple and made a circle.
"Of course I've heard of the Spider," Evelyn said, attempting to be patient. "Everybody's heard of the Spider. But you are certainly not him."
"Her," I corrected.
The orderly snickered again. I raised an eyebrow in displeasure. The joke was on him because that laugh had just cost him his life. I didn't care to be mocked, even if I'd spent the last few days masquerading as a loon.
In order to kill people, you have to get close to them. Put yourself in their world. Make their likes your likes. Their habits your habits. Their thoughts your thoughts.
For this job, putting myself in Evelyn Edwards's world had meant getting tossed into Ashland Asylum. To Evelyn and her orderly underlings, I was just another schizo dragged off the streets, driven crazy by elemental magic, drugs, or a combination of the two. Another poor, lost ward of the state who wasn't worth their time, attention, consideration, or sympathy.
I'd spent the last few days locked up in the asylum convincing Evelyn and the others I was just as Junebug crazy as the rest of the babbling psychos. Spouting nonsense about being an assassin. Drooling. Fingerpainting with the moldy peas they served for lunch. I'd even hacked off gobs of my long, bleached blond hair during craft time to keep up the pretense. The orderlies on call had taken the scissors away from me, but not before I'd used them to pry a screw loose from the rec room table. The same screw I'd sharpened to a two-inch-long, dartlike point. The same screw I had palmed in my hand.
The same screw I was going to shove into Evelyn's throat. The weapon rested on my palm, and the steel felt rough against my scarred skin. Hard. Substantial. Cold. Comforting.
Of course, I didn't really need a weapon to kill the shrink. I could have offed Evelyn with my Stone magic. Could have reached for the elemental power flowing through my veins. Could have tapped into the acres of granite the asylum was constructed out of and made the whole building come crashing down on her head. Using my Stone magic was easier than breathing.
Call it professional pride, but I didn't use my elemental power to kill unless I absolutely had to, unless there was no other way to get the job done. Just too easy otherwise. But even more important, magic got you noticed in these parts. Especially elemental magic. If I started collapsing buildings on people or braining them with bricks, the police and other, more unsavory characters would be sure to take note -- and an unhealthy interest in me. I'd made more than my share of enemies over the years, and the only reason I'd stayed alive this long was by keeping to the shadows. By creeping in and out of places completely unnoticed, just the way my namesake did.
Besides, there were plenty of ways to make someone quit breathing. I didn't need my magic to help me with that.
"The Spider." Evelyn's scarlet lips twitched, and she allowed herself a small titter. "As if someone like you could be someone like that. The most feared assassin in the South."
"East of the Mississippi," I corrected her again. "And I most certainly am the Spider. In fact, I'm going to kill you, Evelyn. T-minus three minutes and counting."
Maybe it was the calm way I stared at her, my gray eyes steady and level. Or perhaps it was the complete lack of emotion in my tone. But the laughter caught and died in Evelyn's throat like an animal in a trap. She wouldn't be too far behind.
I got to my feet and stretched my arms over my head, moving the screw into a better position in my hand. The long-sleeved, white T-shirt I wore rode up over my matching pajama pants, exposing my flat stomach. The tall orderly licked his lips, his eyes locked on my crotch. Dead man walking.
"But enough about me," I said, dropping into my chair once more. "Let's talk about you, Evelyn."
She shook her head. "Now, Gin, you know that's against the rules. Therapists aren't allowed to talk to patients about themselves."
"Why not? You've been asking me questions for days now. Trying to get me to open up about my past. To talk about my feelings. To come to grips with the fact I'm cold and emotionally unavailable. Turnabout, you know. Besides, you did plenty of talking to Ricky Jordan."
Her eyes widened behind her glasses. "Where -- where did you hear that name?"
I ignored her question. "Ricky Robert Jordan. Age seventeen. An Air elemental with a serious bipolar disorder. A sweet but confused kid, from all accounts. You really shouldn't have gotten involved with him, Evelyn."
The shrink's hand tightened around her long, gold pen until her knuckles cracked from the pressure. The orderly frowned, and his eyes flicked back and forth between us, as though Evelyn and I were playing a game of verbal tennis. Jackson and the three other patients sitting around me kept drooling, gurgling, and murmuring nonsense, locked in their own twisted worlds.
"Correction," I continued. "You shouldn't have used him as your psycho ward boy toy. Did you panic when he realized you weren't really leaving your husband for him? Did he threaten to tell his parents how you seduced him the way you do all the handsome young men put into your care? Is that why you pumped him full of hallucinogens and sent him home to his family?"
Evelyn's breath puffed out of her mouth in short gasps. The pulse in her throat fluttered like a hummingbird's delicate wings.
I leaned forward, capturing her panicked gaze. "Mommy and Daddy Jordan didn't appreciate it when Ricky had a psychotic break and hung himself in his own closet, Evelyn. But before he died, he wrote them a letter, telling them how he just couldn't go on without you."
Normally, I wouldn't have bothered with the whole assassin's exposition. Such a cliché. I would have infiltrated the asylum, killed Evelyn, and escaped before anyone knew she was dead. But letting Evelyn Edwards know exactly why she was dying had been part of the job requirement. And was netting me an extra half million dollars.
"That's why I'm here, Evelyn. That's why you're going to die. You fucked with the wrong boy."
"Guard!" Evelyn screamed.
Last word she ever said. I flicked my wrist, and the sharp point of the screw zipped across the room and sank into her throat, puncturing her windpipe. Ace. Evelyn's scream turned into a whistling wheeze. She slid from her plastic chair and hit the floor. Her hand wrapped around the screw, and she pulled it free. Blood spattered onto the carpet, looking like an abstract Rorschach pattern. Stupid of her. She might have lived another minute if she'd left it in her throat.
The orderly cursed and raced forward, but I was faster. I snatched the shrink's gold pen from the floor where it had fallen, stood up, and rammed it into his heart.
"And you," I murmured in his ear as he jerked and flailed against me, "I'm not getting paid for you. But considering how you get your kicks by raping female patients, I'll consider it a public service. Pro-fucking-bono."
I yanked the pen out of his chest and stabbed him twice more. Once in the stomach, and once in the balls. The flickering, lecherous light in the orderly's eyes dimmed and died. I let go, and he thumped to the floor.
In less than thirty seconds, it was over. Game, set, match. Too easy. I wasn't even winded.
My gray eyes flicked to the four other people in the room. Jackson still drooled at nothing. The other two men stared at the floor as if something was wrong, but they weren't sure what it was. The fourth person, a woman, had already gotten down on her hands and knees. She dipped her fingers into Evelyn's blackening blood, then licked it off like it was the sweetest honey. Vampires. They really would eat anything.
The granite floor's insane murmurs intensified, fueled by the fresh coat of blood seeping through the loose weave in the carpet and dripping onto the stone. The harsh discord made me grind my teeth together. I would be glad to leave this place and that noise behind. Far, far behind.
I yanked the pen out of the orderly's groin and picked up my screw. Witnesses were bad, especially in my line of work, and I considered killing Jackson and the others. But I wasn't here for them. And I didn't slaughter innocents, not even these pathetic souls who would be better off dead and free of their cracked mortal shells.
So I pocketed my still bloody weapons and headed toward the door. Before I stepped out into the hallway, I glanced over my shoulder at Evelyn Edwards's lifeless body. Her face and eyes were wide open in a look of shocked surprise. An expression I'd seen more than once over the years. No matter how bad people were, no matter what evil they committed, or who they fucked over, nobody ever really believed death was coming for them, courtesy of an assassin like me.
Until it was too late.
Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Estep
Posted January 20, 2011
Spider's Bite was a story I could not take seriously. The main character, Gin, was just not believeable. She describes herself as a cold blooded assasin. She "gets people dead". Gin just does not come across as a killer. The character development is so shallow, I could not either love or hate her, or develope any feeling for her. The book seems to be thrown together. Much of the detail is overdone. Describing how she makes a sandwich, down to the type of cheeze, bread and pickles is like reading Martha Stewart. And, detracts from the story. There are nonhuman characters thrown in, vampires, giants and dwarves. But they do not have any superhuman powers. Sunlight does not bother the vampires. They are as vulnerable to knives, bullets and fists as any human. The vampires are not stronger or faster than humans. All the female prostitute are vampires. And they enjoy liquor. The only difference is the vampires have fangs and drink blood. It is as if vampires and the others were thrown into the story just to get on the paranormal bandwagon. The story also has some very steamy explicit sex scenes. Not that I am opposed to explicit sex, but it adds nothing to the story and seems out of place. Agin, like these scenes are added just to be adding sex. There are redundant phrases way overused. When Gin is describing something she likes, like sex or good food, the paragraph always ends with "Mmm". Over and over again. Her favorite phrases, "get dead" and "sloppy sloppy sloppy" get a little annoying. The fictional city of Ashland, where the story takes place, is a typical urban setting with malls, a college, parks and stores. Not the dark and seedy back drop that would have been appropriate for this type of story. The writing style and phrasing seems disjointed. There was never a point in the book where I really cared about reading further. I finished the book for no other reason than I paid for it.
17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2010
I Also Recommend:
This book had me from page one. This book had great characters that you cant help but like and a fast-paced and action packed plot. And best of all, it wasn't dripping with to much sex. If her next books are just as good I can see putting her on my top 10 favorite authors.
Anyone who likes Butcher, Kim Harrison, or Patrica Briggs would like this one as well.
8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2010
As a teenager, Gin Blanco lost her family to a brutal attack which left her homeless, friendless, and running scared. All that changed after she met Fletcher, the kind own of a local BBQ joint. Fletcher got Gin back on her feet while wiping away her fear with the knowledge of how to protect herself and those she loves. Years later, she's become a tough assassin, known as the Spider, with a killer record. And if her sharp knives don't do the trick, Gin's ace in the hole happens to be an affinity for stone, making her a rare elemental.
After agreeing to a risky contract which ends up going south, Gin quickly finds herself fighting tooth and nail to protect those she loves while trying to stay alive herself. But the only way she's going to make it out alive in the corrupt and brutal city of Ashland is by aligning herself with by-the-book Detective Donovan Caine. Which can only complicate matters since said easy-on-the-eyes Detective happens to loathe every single aspect of Gin's chosen profession. Figures.
Jennifer Estep has created an intriguing new world in her newest series Elemental Assassins. As a dangerous and corrupt city with dirty cops ready to look the other way, Ashland reminds me of a southern Gotham City with an added bonus of powerful magic. Though equipped with an appealing world-building concept, I struggled to connect to Gin as a character. Even in the face of tragedy, I never really felt that her grief was genuine. Sad to say, her narrative often seemed forced and quite repetitive. I often found myself hearing Gin describe the same types of scenes over and over again. Her enemies were always "sloppy, sloppy, sloppy" and every description of the attractive Detective Caine ended with "Mmm." While I'll give you that a good lookin' man can be mouth watering, I don't need the blatant reminder every time he pops up. Though I did catch a glimmer of chemistry between Gin and Caine, their awkward exchanges tended to leave me surprisingly uncomfortable and a little squeamish more often than not. How unfortunate. Gin's story really had the potential for becoming a honest and hard-hitting UF series but Spider's Bite ultimately failed to deliver on the entertainment front.
On a side note, I am actually totally digging this cover. In a Urban Fantasy market awash of books that have no relation whatsoever to their story, the cover art for Spider's Bite is refreshingly accurate, and really eye-catching.
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 5, 2012
The first two books in the Elemental Assassin series had it all - humor, creativity, action, heart, sizzle. The author clearly knows how to develop characters and stories. Unfortunately, I bought the next four books in the series together, thinking they'd be the same. The author apparently went on vacation from writing for the remaining books. She spends about 60-70% of books #3 and #4 re-telling the story from #1 and #2. So you read pages and pages of re-told plot, a few pages of new plot, and back to re-told plot. Sometimes she even puts the re-told plot into boring and unnecessary dream sequences. I’m not going to suffer through #5 and #6. The author of this series obviously has the intelligence and creativity to write great books, she just chose not to exercise it after Book #2. If there's one thing I'd like to see changed about eBooks, it's the ability to get refunds for bad novels.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 23, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Let me start by saying I enjoy this genre. It allows me to escape from the pressures of the world by tickling that inner part of me that wonders if there is more to our world than we see.
That being said, this book (with an unusually appropriate cover, by the way), is captivating escapism from the first page onward. The author does a good job of bringing you into the mind and feelings of the lead character, a young lady who has found her calling but is a bit overwhelmed by it - to be an assassin of bad guys - many of whom have supernatural attributes.
We all talk about fairness, equal rights, and all that, but deep inside we thrill to the bad guy getting his just due - at least I do - and this book touches that primal urge, as the bad guys lose. There is a touch of sensuality but nothing overt - enough to give that needed dimension to the lead character.
Her writing reminds me of Patricia Brigg's writing - the Mercy Thompson series. She is consistent, articulate, and filled with touches of dramatic omnipotence. You always want to jump ahead to see how the story unfolds, but you don't want to miss any details.
The book is free of those 'dead' pages where authors sometimes seem to want to display their knowledge of underworld legends while letting the story line sit and fester. Rather she is able to weave those concepts into the story without slowing the pace. Quite a difficult thing to achieve, I believe. I am impressed.
The book cover is unusually appropriate. I don't think that the character depicted on the cover matches some descriptors of her scattered throughout the book. But the pose and stature shown and the implied temperament of the character on the cover gave me a visual image to use as I read through the early chapters, and it worked for me positively.
On the down side, true, there are a few places where it is difficult to stretch the imagination far enough to mnake it believable, even for fantasy, but in general, I think this book is one of the best ones I have read in this genre.
I think this is her first or at least an early book for her. I hope that she develops a fan base and that her work continues, and that she continues to write stories involving this interesting character.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 28, 2014
A fair amount of action but it is a typical female heroine book that has too much sex talk. The main character focuses on sex a good amount of the time even in situations that it doesn't make sense. Some people may like that though. If you want a good fantasy read, with a female lead I would recommend the Deadtown series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2013
Posted October 30, 2013
A Very Good Start for this Paranormal Series! Gin tragically and violently lost her family at an early age. She is an elemental with stone and ice powers. She was taken in by a man that she saved from death by using one of her powers. He treated her as his own and trained her as an assassin. She is one of the best and known as the Spider. Now she's been framed for a murder she didn't commit. She must find a way to work with a sexy cop to save herself and her friends before they become victims also.
This series has been recommended to me so many times I've lost count. I have the whole series and have been meaning to start it and finally did! This was an awesome start to the series and I'm hooked. The next book in the series is on my nightstand.
Very good! 4 Stars!!!!!
Posted September 14, 2013
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Posted May 8, 2013
i really enjoyed this book. it was a fun story to read. and the story line was very interesting. the book starts off with a bang that totally catches your attention which was fantastic. i definately fell in love with the main character, gin. shes portrayed as a strong and independent women. people might think that its unrealistic or watevers because shes an assassin that is supposed to be a cold hearted killer yet she struggles with her inner demons of caring for love ones. i dont understand how that would be unrealistic? shes still human so of course she has human emotions. its just she hides it well because shes an assassin and the fact that her family was murdered. overall i loved the book. the whole entire series i found very entertaining and i enjoyed it very much however, the one thing i did have a problem was with this book is that throughout the whole entire series there is too much repetition. the author kept talking about gins past even though it was established in the previous books. i found it a waste of time to reread. i like a reminder of what had happened in the previous books and her past but i after the third book i think the reader should know what is going on by the third and fourth and fifth book. it was just so bad that it felt like the author just copied and paste it over to all the books. big big flaw. but i still loved it and i highly recommend itWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2013
Posted February 1, 2013
Posted January 26, 2013
This book was very entertaining. Plot was good but pretty evident how the book would play out. There were times when details would be repeated but over all the story played out quickly and left you wanting more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2013
Posted September 14, 2012
Posted September 6, 2012
Posted August 26, 2012
Posted August 24, 2012