What kind of assassin works pro bono?
It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.
About the Author
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, Spider’s Revenge, By a Thread, Widow’s Web, Deadly Sting, Heart of Venom, The Spider, Poison Promise, Black Widow, Spider’s Trap, Bitter Bite, Unraveled, and Snared, along with the e-shorts Thread of Death, Parlor Tricks, Kiss of Venom, Unwanted, and Nice Guys Bite are the other works in her red-hot Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Jennifer is also the author of the Black Blade and Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series and the Bigtime paranormal romance series. For more on Jennifer and her books, visit her at JenniferEstep.com and @Jennifer_Estep.
Read an Excerpt
The bastards never even would have gotten close to me if I hadn’t had the flu.
Coughing, sneezing, aching, wheezing. That was me. Gin Blanco. Restaurant owner. Stone and Ice elemental. Former assassin. And all-around badass. Laid low by a microbe.
It had started as a small, ominous tickle in my throat three days ago. And now, well, it wasn’t pretty. Watery eyes. Pale face. And a nose so red and bright even Rudolph would have been jealous. Ugh.
The only reason I’d even crawled out of bed this evening was to come down to Ashland Community College and take the final for the classic literature class I was auditing. I’d finished my essay on symbolism in The Odyssey ten minutes ago. Now I plodded across one of the grassy campus quads and feverishly dreamed of sinking back into my bed and not getting out of it for a week.
Just after seven on a cold, clear December night. This was the last day of finals for the semester, and the campus was largely deserted. Only a few lights burned in the windows of the kudzu-covered brick buildings that rose above my head. The stones whispered of formulas, theories, and knowledge. An old, sonorous, slightly pretentious sound that was decidedly at odds with the sinister shadows that blackened most of the quad. No one else was within sight. Which is probably why they decided to jump me here. Well, that and the fact that kidnapping me would be such a bother.
One second I had my face buried in a tissue blowing my sore, drippy nose for the hundredth time today. The next, I looked up to find myself surrounded by three giants.
I stopped, and they immediately closed ranks, forming a loose triangle of trouble around me. The giants were all around seven feet tall, with oversize, buglike eyes and fists almost as big as my head. One of them grinned at me and cracked his knuckles. Someone was anxious to get down to the business of beating me.
My gray eyes flicked to the leader of the group, who had taken up a position in front of me—Elliot Slater. Slater was the tallest of the three giants, his enormous figure making even his flunkies seem small in comparison. He was almost as wide as he was tall, with a solid, muscled frame. Granite would be easier to break than his ribs. Slater’s complexion was pale, bordering on albino, and almost seemed to glow in the faint light. His hazel eyes provided a bit of color in his chalky skin, although his thin, tousled thatch of blond hair did little to cover his large skull. A diamond in his pinkie ring sparkled like a star in the dark night.
Up until my retirement a few months ago, I’d moonlighted as an assassin known as the Spider. Over the years, I’d had plenty of dealings in the shady side of life, so I knew Slater by sight and reputation. On paper, Elliot Slater was a highly respected security consultant with his own platoon of giant bodyguards. In reality, Slater was the number-one enforcer for Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who ran the Southern metropolis of Ashland like it was her own personal fiefdom. Slater stepped in and either cut off, took care of, or permanently disposed of any pesky problems Mab didn’t feel like dealing with herself.
And tonight it looked like that problem was me.
Not surprising. A couple of weeks ago, I’d stiffed someone during a party at Mab Monroe’s mansion. Needless to say, the Fire elemental hadn’t been too thrilled about one of her guests being murdered in her own home when she’d been entertaining a few hundred of her closest business associates. I’d gotten away with it so far, but I knew Mab was doing everything in her power to find the killer. To find me.
I sniffled into my tissue. I wondered if Mab had figured out who I really was. If that was why Slater was here tonight—
Elliot Slater looked over his broad shoulder. “Is this her?”
Slater slid to one side so another man, a much shorter human, could join the circle of giants surrounding me. Underneath his classic trench coat, the man wore a perfect black suit, and his polished wingtips gleamed like wet ink in the semidarkness. His thick mane of gunmetal gray hair resembled a heavy mantle of silver that had somehow been swirled and sculpted around his head. Too bad hate made his brown eyes look like congealed lumps of blood in his smooth, tight face.
I recognized him too. Jonah McAllister. On paper, McAllister was the city’s premiere attorney, a charming, bellicose defense lawyer capable of getting the most vicious killer off scot-free—for the right price. In reality, the slick attorney was another one of Mab Monroe’s top goons, just like Elliot Slater was. Jonah McAllister was Mab’s personal lawyer, responsible for burying her enemies in legal red tape instead of in the ground like Slater did.
McAllister’s son, Jake, was the one I’d murdered at Mab’s party. The twentysomething, beefy frat boy had threatened to rape and murder me, among other things. I’d considered killing him pest extermination more than anything else.
Elliot Slater and Jonah McAllister tag-teaming me. This night just kept getting better and better. I sniffled again. Really should have stayed home in bed.
Jonah McAllister regarded me with cold eyes. “Oh, yes. That’s her. The lovely Ms. Gin Blanco. The bitch who was giving my boy a hard time.”
A hard time? I supposed so, if you thought turning him in to the cops for attempted robbery, breaking a plate full of food in his face, and ultimately stabbing Jake McAllister to death was a hard time. But I noticed that Jonah McAllister didn’t say anything about me actually killing his son. Hmm. Looked like this was some sort of fishing expedition. I decided to play along—for now.
“What is this meeting all about?” My voice came out somewhere between a whiny wheeze and a phlegmy rasp. “Are you taking up Jake’s bad habit of assaulting innocent people?”
Jonah McAllister’s face hardened at my insult. As much as it could, anyway. Despite his sixty-some years, McAllister’s features were as smooth as polished marble, thanks to a vigorous regimen of expensive Air elemental facial treatments. “I would hardly consider you innocent, Ms. Blanco. And you’re the one who assaulted my precious boy first.”
“Your precious boy came into my restaurant, tried to rob me, and almost killed two of my customers with his Fire elemental magic.” I spat out the words, along with some phlegm. “All I did was defend myself. What does it matter now anyway? Your boy is dead because of some weird heart condition. At least, that’s what was in the newspaper.”
Jonah McAllister stared at me, trying to see if I knew more than I was letting on about his son’s untimely demise. I used the lull to blow my nose—again. Fucking microbes.
McAllister’s mouth twisted with disgust at the sight and sound of my sniffles. Admittedly, it wasn’t my most attractive moment. He jerked his head at Elliot Slater, who nodded back.
“Now, Ms. Blanco,” Slater drawled. “The reason for this meeting is that Mr. McAllister thought you might have some information about his son’s death. Jake did have a bit of a heart condition, but there were also some suspicious circumstances surrounding his passing. Happened a couple of weeks ago.”
Suspicious circumstances? I assumed that was polite talk for a sucking stab wound to the chest. But I kept my face blank and ignorant.
“Why would I know anything about Jake’s death?” I asked. “The last time I saw the little punk was the day he brought his old man there down to the Pork Pit to threaten me into dropping the charges against him.”
Lies, of course. I’d run into Jake McAllister one more time after that—at Mab Monroe’s party. Even though I’d been gussied up as a hooker, he’d still recognized me. Since I’d been there to kill someone else, I’d lured sweet little Jakie into a bathroom, stabbed him to death, left his body in the bathtub, and washed the blood off my dress before going back out to the party. Nothing I hadn’t done a hundred times before as the assassin the Spider. I certainly hadn’t lost any sleep over it.
But right now, it looked like I might lose a whole lot more.
“See, that’s the problem. My good friend Jonah doesn’t believe you. So he asked me and some of my boys to come down here and see if perhaps we could jog something free from your memory.” Slater smiled. His lips drew back, giving me a glimpse of his pale pink gums. The giant’s grin reminded me of a jack-o’-lantern’s gaping maw—completely hollow. “We’re going to pay these sorts of visits to anyone Jake might have had a problem with. And your name was at the top of the list.”
Of course it was. I was probably the only person in Ashland who’d ever dared to stand up to Jake McAllister. Now his daddy was going to make me pay for it.
Slater took off his suit jacket, handed it to Jonah McAllister, and started rolling up his shirtsleeves.
I sniffled, blew my nose again, and considered the situation. Four-on-one odds were never terrific, especially since three of the four men were giants. The oversize goons could be hard to bring down, even for a former assassin like me. None of the giants showed any obvious elemental abilities, like letting flames flicker on their clenched fists or forming Ice daggers with their bare hands. But that didn’t mean they didn’t have magic. Which would make them doubly hard to get rid of.
Still, if I hadn’t had the flu, I might have considered killing them—or at least cutting down a couple so I could run away. Although I’d dragged myself out of bed this evening, I’d grabbed my silverstone knives on the way out the door. Five of them. Two tucked up my sleeves. One nestled in the small of my back. Two more in the sides of my boots. Never left home without them.
Of course, being an elemental myself I didn’t really need my knives to kill. I could just use my magic to take down the giants. My Stone power was so strong that I could do practically anything I wanted to with the element. Like make bricks fly out of the wall of one of the surrounding buildings and use them to brain the giants in their melon-size heads. Splat, splat, splat. It’d be easier than using an Uzi. Hell, if I really wanted to show off, I could just crumble all four of the buildings that ringed the quad down on top of them.
I was also one of the rare elementals who could control more than one element. Stone and Ice, in my case. Until recently, my Ice magic had been far weaker than my Stone power. But thanks to a series of traumatic events, I could do much more with it now. Like create a wall of Ice knives to fling at the men. I’d sliced through a dwarf’s skin doing just that. Giants weren’t quite as tough as dwarves, at least when it came to cutting into them. Even if they did have more blood to spare than their shorter compatriots.
But the odds or how to go about killing the giants wasn’t what was holding me back. Not really. It was the consequences; what would happen afterward when their boss, Mab Monroe, got involved.
Seventeen years ago, Mab Monroe had used her elemental Fire magic to kill my mother and older sister, a fact I’d only recently learned. She’d also tortured me, using her magic to superheat and burn a spider rune medallion into my palms. I was planning to deal with Mab myself after I figured out a few things, like why she’d murdered my family in the first place and where my long-lost baby sister, Bria, was now.
Taking care of Jonah McAllister and the rest of his hired help tonight would definitely tip my hand and draw even more of Mab’s attention my way. I didn’t want Mab and her minions to realize that I had any elemental magic. To suspect that I was anything more than the simple restaurant owner Jonah McAllister wanted dead for tattling on his son to the cops. At least, not before I killed her for what she’d done to me.
All that left me with only one option tonight—I was going to have to let the giants hurt me, beat me. That was the only way I could keep my cover identity as Gin Blanco safe, along with who I really was, Genevieve Snow.
Fuck. This was going to hurt.
Elliot Slater finished rolling up his sleeves. “Are you sure you don’t have anything to tell us, Ms. Blanco?”
I sighed and shook my head. “I told you before. I don’t know anything about Jake McAllister’s death except what I read in the newspaper.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Slater murmured.
The giant stepped forward and flexed his fingers, ready to get on with things. Time for me to put on a little show. I widened my eyes, as though it had just sunk into my flu-addled brain what Elliot Slater was planning to do to me. I let out a phlegmy scream and turned to run, as though I’d forgotten all about the two giants standing behind me. I ran right into them, of course, and they reached for me. Even though I had no real intention of trying to break free, I still struggled to keep up appearances. Yelling, flailing, kicking out with my legs.
While I fought with the bigger, heavier men, I managed to discreetly slip the two silverstone knives that I had up my sleeves into the pockets of my jacket. I didn’t want the giants to feel the weapons when they finally latched onto me. Most innocent women didn’t go around wearing five knives on them, and my being so heavily armed would be the final nail in my coffin as far as Jonah McAllister was concerned about my involvement in his son’s death.
The two giants laughed at me and my weak, exaggerated blows. After a minute of struggling, they seized my upper arms and turned me around to face Elliot Slater once more.
And that’s when the fun really started.
Slater snapped his hand up and slammed his fist into my face. Bastard was quick, I’d give him that. I hadn’t braced myself for the blow, and I jerked back in the giants’ arms. The force almost tore me out of their grasp. Pain exploded like dynamite in my jaw.
But Slater didn’t stop there. He spent the next two minutes beating me. One punch broke my drippy nose. Another cracked two of my ribs. And I didn’t even want to think about the internal bleeding or what my face looked like at this point. Thud, thud, thud. I might as well have been a piece of meat the giant was tenderizing for dinner. Every part of me hurt and burned and throbbed and pulsed with pain.
And he laughed the whole time. Low, soft, chuckling laughs that made my skin crawl. Elliot Slater enjoyed hurting people. Really enjoyed it. His hard-on bulged against the zipper on his black pants.
Slater hit me again and stepped back. By this point, I hung limp between the two giants, all pretense of being tough and strong long gone. I just wanted this to be over with.
A hand grabbed my chin and forced my face up. I stared into Slater’s hazel eyes. At least, I tried to. White starbursts kept exploding over and over in my field of vision, making it hard to focus. The light show was better than fireworks on the Fourth of July.
“Now,” Elliot rumbled. “Do you want to reconsider what you know about Jake McAllister’s death? Maybe you have something new to add?”
“I don’t know anything about Jake’s death,” I mumbled through a mouthful of loose teeth. Blood spewed out of my split lips and cascaded down my navy fleece jacket. “I swear.” I made my voice as low, weak, and whipped as I could.
Jonah McAllister stepped forward and peered at me. Malicious glee shimmered in his brown gaze. “Keep hitting her. I want the bitch to suffer.”
Elliot Slater nodded and stepped back.
The giant spent another two minutes hitting me. More pain, more blood, more cracked ribs. As I coughed up another mouthful of coppery blood, it dawned on me that Slater just might beat me to death, right here in the middle of the campus quad. Jonah McAllister certainly wouldn’t have any objections to that. Damn. Looked like I was going to have to go for my knives, blast them with my elemental magic, and blow my cover after all, if I still had the strength to do that—
A low voice floated out from somewhere deeper in the shadows. A soft, breathy sound that reminded me of pieces of silk wisping together. I knew that tone, that sultry cadence, knew exactly whom it belonged to. So did my inner psyche. Enemy, enemy, enemy, a little voice muttered in the back of my head. A strange, primal, elemental urge flooded my body, the desire to use my Stone and Ice magic to lash out and kill whoever and whatever was within striking distance.
Elliot Slater ignored the command and hit me again, adding to the pain that racked my body.
“I said enough.” The voice dropped to a low hiss that crackled with power, menace, and the promise of death.
Elliot froze, his hand pulled halfway back to hit me again.
“Let her go. Now.”
The two giants who’d had their hands clamped around my upper arms dropped me like I had the plague. I lay on the ground, my blood soaking into the frosty grass. Despite the pain, I managed to roll over onto my side. I also slid one of my silverstone knives out of my jacket pocket and palmed it. The weapon felt cold and comforting against the thick scar embedded in my palm.
Something rustled, and Mab Monroe stepped out of the shadows to my left.
The Fire elemental wore a long wool coat done in a dark forest green. Her red hair gleamed like polished copper, but her eyes were even blacker than the night sky. A bit of gold flashed around her pale throat in between the folds of her expensive coat.
I couldn’t see that well, given the stars still exploding in my vision, but I knew what the gold flash was. Mab Monroe never went anywhere without wearing her signature rune necklace. A large, circular ruby surrounded by several dozen wavy rays. From previous sightings, I knew the intricate diamond cutting on the gold would catch the meager light and make it seem as though the rays were actually flickering. Or perhaps my vision was just that screwed up at the moment.
Still, I knew what the rune was. A sunburst. The symbol for fire. Mab Monroe’s personal rune, used by her alone.
At the sight, the silverstone scars on my own palms started to itch and burn. Mab wasn’t the only one here with a rune. I had one too. A small circle surrounded by eight thin rays. A spider rune. The symbol for patience. The rune had once been a medallion I’d worn on a chain around my neck, until Mab had used her Fire elemental magic to superheat and burn the silverstone metal into my palms like it was a cattle brand. That’s how she’d tortured me the night she’d murdered my family. I was looking forward to returning the favor—someday soon.
Enemy, enemy, enemy; the little voice in the back of my head kept up its muttered chorus.
Mab Monroe walked over and stood beside Elliot Slater and Jonah McAllister. She glanced down at me with all the interest she might give a cockroach before she crushed it under the toe of her boot. Her dark eyes swallowed up the available light, the way a black hole might. I lay very, very still and tried to look like I was a mere inch away from death. Not much of a stretch tonight.
“I said enough, Jonah,” Mab said. “Or have you forgotten that you and Elliot work for me?”
After a moment, Elliot Slater stepped back and bowed his head in deference. The other two giants did the same. But Jonah McAllister was too angry to heed the hard edge in Mab’s breathy tone.
“This bitch made problems for my son, and I think she knows something about his death,” McAllister barked. “I want her to pay for that. I want her to die for that.”
Mab stared down at me again. “You’re letting your emotions cloud your judgment, Jonah. Ignoring the facts. It’s most unbecoming.”
“And what would those facts be?” McAllister demanded.
“That Ms. Blanco is just a woman, a mere, weak woman with no elemental magic or other notable strength or skills. Otherwise, I’m sure she would have used everything at her disposal to keep from being so viciously beaten tonight. She’s not the person you’re looking for, Jonah. More importantly, she’s not the woman I’m looking for.”
McAllister’s brown eyes glittered. “You and your obsession with that blond whore. Why can’t you accept the fact that she’s dead? Buried somewhere in that coal mine, just like Tobias Dawson and his two men were?”
Mab’s eyes grew even blacker. She reached for her Fire elemental magic, holding the power close to her like she might a lover. As an elemental myself, I could feel her magic, especially since she was consciously embracing it. Just the way Mab might have been able to sense my Stone and Ice magic, if I’d been stupid enough to actually reach for any of it.
Of course, I would have felt Mab’s magic anyway, since she was one of the elementals who constantly gave off waves of power. The Fire elemental literally leaked magic, the way water would drip from a faucet. Unlike me. As long as I didn’t draw upon my own elemental strength, didn’t use it in any offensive way, others couldn’t sense my power. A trait that had saved me more than once over the years.
Mab’s magic pricked my skin like hot, invisible needles, adding to my misery, but I stayed still, giving no indication I could sense it—or that I knew what they were talking about.
“I doubt that hooker was a real hooker, and they never found her body in the rubble of the collapsed mine,” Mab replied in a cold voice. “Until I see her body, she’s not dead. I’m going to find her, Jonah, and then we can both have our revenge. She killed Dawson, and she’s the one who killed your son. Not Ms. Blanco.”
They were talking about the night of Mab’s party, when I’d dressed up as a hooker to get close to Tobias Dawson, a greedy mine owner who was threatening some innocent people. Dawson was the one I was supposed to kill that night, but Jake McAllister had spotted me before I’d had a chance to do the hit. Mab had caught me in the bathroom a few minutes after I’d stabbed Jake to death. Evidently, the Fire elemental had put two and two together and realized that I’d stiffed Jake, then done the same to Tobias Dawson later on in his own mine. Not good.
“I agreed to this little test with the understanding that Ms. Blanco would live through it, should she prove herself to be innocent of your son’s murder,” Mab continued. “She’s done so, at least to my satisfaction. Nobody would willingly let herself be beaten the way she has.”
So Mab didn’t understand the concept of self-sacrifice. Not surprising. I might have laughed, if it wouldn’t have hurt so much. Still, I was doubly glad that I’d let Elliot Slater hit me. Otherwise, I would have been dead by now, ambushed from the sidelines by Mab and her elemental Fire magic.
“Who cares if the bitch lives or dies?” Jonah McAllister scoffed. “She’s nobody.”
“That might be true, but unfortunately, Ms. Blanco is not without friends,” Mab replied. “Most notably the Deveraux sisters.”
“I don’t care about those two dwarves,” Jonah snapped. “You could easily kill both of them.”
Mab gave a delicate shrug of her shoulders. “Perhaps. But Jo-Jo Deveraux is quite popular. It might be entertaining, but killing her wouldn’t win me any favors. Besides, I have other concerns at the moment, most notably Coolidge.”
My dazed mind latched onto the unfamiliar name. Coolidge? Who was Coolidge? And what had he done to piss off Mab Monroe?
“You’ve had your fun, Jonah. Face it, Ms. Blanco isn’t the one who killed Jake. And she’s suffered plenty tonight for whatever insults she laid on him previously. Now, are you going to come quietly so we can talk business? Or should I start looking for a new attorney?” Malice dripped from Mab’s voice like acid rain.
Jonah McAllister finally realized he wasn’t going to win this one. And that if he kept arguing with his boss, she was likely to use her Fire magic to fry him where he stood. So the lawyer clamped his lips together and nodded his head, acquiescing to his boss’s wishes. At least for tonight.
Then the silver-haired bastard turned and kicked me in the stomach as hard as he could.
The blow wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it still made me retch up even more blood. Something hot and hard twisted in my stomach. I needed to get to Jo-Jo Deveraux soon so the dwarven Air elemental could heal me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be breathing much longer.
“Fine. We’ll move on to the next person, then.” Jonah McAllister leaned down and grabbed my brown ponytail, pulling my face up to his. “You talk to the cops about this, bitch, and you will die. Understand me?”
Cops? Oh, I had no intention of going to the cops. No siree. I was going to handle this matter all by my lonesome. But to keep up the act, I let out a low groan and nodded my head. Satisfied that I was suitably cowed this time, McAllister let go. I flopped back onto the ground.
“Let’s get out of here,” the lawyer growled. “The bitch dripped blood all over my coat.”
Jonah McAllister stepped over my prone body and disappeared into the darkness. Elliot Slater and the other two giants followed him. But Mab Monroe stayed where she was and studied me with her dark gaze. Her power washed over me again, the invisible, fiery needles pricking my bloody skin. I bit back another groan.
“I do hope you’ve learned your lesson this time, Ms. Blanco,” Mab said in a pleasant voice. “Because Jonah’s right. Next time you cross one of us—any of us—you will die. And I promise you that it will be far more excruciating than what you’ve experienced here tonight.”
A bit of black fire flashed in her eyes, backing up her deadly promise. Mab Monroe smiled at me a moment longer, then turned on her boot heel and vanished into the cold night.
© 2010 Jennifer Estep
This is the 3rd installment of the Elemental Assassin series, and IMHO, the best so far. In this story, Gin Blanco finds someone from her past that she'd thought was gone forever, struggles with heartbreak and guilt, and finally sets events in motion to hopefully find closure to a tragedy in her past. I really enjoyed this book a lot. Gin seems the most "real" to me here as she tries to help a friend get out of a very dangerous situation caused by Gin's previous actions. Gin is trying to enjoy retirement, but it seems her job skills are just too handy to store away just yet.
Review by Jen: We've been blessed to have Jennifer Estep guest with us for the release of each of her Elemental Assassin books. And I've had the great pleasure to read each of the novels. The stories keep getting more interesting as well as the development of the world Jennifer has created. The premise of the series is following Gin's vendetta against Mab, the very powerful fire elemental who killed her family. In Venom, she is one step closer to her revenge. But with the appearance of her younger sister, who she believed was dead, and a new love interest to distract her, Gin has her hands full. I just love the characters in this series. Gin is so tortured with her past, but has this heart of gold she tries so hard to hide. She's turned away from the assassin life, but isn't afraid to turn back to it when her friends and family are in trouble. Then you have the uber-villian, Mab, who is still quite a mystery to the reader, but we learn just a little bit more about her in each book as her minions keep making Gin's life miserable. Add in a cast of interesting supporting players, from her adoptive brother Finn, to the new love interest Owen, to the giants, dwarves, and vampires and all the other species of people living in Ashland. Jennifer has written another wonderful book and I can't wait for the next installment of the series to be released.
Your friendly neighborhood assassin, Gin Blanco, is back in the Elemental Assassin's third installment, Venom. Blanco, equals Bada$$. Coolige, also equals Bada$$. But Jennifer Estep is definitely the biggest Bada$$ of them all, and Oh what tangled webs she writes. Venom proves Spider's Bite and Web of Lies was only the start of good things to come. With the set up and well established characters of Gin, her cohorts, and the world that is Ashland, firmly behind her, Estep confidently starts her descent into the point of no return. Before the end, lines will be drawn. Decisions will be made. And war will begin. In typical Estep fashion Venom starts off with a bang.... Or a fist in the face. Picking up where Web of Lies left off, paybacks a b!t@h, that Mab's minions are taking out on Gin's body. Getting jumped by a gang of giants lead by Elliot Slater, and Jonah McAllister, sets the tone for the difficult battle ahead. And it won't be easy with the new straight laced Detective Coolidge on Gin's back. In this episode Gin's case, is eliminating a stalking, serial murdering, rapist, with an eye for a certain madame. This will be her hardest mark yet, and Gin's not sure she will walk away from it alive. Compounding matters, he also happens to be at the top of Mab Monroe's inner circle, and getting this job done will be like declaring war. But Venom isn't just about present problems and relationships, there is also a healthy dose of the past. In this installment, Estep works in Gin's memories of the fateful fire that changed her life. We even find out why her family was targeted, along with learning more about Grayson's troubled past, and how Sophia does such a good job at cleaning up after Gin. With the abrupt departure of Donovan Caine, Gin is questioning her head and heart. The always confident assassin, is feeling quite self conscience about how new relationships will perceive her. Enter Owen Grayson, wealthy, sexy, quite possibly the most understanding man in the world, but Gin's weary heart is worried about his motives, and wether he'll be there in the morning when he finds out who and what she really is. Then there's baby sis Bria, who has moved back to Ashland, but Gin's not the only one who recognizes Bria. Life's just not fair for Gin, who's struggling with how to break the news to long lost little sis about who she is and what she does, while juggling to keep Bria alive and kill her mark. But it's all in a day's work for the barbecue betty. With luck abandoning her, Gin can't seem to catch a break. Retirement is becoming more of a full time hobby, and the assassin Spider, a murdering philanthropist, donating her skills to the less fortunate. Fortunately for us Estep is donating her writing skills to the masses. Venom's strong story line, action packed drama, and well written characters will keep you hooked. The few answers given will satisfy. And the new threads created will string you along for the next book.
It took me awhile to get into this series but Venom was a lot better than the first two in the series.
In this third installment of the Elemental Assassin series, Gin has started moving forth on her vow on vengeance against the Fire Elemental, Mab Monroe, who murdered her family. But first, Gin must help a friend who has a stalker issue. Fortunately for her, the stalker is none other than Mab Monroe's goon, Elliot Slater. How is that for fate? I think Gin sums it up very well on page 102: "I'm just wondering how exactly I went from being the Spider to the Robin f***ing Hood of the greater Ashland area. Three months ago, I was killing people for money. Lots of money. Buckets of it. Now, tell me a good sob story instead and I'll take care of all your problems for free. Instead of stealing from the rich, I'm stabbing them to death for the poor." As you can see, Gin is snarky as ever. Also developing is her relationship with the gorgeous Owen Grayson. Hopefully she can get over the hurt that Donovan Caine has brought down upon her. And speaking of the absent Donovan Caine, it looks like fate has another surprise for Gin. The police force has hired Bria Coolidge (Gin's baby sister) to fill Caine's vacant spot. Gin isn't the only one that knows Bria is alive, Mab has found out too. Now Gin must protect Bria and figure out how to kill Elliot Slater. This was probably not my favorite of the series but it wasn't a letdown. By the end those feelings were erased and I became excited about what will come in the next book.
In Ashland former assassin Spider turned restaurant owner Gin Blanco hides her Stone and Ice magic as she keeps a low profile after killing an associate of the deadly Fire Elemental Mab Monroe. However, she still loathes Mab for murdering her family seventeen years ago and remains dedicated to killing her enemy. Recently to her shock, Gin has found out that her sister Bria, who she thought died in the massacre, is alive. Gin wants to tell Ashland Police Detective Bria Coolidge that they are siblings, but their respective occupations make her hesitate especially with her plan to destroy her family's killer. Meanwhile Mab's prime enforcer gigantic Elliot Slater stalks vampire Roslyn Phillips. To keep Roslyn safe may mean putting her own life at risk from Slater's humongous fists and delay implementation of her vengeance scheme. The latest urban fantasy Elemental Assassin saga (see Spider's Bite and Web of Lies) is a great entry as the killer heroine learns her baby sister is alive, but ironically a cop. Loaded with action from the opening Slater fists to the finish, the key to this exciting thriller is the paranormal seems genuine due to little touches; for instance Gin recovers from the flu. Readers will be engaged with Venom as Gin returns for another exciting elemental escapade. Harriet Klausner
Got a question for you... what color are Gin's eyes? What are her knives made of? What is on her palms? I could go on with examples of descriptions that are repeated, over and over and over. And I'm not talking about repetition between books, but within this one book. Eyes aren't just eyes, they are violet or grey or blue or cold or hard or... well, they were never staring... but they were glazed in death I believe.Most active eyes I've ever experienced, in this series, really.That being said... if you can get over the repeated descriptions and Estep's penchant for listing things in threes ("chest, back, buttocks", "rape, torture, kill" and so on), this story was actually the best of the three. The pseudo-love angst from book 2 is just hinted at here, and Gin actually manages to kill someone(s) almost as planned and not by accident or by sheer luck. Almost as if she were a real assassin. Not quite, but almost.I liked the "romance" in this installment - at least the guy this time is reasonable. And I liked the link to Gin's past. And the killing, murder and mayhem that runs through the whole book, with various victims, but always involving Gin in some manner.There isn't much sex, and what there is was added to the end - but the non-stop action sort of explains that... hard to stop for some loving when you have a giant or two to kill.
The Elemental Assassin series is the epitome of Urban Fantasy. Venom is like a roller coaster ride- nonstop twists and turns. Venom in no different then its predecessors, all novels have plots that will engage its reader to the very last page. The pace is set perfectly and will take readers on an adventure. The phrase "page fillers" does not apply here, at all. The characters are tangible and developed with readers in mind. What I mean by that is Jennifer Estep has formulated characters with histories readers can feel, relate to, and imagine with clarity. Ashland is still the same town we've come to love even in its most chaotic times. Mab, the Fire elemental, still rules with a heavy fist but there is a price to pay and Gin just might be the one to collect. Slater, is Mab's number one muscle and he's just made it onto Gin's radar. Giants are tough to kill but Gin is not alone and things need to be settled. Venom kicks off with a bang but it should come as no shock seeing as how Spider Bites and Web of Lies both begin with a kick in the arse- literally and unfortunately for Gin in this installment :)Interestingly for an ex-assassin turn Robin Hood, Gin's repertoire is not limited to cutting through giants and dwarves but cutting up some yummies in the kitchen as well. Since Spider Bites I have been playing close attention to Gin's cooking adventures and Venom seems to have a baking/dessert theme which is perfect because it's how I view this Elemental sequel.Spider Bites and Web of Lies serves as the appetizer and main course and Venom as the dessert. Why? Venom serves to enhance what has already been laid out for its readers. Gin will make direct decisions in this novel. We will learn more about Sophia and her mysterious abilities. Fletcher, even though he passed away in Book one still remains important in the sequels and we will understand more of who he was. There is soooo much more that if you've read the first two books you can not miss this one. If you have not read the series yet- you must. I am dying to say more but this is one where you have to read it for yourself.The Elemental Assassin series is fresh in the Urban Fantasy scene, imo. Vampires are in the background and serve a very different role then what's written time and time again- Giants, Dwarves and Elementals are the creatures that go bump in the night here and I would not have it any other way. I am a creature of habit and love my Vamps and Were novels but I can honestly say this series will rock your UF world.Reading the blurb for Book 4: Tangled Threads I predict that Jennifer will continue to rock Urban Fantasy and will set a new bar for other authors to reach.
Pork Pit owner, and retired assassin Gin Blanco, hides her Stone and Ice elemental magic from others as she tries to keep a low profile after killing an associate of the deadly Fire Elemental Mab Monroe in Web of Lies. To her shock, Gin finds out that her sister Bria, who she thought died in the massacre of her mother and older sister; is alive and well, and is now working as a Detective. Gin would like nothing better than to tell Bria that they are siblings, but their respective occupations make that decision not entirely plausible. Especially after her once love interest, Donovan Caine, decided to leave town, rather than be in a relationship with a killer. Meanwhile Mab's prime enforcer giant Elliot Slater, stalks vampire Roslyn Phillips, and Gin decides to intervene on her behalf. Call it payback after being beaten to a bloody pulp by said giant in the opening chapter. Now, if only Gin can keep her sister from getting entangled in this mess as well. Bria, however, has her own agenda which Gin finds during her and Finns rescue of her from said giant. **For the record, this book I had to give a 5 to. The story was outstanding from the first scene to the last. I am hoping that Bria and Gin come to a happy reunion, and not a distangled story line that other novels have traveled down. Book #4 will be released in April 2011.
This series just keeps getting better and better. I loved the first two Elemental Assassin books and was eager to read the third. I preordered it and am so glad that I did; it was the best book in the series so far. This is the third book in the Elemental Assassin series; there are five books on contract for this series. The 4th, titled Tangled Threads, will be out on April 26th of 2011.Gin is getting more deeplu involved with Mab, the Fire Elemental who controls all of Ashland. It's not like she's trying to get involved but when Finn asks her to help protect Roslyn (the vamp who runs Northern Exposrure) from Mab's, literally giant, head of security Slater Gin is ready to help just because of how bad Roslyn is being abused. Now she's taken on a case pro bono, again... Then she finds out that her sister, Bria, (who she recently found out is still alive) is a tough as nails honest cop who just transferred in to Ashland. That's when things get more personal. When she finds out Mab has asked Slater to take out Bria ...well there is really only one acceptable solution to Slater the giant. With the delicious and dangerous Owen Grayson lending Gin a hand from the sidelines...well...let's just say Gin is finding life more exciting than it was before she retired from being an assassin.This was a absolutely stellar book. The writing was spot-on, the dialogue witty, the plot complex and engaging. This book was sooo hard to put down. I was torn between wanted to devour the thing in one sitting and wanting make it last because I know the next book doesn't come out until April of next year! We see more of Gin's emotional side than ever before; she is still tough as nails and I love that she still prefers her weapons over her magic.The addition of Bria is wonderful; Bria is like the light to Gin's dark...Bria is the kick-ass righteousness of the law, where Gin the kick-ass righteousness of the underworld. The complexity of the relationship these two sisters have is amazing. Now let's talk about Owen Grayson. He is such a wonderful love interst for Gin. He is a darker character than you are originally led to think, and he matches Gin in so many ways. I was happy to see he plays a major part in this book and hope he features in future books; he is just such an awesome character.As usual the banter between characters is witty, fun, and clever. I loved where Estep is taking the plot and can't wait to see Gin take on Mab head to head in the next book. I loved where Gin's character ended up at the end of the book and am just so excited to read this book.Overall, this was hands down the best book in what has been a wonderful series. If you liked the previous books you will love this one! I recommend this series if you like urban fantasy series with tough women, with complex plots that are engaging, and just a tad of romance. For example is you like the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin, or Dorina Basarab series by Karen Chance you will love this series.
So, in this book Gin is still reeling from a major discovery about her family that she found out in the second book. (Check out my reviews of the first book, Spider's Bite, and second book, Web of Lies!)This discovery, along with the knowledge of who killed her family, leads her on a quest. A personal vendetta to annihilate the people responsible. Like I said previously, she doesn't take things sitting down and she definitely doesn't waste any time in this book getting down to business.Although I won't say anything specific about romantic developments, I will give you two words: Owen Grayson. Such a good choice for her, I really hope she can get completely over feelings she has for Donovan, because Owen is such a ridiculously more appealing choice in just about every way.With the first two books, the plots wrapped up very well at the end. With this one - the quest to get her own back in revenge for what was done to her family has been building, and there is no quick fix. She gets things set up very well in this book, but we will have to wait until later books to see just how soundly she kicks ass.I really can't recommend this series enough, every single book so far has been action-packed and incredible! I cannot wait to see what happens next.
What can I say except that I’ve got a new favorite Urban Fantasy series. Venom was action-packed, exciting, suspenseful, mysterious, and full of family. The plot thickens and their is no rest for Gin and gang. Gin - She’s kick-ass. I love her character. I like digging deeper into her family history and learning more. In, Venom, Gin is starting to dream more about the day her family died. We learn a little bit more about that night, the night her life ended. Fletcher, her adoptive father, was up to something when he gave Gin that folder on her family; because we get a SURPRISE visit from someone in Gin’s past. I have to say I love the new addition and can’t wait to see how that plays out. Gin and the gang have their hands full in helping Rosyln with a stalker problem. Gin has no problem planning a way to kill the giant, Elliot Slater, Mab Monroe’s head of security. It’s time to see Mab and her gang of evil minions get what’s been coming to them. I have to say the big bang and stick it to you too Mab was superb and well done. Now our love interest, Owen Grayson. I have to say I’m loving were this is going. It’s slow, steady, and building up to something. It’s not like the relationship with the Detective - Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am. This one feels like it will have depth and something more too it. Venom is thrilling, action-packed and full of character growth. We get some startling truths and an ending that’s unforgettable. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment. Rated: 5 Stars Note: This series needs to be read in order.
Love this entire series, have read everything she's written!
Once you start it's super hard to put down. Well written and the characters are incredible. Addicted
Couldn't get Venom opened on Nook Color but it would open on the Nook app of my phone. Made me so mad cuz I was on a roll with this series and using phone will kill my battery. Boy I'm miffed.
If I hear about Finn drinking one more cup of chicory coffee I am going to throw this book in his face! Okay I'm done I swear I'm calm. I understand you are addicted to the caffeine I know many who are but damn. It's as bout as bad as Gin explaining her past in every book. In this book things have taken a turn and things are about to get amped up. Bria has come to town in place for detective Donovan who is finally out of the picture. But of course Bria just isn't any one no she has a connection to Gin's past one that she has to keep hidden in order to clean things up. I am excited to see how in each book she is going to get closer to Mab and finally kill her. I am still unsure of this Owen fella but as long as he is accepting I think he will be okay and Gin and him seem to have a lot more in common that we find out by the end of this book. Overall it was a decent read just some things annoyed me so I give it a 3.5 rating if I could give half stars of course
Gin Blanco, a retired assassin named the Spider, returns in book three of the Elemental Assassin series. This time around, she's dealing with the consequences of her actions in book two. With a giant obsessing after a mutual friend, Gin is going to have to give it everything she has in order to save her friend and not expose herself all while somehow living to tell the tale. Add in that Gin's little sister that she thought died when she was a child somehow pops back into her life and this story just got that much more twisted. The love interest, Owen Grayson had me pushing aside my intrigue/anger of Donovan Caine and rooting for Owen. I have mixed feelings for Donovan at this point, and I'm hoping he stays out of the picture. I'm almost certain JEstep is going to bring him back later on just to f*** with us though so we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Owen seems like Gin could rely on him for support as well as comfort and I can't wait to see where there relationship goes in the future books. Jennifer Estep manages to weave such an intricate story that you're not sure where it's going to go, you just know you want to get caught in her web. The Elemental Assassin series is everything I could ask for in an Urban Fantasy series. I highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet! I'm already listening to the fourth book (audiobook) in the series.
The more books I read in Estep's Gin Blanco series, the more that I enjoy them. Venom is another amazing installment in this series, and it also ups the stakes with the introduction of Gin's sister. Gin goes through a lot in this book not just physically but emotionally as well as Mab and her goon target her sister which brings up Gin's conflicting emotions about family (her family by blood and the family she chose). Gin also has to deal with her emotional feelings that Owen awakes in her as she realizes that he isn't planning on running from her like her last boyfriend did. Estep really makes the stakes higher in this book because Gin risks not just herself but also those she cares about in order to stop Mab. Overall Venom was an excellent adventure in the series, and I can't wait to read Gin's next adventure.