Monday, March 18, 2013

Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

My Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 4.20 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.92 / 5.00

Gin is an assassin, code name “The Spider”.

When she was thirteen, her entire family was murdered by a Fire elemental and only Gin’s powerful combination of Stone and Ice magic prevented her from meeting the same fate. Forced to live on the streets, she was taken in by Fletcher Lane, owner of the Pork Pit, who taught her how to be an efficient assassin as well as how to make the best barbecue in Ashland. Now retired from the business, Fletcher is her handler and he is always cautious about vetting any jobs that are sent his way. However, this time the job is a trap and Fletcher is brutally murdered whilst Gin herself barely escapes with her life.

In her attempts to find Fletcher’s killer, Gin teams up with the one man in town that she can trust completely: Detective Donovan Caine. Unfortunately, Caine is one of the straightest cops in the area, with a ruthless determination to do what is right, and Gin just happens to have been responsible for killing his partner. He is also way too attractive, which proves to be a distraction that Gin does not need.

I had originally intended to read this book, and the rest of the series, as part of the Elemental Assassin Series Read Along. However, much as I liked this first title in the series, I felt no real desire to continue with the character and decided not to continue. It is not that I disliked this title, but rather that I was not sufficiently interested to find out more, which was a little disappointing as the series sounded rather intriguing from the outset.

The world that Ms Estep creates is certainly original and different enough to keep me interested. In a world inhabited by some of the usual paranormal species it gave them each enough of a spin to make them interesting at a time when it seems like every book now has vampires or fairies in it. The two dwarven characters were particularly well-drawn and fascinating and I would have enjoyed seeing more of them. The fact that these species were all jumbled up in human society was a nice change, as the ‘hidden otherworld’ has become somewhat cliché, and the addition of the elementals was an unusual touch. I did feel that the world building was hampered a little by the choice of first person perspective, but it was done rather successfully on the whole.

We first meet our heroine, Gin, in an insane asylum where she is stalking her latest target. She is one tough cookie, but has enough humor and self-awareness to make her appealing and interesting. She also has certain weaknesses, such as her affection for Fletcher, that prevent her from being too hard-nosed and unsympathetic. This is also very necessary because her need for revenge is the major driver for the entire story. I really liked her relationship with Fletcher, which was very honest and open, and yet loving and supportive at the same time. I loved their banter, which showed their closeness and made the relationship seem very real. This extended to his son, Finn, whose role as her slightly dodgy adopted bigger brother felt right as well.

I enjoyed the way that Gin’s back-story was revealed in flash backs, so that we did not have a huge dump of exposition at the start of the book. It also served as a way to keep Fletcher in the story and to slowly explain why she was so deeply affected by his death. However, I felt that some aspects of these flashes were poorly handled. The biggest example of this was the fate of her sister, Bria, who was so obviously still alive that the ‘big reveal’ at the end was somewhat groan worthy. I also thought that the fact that Gin could not guess the identity of the ‘mystery’ killer who polished off their parents was almost proof that she was too stupid to live. This is because it is so blazingly obvious: they were killed by a power-crazed Fire elemental and there is only one of those in town . . .

However, my biggest criticism was the way that the romance between Gin and Caine was handled. Considering that this title has all the features of a first novel setting up a world for the rest of a long series, I was very disappointed that this romance was consummated so easily. I can understand the drive to have sex after a bereavement, but I strongly disliked the way in which Gin’s libido interfered with her highly tuned instincts as an assassin. This is not a girl that would allow anyone to stop her exacting her revenge for Fletcher’s murder, no matter how gorgeous they were. It felt out of character and dismantled much of the realistic feel that had been created by the earlier world building and relationship development. I thought that it weakened Gin and reduced her far too much to being a stereotypical Romance heroine. I would have much preferred to see their relationship develop over the series, with lots of sexual tension along the way.

So, what started out as an interesting and novel Urban Fantasy made an unfortunate turn into Paranormal Romance. As I read more titles that try to dance along the line between these two genres I find that those that slip into PR are less to my liking, simply because they start to place certain Romance necessities above the needs of the story and the believability of the characters.

Reviews I Recommend:

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