(Elemental Assassin #7)Jennifer Estep
Adult Urban Fantasy
Available August 21st
Received from author for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)I used to murder people for money, but lately it’s become more of a survival technique.
Once an assassin, always an assassin. So much for being plain old Gin Blanco. With every lowlife in Ashland gunning for me, I don’t need another problem, but a new one has come to town anyway. Salina might seem like a sweet Southern belle, but she’s really a dangerous enemy whose water elemental magic can go head-to-head with my own Ice and Stone power. Salina also has an intimate history with my lover, Owen Grayson, and now that she’s back, she thinks he’s hers for the taking. Salina’s playing a mysterious game that involves a shady local casino owner with a surprising connection to Owen. But they call me the Spider for a reason. I’m going to untangle her deadly scheme, even if it leaves my love affair hanging by a thread.
MY THOUGHTSWidow’s Web is the seventh installment of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, continuing to impress with a heroine who, book by book, allows readers under her substantial emotional defenses to show us yet another layer of the already multi-layered assassin known as The Spider. One of the most intriguing aspects of these books–outside a highly entertaining core cast of characters–is Ms. Estep’s ability to craft new and unique villains to take Gin on in each tale. After seven books, one might expect Gin’s nemeses to have core similarities or common traits, and the battles to feel as though we’ve been through them with her before, but to our utter delight, Ms. Estep flexes her villainous creativity and brings another memorable foe to the table in this newest book. Where some past villains have been loud in their evil, throwing the weight of their physical strength, magic, wealth and power around and attacking Gin head-on, the evil in Widow’s Web is far quieter, and while she does pose a physical threat to Gin, the emotional threat she represents is far more terrifying for us as readers.
Gin is a paradoxical heroine—exhibiting the utmost physical prowess and consummate skill when it comes to her assassin’s trade, but yet as each book continues she seems to become more and more fragile (relatively), our knowledge and understanding of who she is stripping away some of cool detachment and the harshness of the assassin and replacing it with the insecurities and vulnerabilities of a very human woman. She’s not the type to show any outward display of emotion or give voice to her feelings, instead she deflects anything that causes her pain with The Spider’s tough-as-nails demeanor, hiding the wounds the words or actions of those around her have caused until she can acknowledge them in private with only our eyes as witnesses. It’s these private intimacies that are becoming more numerous as the series continues, and with the return of a woman from Owen’s past in Widow’s Web, our connection with Gin is at its strongest and most poignant as we watch her suffer blow after blow to both the body and the heart.
Ms. Estep pulls no punches in this tale, pushing Gin and us to our limits emotionally when history seems to repeat itself in terms of love and loss, only the pain we feel is all the more acute given how our relationship with Gin has grown from earlier books. While Gin at times can be frustrating in her stoicism, refusing to defend herself and her actions when we so desperately want her to lay herself bare and let the ones hurting her see how their words and deeds so easily make her bleed, she also continues to earn our respect as she bears the burdens of everyone around her without a single word of protest. Widow’s Web leaves us with an ache in our chests, bodies limp and exhausted after the physical and emotional battle waged in its pages, but Ms. Estep does not simply abandon us to wallow in our despair, instead she gives us the barest glimpses of hope that Gin’s future will be a happy one.