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The Spider by Jennifer Estep – review
Last time we left Gin Blanco, Ashland’s most notorious assassin, she was rescuing a friend from being kidnapped in Heart of Venom, the ninth book in Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series. Book number 10, The Spider, released on December 24th, and it takes us back in time to hear a story from Gin’s early days as an assassin. It all starts with the delivery of a bouquet of blue roses….
Rewind 10 years from Heart of Venom. Gin is living with her adoptive family – her foster brother Fin and his father Fletcher, also known as the Tin Man, and the person who trained Gin as an assassin. I liked that this book exposed more of the family dynamics between Gin and Finn and Fletcher. I was always a bit curious about their interactions as teenagers, living together with the same assassin father. Readers get a nice idea of this from interactions between the three of them- something that rarely occurred earlier in the series, due in part to the fact that Fletcher died.
It seems to me that the purpose of this story is not only to explain how Gin built her reputation as a killer, but also why she is so vulnerable emotionally. The main character in this book is not the cold and controlled Gin from early in the series. This Gin has not yet learned the patience she later becomes known for. When Gin takes accepts a job from an unknown source, she is determined to carry it out despite the misgivings of her mentor. It is clear how much her own feelings influence her decisions on this job and cause her to rush when she should have hung back and waited. The result is a mistake she will carry with her throughout her life, and spend years trying to atone for.
The usual annoying plot devices, such as Gin meeting yet another elemental with powers even stronger than herself – I mean come on! Elementals this strong are supposed to be rare – are present even in this novel. I also found the cameo appearances by some recurring characters heavy-handed. It seems Estep was trying to please readers who would all want to know why “my favorite character insert name here” wasn’t in the book. The result is a series of unlikely meetings between Gin and people who play large roles in her future. I just didn’t think it was realistic. It would have been fine to know that she only meets some of these people later on. They did not all have to be in this book in some fashion.
Overall, this book gives more insight into Gin’s evolution as a person and assassin, but the appearances by future characters made it seem unrealistic. Fans of the series will want to read it for the nice background it gives, but newcomers may not think it is worth their time. I would give this book a B- rating.