I've read some very good books at the beginning of the month and am going to try to review some this week :D First, I'll start with the best :P
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
published by Simon &Schuster in January 2010
My name is Gin, and I kill people.
They call me the Spider. I’m the most feared assassin in the South—when I’m not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.
Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I’m out for revenge. And I’ll exterminate anyone who gets in my way—good or bad. I may look hot, but I’m still one of the bad guys. Which is why I’m in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I’m battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Elemental Assassin, Book #1
The Story: After her family was murdered, Gin lived on the street till Fletcher Lane took her in. An assassin himself, he taught her the job and how to survive. Gin thus becomes the Spider, one of the most feared assassin, and Fletcher, her handler. Unfortunately for Gin, her life takes another sharp turn when she is set up during a job.
Basically, Gin was hired to kill the VP of a company who committed embezzlement. In reality, another assassin was waiting in the shadows to take Gin out, with a paper trail leading back to her to nail the coffin. Gin manages to thwart their plans, but she is too late to save Fletcher who was tortured in order to find the Spider's identity. If anything happened, Fletcher has always told Gin to up and run; however, Gin owns him too much and is determined to avenge his death. Knowing they would go after Fletcher's son, Finn, to find out her identity, Gin must save Finn. Then together, they can investigate who is the mastermind of this set up. However, Gin and Finn quickly realized they'll need some help to figure things out and have to turn to Dective Donovan Caine, probably the only righteous cop in Ashland... Only problem? Gin killed Caine's crook of a partner pro bono and Caine has declared the police of Ashland would bring in his murderer...
My Opinion: After reading Spider's Bite, I immediately went to Ms Estep's website to get more information (which I rarely do). On her website, Ms Estep writes "Ever since I started reading epic fantasy books in high school, I’ve been intruiged by assassin characters and the moral questions they raise. [...] Assassins might not be the most sympathetic characters or the easiest to identify with, but I think they are some of the most fascinating." And this is something I totally agree with! I love reading books and watching series where the main characters are assassins, which is exactly why I got Spider's Bite.
I thought Spider's Bite was a great book :D Everything was great: the characters, the storylines and the writing. If I have any complaint, it would be the world building. I mean, it was okay, but at the same time, it could have been more developed. However, for once, the world building was secondary to me, because the rest of the book was so good :D
I really liked the characters. I particularly think that Ms Estep really nailed Gin's character as an assassin. Gin is not your regular kick-ass heroine or assassin in my opinion. Yes, she is tough, but she's not a hot head nor impulsive. She's very calm and patient. It's not a complete zen attitude and it's hard to describe, but I feel she's different than most urban fantasy/paranormal heroines out there. She doesn't talk big, she acts. Being an assassin is just a job like any other for Gin. She doesn't take pleasure in being an assassin and she has a moral code of her own. She's definitively an interesting character and combined with her past, mysterious. Finn is very fun to read, he's like Gin's younger brother. Someone who can take care of himself, but still need Gin to look after. There's also no resentment between the two which I find great. As for Donovan Caine, he's another interesting character. I would have liked to have read more from his point of view, but I liked what I read. Especially the relationship that is developing between Gin and Caine. Of course, Caine does not readily accept Gin, but he can't help being attracted to her. As a result, he's really confused. He's the type of men who sees the world in two shades only: black and white... while Gin is all sort of gray shades. I'm curious to see how this is going to develop.
I enjoyed the storyline a lot. I thought it was very solid and realistic - well for an assassin story. It was very exciting to follow Gin on her jobs and seeing what she would do next. Finding out who was the mastermind behind it all. It was also very logical... nothing supernatural happening to explain things. Also, the background given on Gin is just too intriguing and sets up very well for the series :)
I've read Ms Estep's Bigtime series books previously and really enjoyed her writing. In the Bigtime series, it was fun and fluid, but I thought the darker tones of this series suited her writing and made it better :D She really has a style that flows well and like I said, it just suits the series :D
Finally, as I said earlier, my only complaint would be the world building. Ms Estep has given us the beginnings, but she didn't completely develop. In Spider's Bite, you can find humans, vampires, dwarves, giants and Elementals. There are 4 types of elemental powers: fire, air, ice and stone. All of this was quite interesting, but I don't really know how all these races interact with each other. I mean, it's difficult to believe that they all mix well. In addition, Ashland, the city where the story takes place sounds like Gotham city... or perhaps it's because of Gin's job and where she lives - badder part of Ashland. But I mean, it's all about bad guys, prostitution, murders... It's a bit hard for me to visualize it with just the basics... but as I said, I didn't mind too much, because I was quite happy with the rest. Still, I hope Ms Estep will expand in the next few books :)
My Grade: A-. I really enjoyed this book and I'm definitively looking forward to the next books! Ms Estep has 5 books planned right now for the series and the good news is that Book #2, Web of Lies, and Book #3, Venom, are to be released this year in June and November respectively!! Woohooo!! I've actually read the excerpts and I think they are very promising :) Seriously, if Web of Lies and Venom are as good as Spider's Bite, I think this series will be series of the year for me :D