Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep
published by Simon & Schuster in May 2010
Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.Genre: Urban fantasy
I'm Gin Blanco.
You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I'm retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren't aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I'm a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn't made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man... dead or alive.
Series: Elemental Assassin, Book #2
The Story: I thought the blurb did a good job summarizing the book, but I'm going to add my two cents :)
After the events of Spider's Bite, Gin has retired as an assassin... but let just say she finds retired life a tad boring ^_^; Then, Gin learns how fast things can change. First, one of Ashland most influential man's son and his side-kick decides to rob Gin's BBQ restaurant, the Pork Pit. While Gin was able to stop the robbery easily, she sure isn't about to back down because of the father's threats and is determined to press charges. Then, someone takes a couple of shots at a customer, Violet Fox, again at the Pork Pit. Turns out Violet was there to ask help from the Tin Man - Gin's deceased mentor. Violet's grandfather was the Tin Man's best friend in their youth and is in trouble. Their property is coveted by Tobias Dawson, a coalmining tycoon and Mab Monroe's - Ashland most powerful Elemental - minion and he's done being civil to Violet and the old man. Gin comes up with a simple solution: get rid of the man... unfortunately, Detective Donovan Caine does not agree, only he's outnumbered. Unfortunately for Gin, the only opportunity to off Tobias will be at Mab Monroe's business party at her manor... Who said retirement was boring again?
My Opinion: I read Spider's Bite earlier this year and really enjoyed it. I was really happy to learn that I'd only have to wait a few months for the sequel, Web of Lies :) I got my hand on it as soon as I could, but didn't read it immediately... expectations, anticipation, you know. However, I'm glad to say Web of Lies does not disappoint!
Web of Lies packs quite a punch with conflict and action and I thought that Ms Estep did a marvelous job balancing the two, given the short timeline. Everything flowed well and even though Web of Lies clocks at 400 pages, the book was a quick read, but the reader was never rushed or overwhelmed by the events and the action. To me, this is proof that Ms Estep found the perfect pacing. The key seemed to have been Gin's narration. There was a lot of internal monologues in Web of Lies since that it's written with first POV and sometimes, it can make a book very heavy and drag, but it was not the case with Web of Lies. Partly, because Gin is such an interesting character due to the morals question of her job, but also because the monologues were not all about her emotions. They were really used to tell the story as well as show how Gin thought and reacted.
Needless to say, I really love Gin's character. She's definitively the heart of this series and as such, she needs to be strong and interesting and she is. There is so much layers to her and the most interesting is that they've all been revealed. There is no peeling layers one by one as the series goes on. Instead, her character has been totally exposed. There's her strength which was necessary to survive and become what she has become, there's her loyalty which has won her her entourage, there's fierceness and determination... but there's also this vulnerability that stems from her past and loving too much. In short, Gin is everything but a cold-blood assassin. Yes, her morals and principles are out of the ordinary, but it works, especially in the world Ms Estep has created :)
Speaking of world, the one that the readers are introduced to in this series is quite colorful :) There are humans, vampires, dwarves, giants... some of them are lucky to have an Elemental power - ice, stone, fire or air, others just are what they are. Truthfully, I feel that we are only given the basic information on all the species and I do have some questions, I don't feel this is a well-rounded world building. However, ultimately, the world works because the focus is not about what the characters are, but in what kind of world they live in - one that is corrupted where the strongest, no matter how rotten they are, rule. It does have a superhero caricature feel to it and would definitively want to find out more about it, but so far, I don't feel like it's been an issue really.
Okay, enough about the series, let's focus a bit more on the book itself :) I really enjoyed the plot and liked how the storylines came together. It was like two ends of a rope being tied together and forming a full circle :) As I said, there was action, but also plenty of conflicts - Gin dealing with her feeling of betrayal at Fletcher, her deceased mentor, her relationship with Donovan Caine and the revelation that her baby sister was still alive. What I found refreshing is that Gin didn't rush out to find out her sister, that she had reservation about it. It made it feel real. Yes, she's happy that Brianna is alive, but they've both built a life of their own and after all, Gin has been an assassin. Not something easy to slip into a discussion. I also like the fact that Gin is unapologetic about being an assassin, she doesn't regret it... She's always been many shades of grey and retiring hasn't made her lily white. The biggest issue between Gin and Donovan is the fact that she hasn't changed, deep down, she'll always have the reflexes of an assassin and she'll react like one. What Donovan doesn't understand though is that if you take that away, then Gin is no longer Gin. I really enjoyed Gin in assassin mode LOL and one of the best parts of Web of Lies was Mab's party - very intense. I also liked how the overall story-arc is going forward as well and the continuity between the books. Ms Estep never forgets the overall picture and merge everything together very well. I'm looking forward to see what Mab is going to do with the new revelation in Web of Lies.
My only issue with the plot though was the showdown at the end between Tobias and Gin. I understand that Ms Estep doesn't want to portray Gin as the invincible heroine, but I thought it'd be better if she found another way for Gin to come on top. I thought it was stupid of Tobias to not simply kill Gin when he had the opportunity and instead, toyed with her. I know what Ms Estep wanted to unfold with this event, but it just wasn't intense enough to hit it well with the readers in my opinion.
Now, onto the interesting stuff :) I'm so happy Ms Estep brought in a new love interest for Gin! Owen Grayson. *swoon* LOL, to me, he sounds perfect for Gin. He's a powerful businessman, the ruthless kind LOL. The kind that is many shades of grey as well. I'm really looking forward for him to play a bigger role. At first, I was curious to see how it would work out between Donovan and Gin... but at the end of Web of Lies, it's clear that it would not have work out. A relationship is doomed if the guy cannot accept his feelings for the girl. It's that simple... and I don't want Gin to change to fit in the relationship. Plus, Owen is much more interesting and mysterious. Wouldn't be surprised if he used to be an assassin as well :P I really, really hope that Donovan is out of the picture and there won't be a love triangle in the future - I hate those.
When I reviewed Spider's Bite, I said this had potential to become one of the best urban fantasy series this year and I still maintain that opinion. However, I think Ms Estep has to ante it up. While the characters are engaging, the plot interesting and the writing solid, there is a spark missing. I wouldn't say that the series is predictable, but at the same time, it's not out of the ordinary. So far, there hasn't been any twists or events that have knock me off my chair. Perhaps it has been too easy to connect the dots or perhaps Ms Estep is doing a too good job at leading the readers to where she wants. The point is, she needs to keep some cards closer to herself.
My Grade: I'm going with B+. Web of Lies is a definite solid read, but had it been a bit more exhilarating, the grade would have been higher :)