I'm so excited for this week, because there's so many new releases :P Good thing because I don't know what to read ^_^; I know, I know, it's ridiculous! I probably should bring back up my boxes of books from the basement. I think that will help.
Trying to write more reviews. I'm really behind, there's just so many books I want to review!! Today is going to be Venom by Jennifer Estep. It's hard to review the third book in a series without spoilers, so I tried to keep them at a minimum, but I didn't avoid them completely. And LOL, I thought I'd have nothing to say in my review... but I turned out to be quite chatty :P Hope you enjoy it :P
***Warning: There are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!***
Venom by Jennifer Estep
published by Simon & Schuster in September 2010
What kind of assassin works pro bono?
It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker — Mab’s right - hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer... who is about to save her life.
Genre: Urban fantasy
Series: Elemental Assassin, Book #3
The Story: Venom picks up not too long after the events of Web of Lies. In Web of Lies, Gin infiltrated Mab's party and killed two persons. Now, Mab is out for blood and trying to identify the killer. Under these circumstances, Gin should simply lie low... except her venture has brought Roslyn Phillips under the spotlight. Roslyn is a vampire, a madam and the owner of Northern Aggression, Ashland's most renowned nightclub. She is the one who helped Gin infiltrated Mab's party and has now become the fixation of Elliot Slater, a twisted giant and one of Mab's top goons. It is just a matter of time before Roslyn is raped and probably disposed. Feeling responsible, Gin decides to take matter into her own hands.
Of course, things get more complicated when Gin's long lost sister Bria shows up in Ashland as the new detective in charge. Before Gin can decide whether she'd want to reconnect with her sister, Bria is attacked by Mab's goons... Luckily, Gin is there to save the day, but also finds out that her little sister's real purpose for returning to Ashland is to bring their family's murderer to justice.
As if Gin's plate wasn't full enough, there's also Owen Grayson. It seems that Gin and Owen's paths keep crossing; however, Gin is uncertain. After her debacle with Detective Donovan Caine, she's hesitant to start a new relationship.
My Opinion: It's really no secret that I've been enjoying this series a lot - Spider's Bite and Web of Lies - and once again, Ms Estep has delivered another fast, action-packed and enjoyable installment :P
I really enjoyed Venom :P As previously, the book is fast-paced with lots of action... I won't go into Gin's character much, because, well, she's still the same Gin - smart, practical, loyal and a foodie :P What impresses me with Gin and it shows even more in Venom is that she chooses her battles. She knows when to act and when not to, like the opening scene when she's being beaten up by Mab's goons. She has her pride as an assassin, but she doesn't let it blind her. She thinks and acts carefully and I guess that is the key to her success :)
So what did I like about Venom? The overall storyline was interesting. We know that Gin is not a cold-blood assassin, we've seen it throughout the series and again in Venom. She feels responsible for getting Roslyn into the mess she is in and therefore is going to help her out of it. In fact, I feel she's quite honorable. I thought that Ms Estep did a good job with the balance of the two storylines: saving Roslyn and Bria's appearance. So far, I like Bria and she seems to be a good cop. I can't wait to see her character more developed. I did like the fact that Gin did not "reunite" with Bria right away, that she has doubts and hesitations. Obviously, it's not as if they can pick up where they left of ^_^; and there's Gin and Bria's professions to consider. An assassin and a cop. So far, my feel is that Bria is more open-minded and flexible than Donovan. Given the circumstances, I feel that she would understand Gin's choices. I think that Gin's hesitation is realistic, especially since Bria has really just shown up. The idea that perhaps the two of them could simply be friends is interesting and would be feasible, if they weren't both investigating the deaths of their older sister and mother. Although ultimately, it might be a bit unfair towards Bria.
My favorite part of the book was the budding relationship between Gin and Owen. I think Owen is so much better than Donovan :P I've liked him since he was introduced and again, liked finding more about him. He's all kind of shades of grey and gets Gin. There's no question that he suits her better and I'm glad that Gin is giving him a chance. I think that with time and trust, he'll become an asset for Gin :P I do think that Gin helping him out when they were both kids was a bit of an overkill... but it does explain why he took to Gin so rapidly.
While I really enjoyed Venom, I think there were a few hiccups. My biggest complaint is at the end, the way some information was imparted to the readers. Slater got his hands on Finn and instead of finishing him up, the two start talking and Finn asks why the Snow family was killed... and then, Slater spills it all. I was happy to find out more about Gin's family and the reasons behind their murders and what happened... but it really wasn't subtle ^_^; Just a bit too, "There are the answers." Aside from that, I think that the series is a little bit too predictable and that's something I mentioned in my review of Web of Lies. So far, there hasn't been any big surprises or twists. Either Ms Estep is too good at foreshadowing or the story is going through the motion. The problem though is I don't know what Ms Estep could do differently ^_^;
Overall, I think that the events of Venom really up the stakes and changed the game for Gin. By the end, she really had to make a decision - whether she would go after Mab or not. I think that Gin always had the notion that she would, but she didn't have any precise plans. Perhaps it wouldn't take place in a near future. I mean, she is the Spider and prides herself as being patient, so she could bide her time and wait for a better time... However, like I said, by the end of Venom, she really had to make her stand and she chose declaring war on Mab :) I think there were two reasons that made her reached that decision: 1) she'd be protecting Bria and 2) she had her friends behind her. It's definitively great to see that even as an assassin, Gin has a close-knit family and they are there, no matter what her decisions and choices are, to support her. It's really heart-warming ;)
Speaking of her close-knit family, I really like that we're getting to know them better. I love the relationship between Gin and Finn, it's really one of a sister and brother... and they definitively are there for each other. I also wonder why Jo-Jo is so willing to help Gin. Oh she seems very nice and all, but as a powerful Air elemental, it seems that she's been hiding her true potential to the world... and there must be something to make her take such risk... and I have a feeling it must have to do with her younger sister, Sophia. LOL, it was cool to find out how Sophia was disposing of all the bodies! In any case, I'm hoping that we'll find out more about the two dwarf sisters :P I also liked that we're getting a clearer picture of Gin's family and perhaps why someone would want them dead. It's clear that Gin is very powerful and from what we've seen, Bria is not bad either. It seems that there are a lot of things that as a teenager, Gin might not be aware about her family...
To me, what makes this series stands out so much is that Ms Estep has a clear idea where she is going with the storylines and the characters. Often, when it comes to series, especially with the same protagonist, it seems to me that authors are fumbling around a little bit, searching for their niches and what they want the series to be about in the beginning. Especially when they don't know how many books they'll be able to write, In the case of the Elemental Assassin series, the books - while having their own sequences of events - really read like one continuous book. Gin's story arc is 5 books and thus, Ms Estep knows exactly what she wants to happen in each book and what and when the end is going to be. I think this has help the pacing of the story tremendously and the building of momentum :) Also as a reader, I appreciate it. It seems like I'm able to connect with Gin a bit more. Also, I like knowing that I won't be blind-sided, that the author will be able to wrap up everything to her liking... not suddenly get the news that her contract is now renewed ^_^;
My Grade: A-. Venom is my favorite book so far in the series :P I really enjoyed it for the relationships and interactions between the characters and of course, finding out more answers. I think the series itself is gaining momentum and I just can't wait for the two final books :P