published by Simon & Schuster (Pocket) in December 2013
How did I end up in a career where I always have blood on my hands?Genre: Urban Fantasy
Well, let me tell you a story about an assassin who thought she could do no wrong…
Ten years ago. A blistering hot August night. I remember like it was yesterday. The night I, Gin Blanco, truly became the Spider. Killing people is what I do best, especially now that I’ve honed my Ice and Stone magic. But back then, I had yet to learn one very important rule: arrogance will get you, every single time.
This particular job seemed simple: murder a crooked building contractor with ties to ruthless Fire elemental Mab Monroe. My mentor, Fletcher Lane, had some misgivings, but I was certain that I had the situation under control… right up until I exposed my weaknesses to a merciless opponent who exploited every single one of them. There’s a reason assassins aren’t supposed to feel anything. Luckily, a knife to the heart can fix that problem, especially when I’m the one wielding it…
Series: Elemental Assassin, Book #10
The Story: The Spider opens up with Gin receiving a delivery of black roses accompanied by a cryptic note: "Happy anniversary." This gift and the date prompt Gin to take a trip down memory lane...
Ten years ago, Gin got an assignment to kill Cesar Vaughn, a Stone elemental who owned a construction company. There could have been any number of reasons why someone would target Cesar Vaughn... but what got under Gin's skin was the picture of Cesar's unsmiling daughter, Charlotte, with her troubled and dark gaze and the rumors that Cesar has been taking his stress out on her. While some facts don't act up and Fletcher wants to wait, Gin is not as patient. During one of her reconnaissance mission, she meets Cesar's older son, the charming Sebastian. Could she really have a romance with someone related to a target? And what happens when killers make mistake?
My Opinion: To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of prequels... They're okay when they come after the first or second books in a series, because they usually help us get a better understanding of the characters and the world building. But after 9 books? Is there really something about Gin that we don't know yet? In case you're curious, the answer is no.
The Spider turned out to be a pretty typical Elemental Assassin book in the sense that Gin gets a job that she's more keen on performing to help out instead of the money, gets beaten, escapes with some luck, is treated by Jo-Jo and finally gets the bad guy. The storyline was actually not bad, except that once again, it was quite predictable. Although I have no idea how Ms Estep could have written it with more subtlety... Perhaps it's because I've read so much, but as the characters were introduced and Fletcher's doubts were being voided, it was just so obvious where the story was going and who the villains were.
I did enjoy the peeks we got of Fletcher, Gin and Finn together. I enjoyed their interactions and wished there'd been more of it. It was also interesting to read about a younger and more vulnerable Gin. Despite being surrounded by people she can trust, you can see that Gin yearns a bit for the past and to be loved. While Fletcher is like a father to her, he's also her mentor and it doesn't look like Gin feels she can show him any weakness... because that's not what he trained her for. I also liked Gin and Finn's sibling relationship being reinforced :)
Finally, Ms Estep fell into the prequel trap by trying too hard to link The Spider with the current storyline. Roslyn's introduction and to a certain extent, Xavier's, were okay because they've been in Gin's entourage for a long time and we are aware that Gin met them around the timeline of The Spider. However, I really wished Ms Estep had not added Bria and Owen to the story, even if it was very brief appearances. To me, it ruined what we knew and the "first" encounters... especially Owen and Gin's. If The Spider had been written and released after the first or second book, it would have been all right, because it would have been considered foreshadowing. However, in this case, it just feels forced. How many times can Owen and Gin cross path and not remember each other?
In the end, The Spider wasn't a bad book. There were definitively some interesting tidbits, but they were not enough to warrant the prequel in my opinion. It makes me wonder if some of the events in The Spider will be the basis for a new story-arc in the future, because otherwise, I still wonder why Ms Estep chose to write this prequel instead of simply a "new" book.
My Grade: C.