TANGLED THREADS (Elemental Assassin #4)
Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster
Available April 26th
Received from author for review
Gin's retirement from being the assassin known as the Spider isn't really working out the way she'd planned. She's more active than ever after declaring war on Mab Monroe, the fire elemental responsible for murdering her mother and older sister, killing the woman's men one by one and leaving behind her spider rune as a calling card to be sure Mab knows just who's after her.
But Mab Monroe has never been a woman to sit idly by while she or her multitude of legal and illegal business ventures are being threatened, so she hires an assassin of her own to hunt down The Spider and eliminate her.
While plotting to kill the new killer in town, Gin is also exploring a new relationship with prominent businessman Owen Grayson, recovering still from the damage done by Detective Donovan Caine when he left town in a haste to escape his unwanted feelings for her and her chosen profession. If one fledgling relationship wasn't enough to deal with, Gin is also working on rekindling a connection with her baby sister Bria, the woman who just happens to be the detective in charge of finding and stopping The Spider. With new relationships forming and old scores to settle, Gin's retirement has never been so far away.
The fourth book in the Elemental Assassin series, Tangled Threads is yet another face-paced thrill ride, but where the earlier books focused primarily on the action and the impressive battle skills Gin possesses, this latest installment begins to weave new layers of complexity. This complexity comes in the form of character maturity and emotional growth, a development that lures us deeper into the story just as Gin's assassin namesake might entice its prey to step deeper into its web. While still dark, gritty, and unequivocally brutal, we find ourselves slowly inching our way under Gin's defenses and getting a peek at the heart of the proven fighter, the loyal friend, and the scarred little girl who's just beginning to find her sense of self-worth. We start to see Gin dare to hope–hope that maybe her heart isn't as black as she's always thought, and perhaps it might just be big enough to allow another person entry.
The relationship between Gin and Owen is a highlight of this story, the deep rooted scars left by Donovan's betrayal and abandonment starting to heal as a result of Owen's persistent affections and withheld judgment. Her understandable fear that the bloody hands, the sharp knives, and the questionable nighttime activities will eventually blind him to the woman herself slowly begins to recede, replaced by a warmth and wealth of emotion that both frightens and excites her. We can't help but smile as we will her to open herself to Owen as she never has before, finally believing herself to be as deserving of acceptance as we certainly know her to be. With Owen's steadfast dedication to her and his unchanging opinion no matter what she reveals to him, Gin begins to see that being in this particular relationship doesn't necessarily mean she has to choose between being the assassin with her own sense of justice and being a woman worthy of love, but rather can be a blissful combination of the two–both uniquely flawed and flawless–as she sets out to remedy the wrongs done unto her and others.
In addition to creating a captivating relationship, Ms. Estep is also incredibly gifted at writing novels that introduce an immediate threat to Gin and those she loves, revealing page by page a story wherein the foe is dealt with in typical Gin fashion, but she also seamlessly threads the ongoing threat with Mab Monroe through the middle of events so we never lose sight of our ultimate villain. With every Gin adventure we are brought ever closer to the suffocating blackness emanating from Mab in fiery waves, and while we know a showdown of unfathomable proportions looms not far in the distance, Ms. Estep creates a series of believable intermediate evildoers whose roles serve a specific purpose in helping Gin accomplish her vengeance against Mab.
The only minor flaw to Tangled Threads is the at times repetitive nature of the writing, with certain names, elemental gifts, or character associations being explained to us again and again as though we lack the ability to retain information we read twenty pages prior. Though this repetition will certainly be helpful to those who decide to read this book without picking up the previous three, for those of us who are avid fans and eagerly devour each page of every book, the constant reminders can be a bit distracting. Small drawback aside, Ms. Estep adds another brilliant story to her already impressive resume, and the countdown to Gin's next appearance in Spider's Revenge has certainly begun.