BY A THREAD
(Elemental Assassin #6)
Available February 28th
Received from author for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When killing people is your job, there’s no such thing as a vacation.
Then again, how often does an assassin live long enough to enjoy her retirement? In this line of work, you either get lucky or you get dead. And since I destroyed my nemesis Mab Monroe a few weeks ago, all of Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning to make a name for themselves by taking out the lethal Spider—me, Gin Blanco. So I’m leaving behind my beloved barbecue joint and heading south with my baby sister, Bria, to cool my heels in a swanky beach town. Call it a weekend of fun in the sun.
But when a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic threatens an old friend of Bria’s, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. Complicating matters further is the reappearance of Detective Donovan Caine, my old lover. But Donovan is the least of my problems. Because this time, the danger is hot on my trail, and not even my elemental Ice and Stone magic may be enough to save me from getting buried in the sand—permanently.
As hugely entertaining as ever, By A Thread makes it crystal clear yet again how wonderful a storyteller Ms. Estep truly is, delighting us with humor and charm while at the same time pushing every single one of our emotional buttons as Gin continues to grow as a person, an assassin, a sister, and a lover. It’s easy to start this latest story wondering where things can possibly go after the epic showdown and fiery conclusion to the Mab Monroe storyline, questioning whether or not this installment will feel somehow empty without her dark and sinister presence. Our musings and our hesitancy are for naught however, as Ms. Estep ratchets up the emotional intensity to an all time high and gives us a new villain who easily rivals Mab in evil deeds done to others, raising the fine hairs on our arms with his sick games and his certainty that he's untouchable.
Gin has always been the highlight of these books, her strength as a killer-for-hire-turned-pro-bono-defender-of-the-weak always beautifully combined with an innate vulnerability when it comes to those she cares for. In By A Thread, that vulnerability is particularly acute, and like the silverstone embedded in her palms and the blades she brandishes she absorbs everything thrown her way, taking every callous word, disdainful look, and snide comment from those she would easily give her life for into herself and storing it there without so much as a word to her own defense. She gladly hides her own pain, sliding her cold assassin mask in place to spare those around her any guilt or hurt as a result of what she does in the dark of night, and we can’t help but want to scream out loud so that all may hear the virtues we see in her, voicing our opinion of the woman she is and silencing those who judge her for the reputation she carries.
Back to torment both us and Gin is Donovan Caine, his righteousness in full force despite the time that’s passed since he left Ashland and Gin behind without so much as a kind word of parting. He’s as demeaning as ever, verbally berating her for everything he thinks she is or isn’t, but things have changed for Gin in the time since his departure, and it’s beyond satisfying to read Donovan side by side with Owen as Owen proves to us again and again just how clearly he sees Gin when everyone else is blind to anything other than her role as The Spider. He’s never fooled by the mask she wears or the defenses she puts up, and she allows him to see her emotionally bare knowing she’ll never see a look of disgust in those violet eyes at what’s revealed.
In additional to the turmoil surrounding Donovan’s sudden reappearance, we also have a spectacular new villain who challenges Gin physically and mentally at every turn, constantly keeping us on our toes as we are reminded that Gin is not infallible and that her mistakes are often bloody ones. Though we ultimately know Gin will come out on top, Ms. Estep ensures that the journey to victory is not one easily walked, hearts as bruised and broken as Gin's body is before The Spider shows everyone once again what she’s really made of. The closing pages are perhaps the most rewarding of all as Gin confronts past and present demons both physical and emotional, finally refusing to absorb any more rancor in silence and letting the wounds inflicted by words wielded with unprecedented expertise be seen by those who have done the most damage with them.