Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Heart of Venom

HEART OF VENOM
Elemental Assassin #9
Jennifer Estep
Adult Urban Fantasy
384 pages
Pocket Books
Available August 27th
Source: e-ARC vie Edelweiss for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
When I say you’re a dead man, take that literally.

To me, killing people is like a day at the salon: cut and dry. Well, more like rinse and repeat when you moonlight as the assassin the Spider. But my last spa day ended redder than my freshly painted nails after a twisted Fire elemental and his goons kidnapped my close friend Sophia Deveraux and nearly killed her sister Jo-Jo in the process.

Up Ashland’s most dangerous mountains, and deep into the heart of its blackest woods—I’ll track these thugs no matter where they take Sophia. It doesn’t matter what kinds of elemental magic they try to throw at me, my Ice and Stone powers can take the heat and then some. I will get Sophia back, over their dead bodies.

Because anybody that hurts Gin Blanco’s family becomes a body.


MY THOUGHTS
With the Elemental Assassin series we are always guaranteed a knock-down, drag-out fight between Gin and whatever villain is currently thinking of replacing Mab Monroe as Ashland's Biggest Bad, but what so often surprises us no matter how many books we read is the emotional intensity that accompanies the swinging of Gin's fists and the slashing of her knives. While the previous installment was a little lighter in tone overall (relatively speaking of course), Ms. Estep plunges us deep into the darkness of Gin's world in this newest book, a horror from Sophia's past emerging once again to grab hold of both characters' and readers' hearts alike, giving them a brutal twist and yank as family fights desperately to save family.

Gin has been a fighter from word one of book one, always the first to defend those she cares about even if they are undeserving of her loyalty and affection, but where she has always been nearly indestructible physically, her emotional armor has always been far softer. She's highly susceptible to rough words in a way she isn't to rough hands, the former cutting deep and drifting like a slow-working poison through her veins, while the latter simply glance off and then go limp, no longer a threat as the person attached to them is dead by her blade. Her stoicism and her cool, controlled demeanor are a point of contention for us as readers; we can't help but admire everything that makes her both woman and Spider, but at the same time, her constant internalizing of emotional pain can be frustrating, as it was in the previous book when things with Owen so rapidly deteriorated.

Luckily for us in this book however, Gin makes a few small efforts to voice her hurt when she has a quiet moment to actually talk to Owen amidst the fight to save Sophia, listening to his apologies and his reasoning for past behavior, but instead of simply accepting the way he treated her as her due given the life she leads as an assassin, she hesitates, taking the much-needed time to really think about what her heart can and cannot handle moving forward. She doesn't hold Owen's actions against him or try to make him hurt as she's been hurting, she simply takes stock of the wounds he's inflicted, lets him know he caused them, and then decides if she's up for the not-insignificant job of rebuilding her trust in him. Owen, for his part, acknowledges his role in how things turned out between them, and the ice we'd built up around our hearts when it came to him can't help but melt a little in the face of the warmth we can practically feel when he looks at Gin.

In addition to the tension crackling between Gin and Owen as they feel one another out, Heart of Venom also gives us perhaps the most violent and dark of Gin's battles thus far, a brother-sister team of fire elementals raising the bar when it comes to sadistic cruelty, their vile games made all the more horrifying given Sophia's involvement. The bits and pieces of her past alluded to in past books were enough to send shudders racing down our spines, but to bear witness as Sophia is forced to live her nightmares all over again is a special kind of torture, and we find ourselves appreciating Gin's ruthlessness more than we ever have before. All in all, this latest gritty adventure of Gin's is perhaps the most gripping one yet, overflowing with pain, love, family and more than a little blood to leave us even bigger fans of the series than we were when we started.

Rating: 4.5/5

Find Jennifer:


If you didn't get a chance yesterday to check out my interview with Jennifer and enter for your chance to win a copy of Heart of Venom, you can do so here!

This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

31 comments:

  1. If I didn't already know I wanted to read this series your review definitely would have sold me on it! Fabulous review!

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    1. In case you were unaware, I love this series ;-)

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  2. Yep, I definitely need to get busy reading this series!

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    1. Yesssss. You need to meet Gin Candace!

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  3. Sophia was always my favorite character in this series by far, so I'm not sure I'm quite ready to see her suffer, just as I'm not sure I'm ready to forgive Owen, or to even give him a chance. He is what drove me away from this series in the first place, and after the disaster that was Donovan Caine, it was even worse than it should have been.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your time with Gin and the others. Great review, Jenny!

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    1. I was crazy mad at Owen Maja. Crazy mad. I wanted to punch him for blaming her for the very thing he said he'd never hold against her, but he grovels well and I love how Gin handled everything:)

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  4. I feel you when you say that Gin is a wonderful woman and her strength as the spider as well as an ordinary woman is mesmerizing. She has come such a long way since Fletcher died and I'm so proud of her. I saw that there was a novella of Owen and I read the description on GR so I know they'll break up. I just finished listening to the scene where Gin saves the elemental sisters in By a Thread and Donovan reaches for her, but she walks by and Owen runds toward her, pulling her into his arms and showering her face with kisses. I can't help but think this is true love and whatever caused their breakup, is just another obstacle in their way of happiness. They're perfect! You mentioned yesterday in your interview that Sophia is one of your favorite characters--she's one of my favorites as well and I don't know how to go and read about her painful past. I know some things thanks to Spider's Revenge, but not the whole story. Gin is remarkable and I'm sure she'll do whatever she possibly can to save the other remarkable woman. Ahhh, I blame you for making me addicted to this series, Jenny! :D

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    1. Yes, the Owen/Gin situation gets to be painful, but have faith and keep reading Siiri! This book hurt my heart because I adore Sophia so much, but it's so worth the read. It just made me love her that much more. I'm so glad you're loving this series as much as I do!

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  5. You and Siiri both adore this series so much. I should really get to it as soon as possible. It sounds like Gin is a tough girl and I can tell I will like her except of course for the internalizing of her true feelings.
    I'm curious as to Owen did to her in the previous book, but hopefully, it helped in the development of their relationship. Siiri has talked a lot about Donovan on GR, so I know she hates him with a passion.
    This also sounds really action-packed, which is what I look for in UF.
    I'm glad that this series is still going strong for you, Jenny!
    Lovely review! :)

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    1. We do:) And yes Donovan makes it difficult to like him, he's just not good for Gin. Owen is great for her but he makes a mistake in his reaction to a certain situation and he hurts her. He does a good job of earning some of my forgiveness in this book though!

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  6. Like I said yesterday, I haven't gotten into this series yet so I just skimmed your review. Glad you liked the book so much!

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  7. I really need to get a move on this this author's books. I just promised someone else that I'd pick up the Mythos Academy series soon. This is another one I need to get to! I'm so glad to see that it's still going well, nine books in. Not many series remain high quality after that many books. Fantastic review, Jenny! :)

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    1. I agree, I love how strong this series is overall. I'm not the slightest bit bored and nothing feels forced after nine books. I just love both this series and the Mythos books!

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  8. Gahh, Jenny, why must you always introduce me to series that I just know I'll love?! Seriously. It sounds as though the series gets stronger and stronger, and I love when a book can truly make you feel passionately (either for or against) a character. I think I need to get involved in the action of this book! Thanks for the lovely review! :)

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    1. She writes such great characters Melissa, and you know I'm a character girl. Her villains are spectacularly awful, and cast of "good guys" is a little more gray than most which makes it fun:)

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  9. DANG IT! I tell you I am having a hard time just not reading the ARC instead of waiting on the audiobook! Between you, Jennifer, and Heather I am going to break down and just do it. I can wait. I can wait. I can maybe wait. I probably won't wait.

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    1. DON'T WAIT FELICIA!!!! You need to read about Sophia!

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  10. Jenny, your review makes me what to drop everything that I am doing and go buy the book. Hmmm, I think I may just do it.

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  11. Jenny! As usual, I am behind in all things Jennifer Estep. How rude of me. Some day I will be all caught up. SOME DAY!

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  12. So this book is probably not my cup 'o tea. Whatever. Cool. We're all different people with different likes.

    But, Jenny, your reviews make me like all the books. And want to read all the books.

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  13. I promised I would start this series this year, and I just got the first audio book. I love that Gin is growing and the series continues to excel. The question is which do you like better? Mythos or Elemental Assassin?

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  14. I'm so glad you keep enjoying these books, Jenny! I know I really want to give them a try, so hopefully I'll finally start these within the next year. Fantastic review!

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  15. I've only read the first book in the series and I wasn't impressed . So I'm not sure I should continue the series at all ;(

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  16. It's nice that this book includes both a lot of action with that knock-down, drag-out fight, and a lot of emotional impact. Gin sounds like a wonderful protagonist - like a mix of the brash Celaena and an introverted version of Rose. Very intriguing and sounds very layered, with her role as both Gin and Spider.

    "She hesitates, taking the much-needed time to really think about what her heart can and cannot handle moving forward. She doesn't hold Owen's actions against him or try to make him hurt as she's been hurting, she simply takes stock of the wounds he's inflicted, lets him know he caused them, and then decides if she's up for the not-insignificant job of rebuilding her trust in him." <-- This is quite an admirable way of handling the romantic conflict. I don't know what Owen did, but it's nice that she actually talks to him about it rather than brew on it. This makes me very curious as to the extent of his actions o.O. How did he lose her trust?

    "this latest gritty adventure of Gin's is perhaps the most gripping one yet, overflowing with pain, love, family and more than a little blood to leave us even bigger fans of the series than we were when we started." <-- Wow, so good that you like it the most of the entire series? That's awesome. Sounds like there'll be a lot to match in later books.

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  17. I LOVED reading about Sophia (okay, so not loving what happened to her with that obsessive, insane bastard but he got his in the end and that's what counts, right?). Gin was back at the top of her game and FINN!!!!!!

    Side question: was there less rehashing of the entire series/Gin's life/all that jazz than in prior books or did I just skim over it faster than normal? Either way, yay!

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  18. I haven't yet started this series. It's one of those where I keep picking up book 1 in the store (or looking at it on Amazon), walking around with it but ultimately putting it back instead of buying it.

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  19. I wanted to read this book after yesterday's post but now I want it even more. Of course I need to read previous books in this series first but I can't wait to read about this. You made it sound amazing. Great review Jenny :)

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  20. AHHHH...JENNY YOU ARE KILLING ME!!!!! Or no wait....you are killing my TBR pile!! Seriously, I was supposed to hold off on this series, but now you're making me want to go buy this right now. *sigh* But I can see why..I LOVE Gin's character and love the fact that even though she is a fighting character, you still see a vulnerable side to her in this addition. I love it when authors do that! Plus, as I was reading Owen's paragraph, I was like "I hate him!" but then that last sentence...has me really curious as to what he did and whether or not their relationship will get fixed or not. I am really looking forward to this couple and of course the action! I'm glad you enjoyed this, Jenny! I can't wait to pick this up, asap!

    Awesome review, as always! :D

    ~ Maida xo
    Literary Love Affair 

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  21. Can't wait to catch up so I can read this one, these villains sound horrid and I think it will be especially satisfying to watch Gin demolish them. :-) Glad to hear you enjoyed this! Awesome review :-)

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