Elemental Assassin #9
Adult Urban Fantasy
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.
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.
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.