The first installment in Jennifer Estep's new Elemental Assassin series, Spider's Bite introduces us to Ashland, a southern city in the Appalachians where you're as likely to run across a good barbeque joint as you are a vampire hooker on the corner. It's a gritty film noir-ish world with lots of back alleys, hit squads, and corrupt cops behind most every badge. The main character is Gin Blanco, or Gin to her friends, but in some circles she's known only as Spider the assassin. However, in the secretive world of Ashland, she and her cohorts seem to be just as trustworthy and honorable as the next guy but are they? Everyone in this town has an angle, a history and it seems most have blood on their hands.
Actress Lauren Fortgang does a fascinating balancing act voicing Gin. There's ample southern lilt and sly naughty charm to bring the material to life, and there is considerable music and imagery to be mined here in the writing. Yet her voice has enough bite and gravel to ground our no-nonsense morally ambiguous anti-heroine. The challenge for any good book in the urban fantasy genre is the paradox of making wildly fantastical worlds believable. Estep manages to take Ashland this world of troubled souls, dwarfs, giants, and vampires, as well as human elementals who can tap into the very forces of nature and make it all seem part of the everyday grind. With Spider's Bite you feel as if you could really walk these streets, but you'd also immediately feel the dirt on your skin and the hairs rising on the back of your neck as you hear noises in the shadows. Fortgang completes the task, making Gin a very believable character, somehow part embittered hard-ass, part loyal friend, and vulnerable lost soul on occasion.
The book takes a cue from its main character. It is patient, carefully spinning a web of atmospheric settings and carefully observed characters then like a spider it jumps into action from the dark. Ashland is a tricky place and you can never judge anyone by appearances, especially Gin, and it seems there's a long line of those who have died underestimating her. One should be wary, though, of any sexy southern charmer who can not only summon razor-sharp ice daggers from thin air, but also control the very bricks in walls, rocks, and stones, and the very ground beneath her. Cleo Creech
They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South -- when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.
Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way -- good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.
©2010 Jennifer Estep (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Fortgang’s captivating drawl sketches Finn’s flirty, genteel arrogance and Caine’s horrified disapproval of her. Fortgang portrays Gin’s well-hidden emotions as well as her habitual analysis of combat probabilities. The capable narration ensures that Gin comes across as an intriguing mix of battle-weary assassin, sorceress, and affectionate homebody. Fortgang also delivers the book’s wry humor with subtle elegance." (AudioFile)
Perhaps to enjoy this one would have to be a fan of this type of fiction ... magic, vampires, giants, dwarves, etc., living in "real world" cities here in the US (versus Pratchett's characters living in their own environment). Overall the story dragged. Toward the end of the book I was starting to care about one or two of the characters, but not enough to listen to more books in the series.
Favorite Genres: Urban/Preternatural Fantasy, Science Fiction, Knitting Favorite Story Components: character development, under-dog success stories
This is a very gritty, dark world, with an interesting take on magic. Without spoiling, the ending is a great draw into picking up the next book in the series.
I'm enjoying that the heroine is started in the book in the middle of her career, mature, and while there's room for growth, it's not the "pull thumb out of mouth and get real about the place of ideals in a real world" kind of growth.
It took Ms. Fortgang a while to speed up her delivery, but once she got out of Southern ennui, she got out of the way of the story.
Lauren Fortgang's narration. The book would have been cool to read, but was made sarcastically cool by her.
Gin Blanco - the Spider
This unlikely assassin is found starving in the streets, hiding from the woman who killed her family, by the assassin who turned down the job because his moral code does not allow him to kill children. She is trained as an assassin from this point, an assassin with a "moral code" who just wants to retire (having made plenty of money in her career). Her small group of magic wielding and totally human friends back up the story.
Hello, my name is Teresa and I'm an addict.
Although I enjoyed this book somewhat, it was a slow going because of the narrator. She did an okay job with the reading but I can’t help thinking the story would have been better with a different narrator. I have listened to other stuff that Lauren Fortgang has narrated and thought she did an okay job.
Not at all, what I thought this book would be like. The characters don’t seem to have much depth to them, although she eludes to tragic events happening in the past to Gin that has created the cold, brutal B**** that she is, I don’t feel connected with the any of the characters. I agree with another review how annoying it is when she talks about her grey eyes all the time. I will give the next book a shot and see where it goes.
Another heroine filled with angst believing she is responsible for her family and friend's death? Really? It's all her fault? I just didn't buy it. It's a fun idea with the "elementals" and their different levels of ability living in a corrupt city - very dark. But the main character repeats herself regularly - rehashing her own and others' motivation - blah! It gets old and a bit sappy - kind of adolescent. Maybe the characters are supposed to be cartoonish? Good guy - oh, so good and naive. Bad guys - unconscionable and stupid? I will say the narrator used wonderful accents and played with the pace nicely - really set the atmosphere.
Action and sex scenes were about as exciting as watching grass grow. The narration was monotone and soft, though clearly spoken. I felt no emotions when listening to this book.
The storyline, while promising, is very predictable. The descriptions of eye color and other adjectives are overusd, as well as the words b*tch and f--k.
Her voice was soft and monotone. I felt little difference with character shifting and could not differentiate between anger, sadness, or elation.
The storyline is compelling and I see a lot of promise in it. Gin is a complex woman who I feel will grow into a brilliant character.
I born a long time ago and grew up to be who I am today.
I'm on the fence with this book. The characters are fun if not a little too Mary Sue/Gary Stu (really, a computer hacker/financier/car-jacker/marksman/thief who has a way with the ladies?) Most of the characters just seem to be an expert and whatever skill they need to force the scene to carry on but the contrived scenes are offset by good characters. The mythos is creative, but the prose is wordy. For every good thing about this book there is something that I feel and good editor should have asked to see cut.
First thing I would have asked is for the word "silverstone" be limited to at least once per chapter. Even better, just stop using it since everything seems to be made of the stuff from Gin's knives, to normal kitchen knives, to gardening tools, hand cuffs and car keys (I'm making up that last one). Worse is every time she mentions the knives, which can be several times in one chapter, we're reminded they are made of silverstone. Also, I'd avoid the overly contrived subtext that everyone Gin opposes in the book is either tortures people to death or sexually depraved. It's like Estep is trying to make Gin a anti-hero by proving she only kills people who truly deserve it.
This is actually the best part of book. Fortgang probably gives this book more life than I would have imagined if I reading this myself. Audible is probably the best way to go with this one in particular.
I do. Probably on the CW where the focus is a limited cast of good looking people with very little in the way of moral ambiguity.
I kind of feel like this is probably the authors first book- and by that I mean first book EVER. It reminds me of Larry Correia in that this book would be better if it had been polished, or had the author made some of these glaring mistakes in unwritten novels so that the writing could just be cleaner. That said I assume the following books are better, but it's going to be a long while before I'm willing to return to this series.
When i first listened to this book i immediately loved it. The narration was excellent and the writing left me wanting more. I could not get enough of the series.
Gin Blanco is one of the best characters that I've come across. She is TOUGH, FUNNY AND VUNERABLE. At first glance, you may think she is just another assassin, but keep listening and you will find out what a complex character she is. She will fight to protect the people she loves, or will die trying. Finnegan Lane is pure heaven in the book. He adds a comedic balance to Gin's hard core edge. The characters are great - and you will be on the edge of your seat listening to what happens next.
Jennifer Estep has started an absolutely wonderful series.
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