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)
The first part of this book gets started pretty slowly. The narrator talks slow, and it takes a bit for the story to get going. But stay with it! Once it gets moving a little, the story and narrator pick up pace. We start out getting hints of the main character's (Gin's) past, and get to know more and more of her a bit at a time. Meanwhile, she faces interesting adventures. In book 2, the hints and adventures continue.
The books have a unique set of characters, & provide a different and interesting use of dwarves, giants, vampires, & magic. This is the first book I've read with people as elementals, so I'm not sure how they compare to elementals in other books.
I'm glad a sale prompted me to take a chance on this book. I'm almost done with book #2 in the series - Web of Lies, and I just purchased book #3 - Venom. I'm looking forward to continuing the story.
I have over 400 audio books (mostly series) and it's getting increasingly difficult to find a new series that I enjoy. I have quite a few "first" books marked in my list as "ok, could read if really need something new". It's not very often I find an established series that I truly enjoy! I love this one! I can't really explain why, but I'm on book 5 of the series now and have enjoyed every moment of the first four. Thank you!!
I enjoyed this story, I think it started a little slow, but over all it was good. The main character Gin is interesting enough that I am looking forward to listening to the next book in the series.
Yes, it helps the day go by faster and it's a good listen.
Lauren's performance was good, she gave a different voice for each character.
It was worth the time like I said before it starts slow but the second half of the book makes up for it.
You have an idea of who did it but you don't know the how and little of the why?
I had the hardest time listening to the hard "g's" by the narrator. e.g. wrongah (wrong), longah (long), he was strongah. (is her last name Fortanga?) I didn't mind the quasi-southern accent. I even liked the interesting timbre of her voice. I just hated the hard g's. I live in the South and no one pronounces g's like that.
I wish Gin would have used her power more, practiced it, etc, instead of just ignoring it.
I listened to the end because the story was pretty good, despite some of the oddities.
Decent story, easy listen. Just a fun book.
Liked Cain, a little cliche but everyone likes the straight arrow who falls for the bad girl.
Good performance, male voices could have been better.
Probably, can't find the time to listen to anything that long.
I really enjoyed the first two books, couldn't wait to start with the other books; however, with each new book I had to listen to reruns of book 1 and 2 and it got tiresome. I'm definitely not in the same great hurry to listen to. And no, I would not listen to Spider's Bite again as I will get to listen to it in the next book, if and when I decide to hear it.
Surprise. It would have been a good ending -
excitement, the thrill of wanting to see someone "make it"
no.... not really
I couldn't stop listening to the book. Excellent story. Well developed characters. Good flow. Thought the narrator did an excellent job. Couldn't wait to download the next book.
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.
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