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)
I agree that the narrator has an AMAZING voice for Gin. The problem is that she read everything in the same slow, monotone, emotionless way. Whether describing the scenery, a hit, her family's death... it all was the exact same pace, with no inflection. I really wanted to get into the story, but I kept zoning out and having to go back and re-listen to parts. After an hour and a half, I couldn't keep going anymore. The story didn't hook me yet either, but it wasn't that far into the book. Also, the super slow pace and lack of energy and emotion definitely made it harder to connect to Gin. But, there hadn't been a whole lot of character development so far either, and very little to be invested in yet. Maybe that would've gotten better. I'll never know though, since I'm returning the book.
The lack of energy and acting in the narration.
This book was one big cliche. The story was predictable. The characters were caricatured and without any depth.
I had quite a few laughs listening to this story. I do not think that it was intentional for the writer to make me laugh as reader/listener. And they were not laughs based on humour, more of a "I don't know what else to do" kinda laugh.
The constant use of...
"I looked at him with my grey eyes".
"His green eyes squinted"
"His hazel eyes met my grey steely eyes".
The description of the eyes kept popping up, and I was both laughing and thinking what a waste of my money each time it happened (and trust me it happens a lot). Who keeps describing herself looking at things with her eyes and the colour of her eyes? Noone.
it does not stop there:
"Guilt and grief racked my heart" is heard more than often.
"Cold rage in my heart" likewise.
The writer just tries too hard to make the persons in the story interesting and ends up making them shallow, and stupid.
Some might feel that the narrator is good. I am not one of them. Whenever she was trying to make someone sound sexy and persuasive they sounded like stupid braindead pornstars. When the rugged detective (and you will hear that a lot) is "talking" it sounds more like a person on drugs, than a person rugged and tough.
Add a story that is neither good nor interesting, and you get to waste a lot of hours you will never get back. None of the heroes or the main bad guys/girls have any flaws. They all belong in a model magazine.
I was left with a feeling of this becoming a teenage girl fantasy novel, and if that is your age you might enjoy this story. Everyone else should avoid it.
I will not be spending any more money of credits on this series, and you might be wondering why I bothered listening to the story until the end - if you have the answer please share because I do not know. Might be that I just hoped something remotely interesting would happen.
... I paid for it. Is it wrong to listen to a whole story only for that reason?
It's the only thing that has gotten me through this book anyway. I hope for the sake of anyone who chooses to go on with the rest of the series that the author doesn't continue to remind you every couple of chapters that Gin looks at things with her grey eyes... Nobody ever describes the colour or their own eyes when they are looking at something. Let alone every single time. It's irritating. Self-absorbed.
There's a difference between a strong character, and a boastful, arrogant character. I found myself rolling my eyes over and over again when Gin was going on about her own endless awesomeness. Sorry, I found myself rolling my BLUE eyes over and over again... (You can see how that's irritating, yes?) Not to mention how often she repeats herself about where she keeps her five knives, how the spider runes ended up on her hands, and the exact same aspects of different characters' appearances . There's no need to remind your readers of trivial details over and over again.
Bad writing is even worse when it's read out loud.
The narrator over-acted and grated on my nerves. Her voice sounded forced and unnatural. I could not get past the first two chapters.
No. The book seems like a 12th grade creative writing assignment gone wrong. The repetition of information again and again is distracting. I haven't had to mention to anyone the color of my eyes more than once ever. I can actually go months without considering this. The main character has trouble going more than 2 or 3 minutes without mentioning what is going on with her GRAY EYES. I listen to audiobooks all the time, ( I am a long distance truck driver) and this was quite possibly the worst purchase I've made. I may be spoiled, I just finished the fourth book in the iron druid series, 13 books of the dresden files and the Mercy Thomas series. I was unable to listen to more than the first hour of this book.
Nearly everything disappointed me about this. Repetitive, poor writing. I'm with Alex (another reviewer) - except I didn't think the purchase price was worth the waste of my time. If I heard 'my grey eyes' one more time...
disappointment that I'd wasted my money
More action. I got the book based on reviews and was very disappointed.
I liked a couple already. This one was not good.
We buy lots from Amazon because of the reviews, but the reviews and the quality of the books on Audible don't measure up. I don't know if they are padded or not. Considering dropping membership. For every 5 I buy, and I buy a lot, maybe 1 is good. What's up with that?
While the narrator gave it her best go, you can't turn a pig's ear into a silk purse. While this might be a cliche to use, the kind of writing contained within only deserves a cliche. In a word: Yawn. Next?
My pic says it all. That's my dog and he is really barking for me to throw another snowball. Scary looks but really just a playful guy by nature. Been reading sf/fantasy like a power nerd my whole life which is almost 50 years now. I like all sorts of stuff just make the story believable...
The story was just short of average with huge plot holes throughout. The psychotic lead needed a bullet in the head as far as I was concerned. Every character in the entire book was a bad apple and seemed to be a child beating rapist. Shouldn't every book have a least one character that is worth bonding with.
Another thing that always drives me crazy in books like this is how they have these incredible powers but still ignore them. It just does not make any sense. "Oh, I'm a powerful and rare stone elemental but really don't want to ever use my power", get real.
If you are super bored and there is nothing else in your library then put this on. Ignore the nasty characters, redundant descriptions, huge plot holes and try to get your commute finished.
I am a book junkie...I read and enjoy a variety of stories, so please don't "define me" by one book or review! :)
I really enjoyed this book. It took me no time at all to be hooked, and by extension I have no doubt I'm going to be addicted to this series all the way through. The writing is good, I really came to like the main character, even if she is an assassin. (Who would have thought?) Though she absolutely does not kill anyone innocent...Gin is resourceful, tough, and wise enough to question herself and ponder NOT forgetting her heart. She has taken her place among my absolute favorite paranormal female heroines. Her background is well-introduced and solid enough...I also enjoyed the supporting characters who are well-fleshed out. I couldn't help but be a little drawn in by Finn, he cracks me up and is such a charmer! And Detective Caine is a bit of a mystery...an attractive character. Lauren Fortgang's narration is absorbing, compelling, and (IMO) spot on for the story. Her Appalacian-Southern accent really brings out the atmosphere and the feeling (vibe) of this book.
I was originally sceptical and was doubtful about the narrator, but i have to say it grew on me, the action and storyline moved on at a great pace - i have now listened to the next 3 books - The stories have a good link maintained through the books and you find yourself cheering for the Heroine -
A thumbs up and my advice order it up
"worth persisting with"
Took a bit to get into but glad i am persevered as I enjoyed it in the end.
"This book didn't quite Bite"
The book started off well but didn't quite have me on the characters side. Gin has a back story to why she became an assassin however you feel nothing for her and her sob story. Even with her carer/ handler dying you don't feel her pain. There is no connection with the character and her romantic interest "Detective " is so not believable.
Going to give book 2 the benefit of the doubt.
"Good But Not Fabulous"
Interesting - a world where humans, elementals, giants and dwarves all live in reasonable harmony
Predicable - I am an Urban Fantasy reader and so found the end very predicable, especially the final ten minutes where she set-up the next book
Unusual - different lead character as she is an assassin.
I liked Gin but I loved the way Donovan stood by his principles.
No - could have but I was not so enthralled that I needed to listen all the time.
I will keep by eyes open for her next book but I wont be devastated if I don't read it immediately.
"No meek heroine here!"
I loved this book, the story, the heroine and the narrator. This is no meek heroine waiting for either her enemies or her friends to take any steps. She is happy to initiate anything she wants which is such a refreshing change. No doubts or internal double guessing on her part. The side characters are all really well developed as well and I loved them as much as I loved the heroine.
"An intresting world with gripping characters"
An interesting world with vivid and in depth characters that you become attached too very quickly as you get pulled into there lives full of assassins, elemental mages and intrigue. The city of Ashland makes sin city seem like a vacation spot, all in all well worth a listen for anyone who likes the modern fantasy genre.
"WHAT A BOOK!!!"
So I've just finished listening to this book; Spider's Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 1, by Jennifer Estep.
And I've got to say... WHAT LISTEN/READ! Each assassination is more graphical than the last, the character development is really well illustrated and the narration is spot on!! Hats off to Lauren Fortgang, who really brought these mesmerizing characters to life, and very well done to Jennifer Estep for creating such an awesome city/world / novel!
This is a world of vampires and mages (elementals) and rogue assassins. The spine-chilling conclusion to this fantastic novel has definately left me eager to spend my next credit chip on the sequel.
DEFINATELY WORTH LISTENING TO!!
Brash, gory and unrepentant. Loved it. Another strong, intelligent lead female. Can't wait to read more
Only fair story just passable and done before, but narration very good, which helped a lot.
"Not really elemental, but not a bad story."
I quite enjoyed this one, but there were just a few things which irked.
First, Gin is the "elemental assassin" of the series title, but does very little elemental anything. I was kind of sold on the opening, where Gin kills a target with skill and ingenuity; that seems to head off down hill pretty quickly.
The potential attraction to a handsome, straight-laced detective made me cringe. So stereotypical it hurt. Seriously, pick a less obvious bad romance target.
I did get kind of grabbed by the potential back plot reveal at the end, though if it was meant to be a surprise, no sorry.
Not bad. I may try another.
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