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Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin, Book 1)

January 16th, 2011

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Book Overview:

My name is Gin, and I kill people. 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.

Book Review

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out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12796 user reviews
Science Fiction My name is Gin, and I kill people. 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.

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  1. Dee18
    January 18th, 2011 at 01:54 | #1


    Gin Blacno is `The Spider’. She is an elemental assassin – a woman who can talk to and control rocks, and has a little ice magic. She’s good with knives, won’t kill kids or pets, and you won’t know you’re on her hit list until your artery is severed. When we meet her Gin has just been double-crossed. Her handler and father-figure, Fletcher, has been murdered. Fletcher’s son and Gin’s brotherly friend, Finn, has been brutally beaten. Whoever is orchestrating this double-cross has put a one million dollar finder’s fee on Gin.

    Payback is a bitch when you’re in the Spider’s web.

    `Spider’s Bite’ is the first book in Jennifer Estep’s new series `Elemental Assassin’, and it is damn good. I’d describe this book as `noir Urban Fantasy’. It is a very dark series that is set in the city of `Ashland’, in a world that is ours but with a few differences. Vampires exist – but they’re not of the Dracula variety; it’s more likely you’ll find them downtown working a street corner and pimping their bodies for blood. Magic belongs to a select few, and it works according to elements – earth, fire, air. Estep writes about Ashland’s sinister underbelly – crooked cops, a paedophile police chief, and one woman who controls the streets. Mab Monroe is a beautiful, refined society darling – she is also a fire elemental and not afraid to burn her way to the top (and anyone who gets in her way winds up extra crispy).

    Ashland is a town to rival Gotham and Sin City for its daring depravity, and Gin Blanco is a vigilante to admire amidst the gloom. Gin has secrets – her narration hints at a dark past, of her family’s murder and a life lived on the streets until Fletcher discovered and trained her at the age of 13. For an assassin, Gin is surprisingly sane. She seems very self-aware of her short-comings and killer instincts – but that doesn’t stop her from casual sex with willing co-eds or having a healthy dose of lust for Ashland’s only clean cop, Donovan Caine. Never mind that Gin murdered Caine’s partner and will incur his wrath.

    When I read the blurb I was half afraid that Gin would be a robotic maniac and we’d have to wade through passages of her coming to grips with humanity and empathy. But Gin isn’t like that at all. She has warmth and familial ties to Fletcher and Finn – she does have a switch that she can turn on and off, flip between hot and cold, loyalty and butchery. But that just makes her a hard, intimidating kick-ass heroine. She has scruples – like no killing of kids or pets – and she prefers to kill those who deserve the Spider’s bite. I loved her!

    Her `romance’ with Caine is H*O*T, mostly because it’s so razor-edge. Caine is a sexy, caramel-skinned macho man and Gin likes what she sees. Donovan Caine hates Gin for killing his partner, but he wants her. He is turned on by her and hates himself for it. Their chemistry is insane and sizzling, but tempered with bouts of resentfulness and reluctance. It makes for a complicated romantic mix that’s as fascinating as the `whodunnit’ plot.

    Estep’s writing is very modern noir. She tips her hat to some good old clichés – just little things, like calling a woman’s legs `gams’ or naming her villainess `Mab Monroe’. But then some of Estep’s paragraphs sound like they should be read by Humphrey Bogart, in voiceover to an old black and white film that starts with a wide shot of a shadowed city shrouded in smoke.

    The writing is deliciously dark. This is certainly a rougher Urban Fantasy than the genre is used to, and a welcome breath of fresh air.

  2. Nicola Mattos
    January 18th, 2011 at 02:59 | #2


    Wow is the first word that comes to mind at the end of Jennifer Estep’s latest novel. Devouring Spider’s Bite within a few hours is a testament to how good it was, how slick its main character Gin Blanco was, and how intriguing Estep’s elemental world was. True, it does remind one of similar “elemental” paranormal authors such as Rachel Caine’s Warden series and Anya Bast’s elemental witches, but Estep’s setting in the hamlet of Ashland run but a nearly corrupt government and elemental mob was really interesting and believable. You’ll want to guiltily immerse yourself.

    While short on romance, it has enough to entice, and the tug of war between Gin and Donovan is heated, but with an undertone of more. They need to resolve their differences before they can get to that step. There is plenty of plot to make up for that lack and with a never-ending surfeit of fight scenes, readers will engage with the furtive pace. I was especially intrigued about Mab Monroe, the underworld leader of Ashland and a Fire elemental not to be trifled with. Estep has alluded that in Web of Lies, her next installment, there is likely to be a confrontation between Gin and Mab. Now that would be quite the conflagration.

    Gin Blanco is stark and kick-butt dangerous and rarely does the reader see her soft underbelly, but that doesn’t make her less likeable. As an elemental assassin who can wield both Stone and Ice elements, Gin cannot afford to invest in emotions, but she has them nevertheless. Gin’s profession as an assassin is not overly hampered down with regret, just acceptance. Much the same way Larissa Ione’s character Sin in Ecstasy Unveiled is adept at her career choice. Estep has managed to infuse us with the knowledge of a Gin who is capable of feeling but is not mired down with a heavy emotional toll. It’s simply not in her character. The Spider rises above such petty emotions and calculates in the shadows. This is what Estep wants us to see and inevitably teases us with more.

    Despite comparisons to other paranormal lore, Spider’s Bite stands out distinctly. I whipped through this book enjoying every minute of it. Estep’s words echo with a verve, a vivacity that some urban fantasy authors cannot duplicate, and readers won’t have to flip back and forth to figure out what happened because the plot is both grounded and thrilling.

    (c)Nicola Mattos [...]

  3. Abigail
    January 18th, 2011 at 19:31 | #3


    Review courtesy of [...]

    Gin, aka the Spider, is an elite assassin for hire. As she puts it, she’s got the skills, blood doesn’t bother her, and the money is good. She does have her own code of ethics that limit her services to the truly deserving (as well as a strict no pets, no kids policy). When her current client double crosses her and kills someone close to her, Gin has a clear conscience in vowing revenge, and enlists the help of the only honest cop in Ashland (a metropolis in an alternate South) who has been hunting Gin ever since she killed his partner.

    I loved the thoroughness of the world building in Spider’s Bite. Magic is common. Some people are gifted with magical abilities tied to various elements (Stone, Ice, Earth, and Fire) and vampires, dwarves, and giants are part of the population. And I definitely think that the urban fantasy genre was ripe for a good female assassin

    It should come as no surprise that Jennifer Estep is a self proclaimed fan of the show Alias. In the opening scene of Spider’s Bite, Gin is trying to escape from an insane asylum in a way that is very reminiscent of one of my favorite episodes of Alias. Gin had to be resourceful, patient and quick on her feet. And as an assassin, I liked her immediately. When she wasn’t killing people? Not quite as much.

    Gin is an extremely aggressive character in every sense of the word. Alpha with a capital `A.’ In her professional life, that aggression is vital. She would have died long ago without it. In her personal life? It’s a little hard to take.

    Normally I prefer at least a little romance in my urban fantasy, but I hate to say that I think Spider’s Bite would have fared better without it. That’s not to say there actually is any romance in this book, there isn’t. But there is a fair amount of sex. I’m all for strong women and all that, but Gin came off as very masculine in her encounters with Detective Donovan. Which in turn made Donovan look like a chick. The way she objectified him, the way her fought his lust for her because of moral reasons…we’ve seen it before in a hundred other books (and movies) with the roles reversed. It sounds like it would be a fun switch, but I found it off-putting. On a side note this type of switch worked amazingly well in the movie Point of No Return which incidentally also featured a female assassin. So it can work, I just don’t think it did here.

    What did work was the meta-narrative that was set up for the series. The history of Gin, who killed her family and why. It’s clear that Jennifer Estep has an endgame in mind with this series. The next two books in the Elemental Assassin series are scheduled for release in 2010 (Web of Lies in June and Venom in October). I’ll be looking forward to them, hopefully Gin will lighten up just a little with her personal life. In her professional life? She already kills.

    Sexual Content: References to rape and pedophilia. Several brief but semi graphic sexual fantasies. A scene of sensuality. A sex club with vague references to people having sex in public. A brief ménage a trois. One long, graphic sex scene.

    My Rating: 3 out of 5

  4. Neker
    January 18th, 2011 at 19:44 | #4


    A very intriguing story that grabs the readers attention from the start. Estep created a strong female heroine that is, finally!, not annoying. Gin Blanco is an assassin. She’s not in it for a local cause or because she’s trying to do some good in the world. She’s not regretful or has trouble sleeping at night because of her kills. She’s not even squeemish about the blood. She doesn’t kill from a distance with a long range riffle. Oh, no. She’s not any of the things you would assume when you hear “female assassin.” Gin makes plenty of money, she kills with knives (up close and personal), and she sleeps like a baby.

    But when her handler and the man she sees as her rescuer and father figure hands her a kill that’s too good to be true, well, let’s just say it was too good to be true. Regardless of her training that tells her she should drop and run when things go sour, Gin decides to stick it out and find the one who double-crossed her. How could she not? It’s became personal.

    Real strong start to a series. Very interesting characters. Not the very best book I’ve read, but I am looking forward to see where Estep takes this storyline. I would definitely recommend this one.

  5. 30 Book A Month Reader
    January 20th, 2011 at 16:51 | #5


    After her entire family was killed, Gin wandered the streets of Ashland, trying to stay alive, looking for food and dying little by little. In her wanderings, she turned up in an alley behind a restaurant named the Pork Pit. The man who owned the restaurant happened on her, fed her and eventually adopted her – even if it wasn’t in name, but in feelings. Fortunately for her life/unfortunately for her lifestyle, her new adopted family was into some very shady dealings. Once the restaurant owner realized that the girl could do elemental magic, he trained her to become one of the most deadliest assassins in town, The Spider. You see in Gin’s world there are humans, but there are also, giants, vampires, etc., as well as elementals. The elementals have control over air, fire, water and earth. Their powers can be used for good or used for evil. Gin is a mixture of both – there have been times she has killed for others (pro bono even), but also times she has killed for only money. The main story of the book is a deal gone bad. Gin is hired to take out a guy who was embezzling from his employer, but the entire hit goes awry and Gin is on the run with a cop of all things. To sweeten matters even more, the cop, Detective Donovan Caine, has vowed to catch The Spider and make her/him pay for his partner’s death.

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this book. From the first to last page, my interest was firmly fixed, and I even read the book as slowly as I possibly could just so I wouldn’t have to see the end. While the romance was there between Gin and Donovan, it definitely was not a romance. This is Urban fantasy at it’s finest – gritty, realistic and bloody. The author has to be one of the most inventive women to ever pick up a pen, because the world she has created is at once fascinating and terribly compelling. If you haven’t ever read an Urban fantasy, make this your first. If you have, I guarantee you will rate this a keeper and at the top of your list. *Applause to Ms. Estep*

  6. mlle. x
    January 20th, 2011 at 17:19 | #6


    If Urban Fantasy were a poker game, and UF authors were the players, Jennifer Estep would be the one who sat down at a high stakes game full of steely-eyed gamblers, pushed a huge pile of chips into the middle of table and said, “All in.” In a genre full of gritty locales and bada** heroines, Estep found a way to up the ante.

    Gin Blanco, the heroine of Spider’s Bite, is an assassin. She’s not a former assassin. She’s not an assassin in the service of some higher cause, she has no special dispensation from angels or demons or any other supernatural group that hands out licenses to kill. She’s an assassin for hire and she takes real pride in a job well done. Gin does prefer to kill people who deserve it – she does a fair amount of “pro bono” work, as she calls it – but this is one book that doesn’t gloss over the fact that even her charitable activities leave bodies on the floor, wives without husbands, children without fathers.

    The plot is fast-paced, a real page-turner. As the book opens, Gin is just finishing one job and, once the deed is done, she’s immediately sent on another. She prefers a little more prep time, but the contract is worth $5 million and the job doesn’t sound too hard: all she has to do is kill a middle aged accountant within a certain time frame. For an assassin of Gin’s caliber, nothing could be easier. But just as she’s about to pull the trigger, Gin discovers she’s been double-crossed: the client who took out the contract on the accountant took out another on Gin herself. The plan was for Gin’s death to tie up any loose ends related to the accountant’s murder and keep suspicion away from the client. But things don’t go as planned. Gin kills the assassin hired to kill her rather than the other way around, and then she goes looking for revenge.

    Gin isn’t squeamish about killing, but she does have a softer side and she’s utterly dedicated to the few people in the world who she really cares about. Saying she’d protect them with her life is putting it mildly. I found Gin surprisingly likable. She’s so confident, so at ease with herself, and she throws herself into whatever she does 110%. I was really convinced by her personality, by the mix of deep feeling and heartless violence, and I rooted for her even as the bodies piled up.

    The fantasy aspect here has a lot of supernatural species running amok in the world – dwarves, vampires, and giants – but especially elementals. Elementals have magic related to one of the four elements: fire, stone, air, and ice. In some cases, two. Gin is a Stone elemental, and the villain of Spider’s Bite is an Air elemental. The magic is pretty thoroughly integrated into the story, but all of the characters behaved like humans. There didn’t seem to be any kind species-centric personality traits – no werewolves with pack instinct, no vampires who can’t control their bloodlust, etc. This made the magic feel a lot more mundane…which might be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.

    Spider’s Bite didn’t make me jump up and down with glee, but it’s probably the best series-starter I’ve read in a couple of months, and I’m eager to read the sequel.

  7. V. Chuba
    January 21st, 2011 at 00:28 | #7


    This book is a good example of a promise unfulfilled. It started out with a bang (indeed, it reminded me of the TV show Alias, of which the author is apparently a fan). But, a few chapters in, I simply gave up. The world building is decent but not innovative, but most importantly, the main character is two-dimentional and hard to relate to. Now, this is a matter of taste; I’m personally a fan of emotionally complex characters, and Gin left me cold. The sad thing is, she could have been much more interesting. The main problem here is the writing. It’s uninspired and in some places, cringeworthy. Another reviewer here commented on how repetitive it gets. She wasn’t kidding. For example, I counted Gin saying “I looked at it/him/her with my grey eyes” no less than 5 times in the first few chapters. This is a big problem especially considering the book is written from the first person: people simply don’t talk about themselves this way. Add to this phrases like “emotions were for those too weak to turn them off”, and you get a good idea of the black and white, cardboard-like rendition of the main character, and most others. There is no life, no spark here; Gin simply isn’t likeable, and the tough chick shtick is hammered down readers’ throats with a little too much vigor to be palatable. With a keener editor and a subtler touch, the book could have been better. As it is, I couldn’t bring myself to care.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t finish the book, and cannot comment on the entire plot. I suppose if you have a lot of time to kill and aren’t fussy about the things I described above, you should give the book a shot. However, to those who don’t have much time to waste, I recommend looking elsewhere. There are a lot of great paranormal and urban fantasy books out there (off the top of my head, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Seanan McGuire, Richelle Mead, Chloe Neill, Gail Carriger, Lucy Snyder, Jim Butcher, Jeaniene Frost and, for lighter fare, Molly Harper, and this is just a small portion of what’s out there). And it seems, there is a new fantasy book released every day. So if you are like me, feel free to give this one a miss.

  8. A. McKinnon
    January 22nd, 2011 at 19:46 | #8


    Bottom line: Excellent urban fantasy. Just plain excellent. If looking for comparisons… perhaps Karen Chance’s “Nighthuntress” series and Faith Hunter’s “Jane Yellowrock.” The writing is clear, smart and clever.

    I have to take this chance to also say that I have read Ms. Estep’s initial book in her “Bigtime” series, Karma Girl- and that is also an AWESOME book. If the publishers have any souls at all, they will allow Ms. Estep to give us more of those characters. If you have read it, I will say that Spider’s Bite is a darker read, less romance, more grit. (I was thrilled to see a little nod to the Bigtime universe though- see if you can pick out where Fiona Fine’s designer clothes are mentioned!)

    Our heroine, Gin, is a great, well developed character. I like her. I’d like to hang out with her. She is as driven, passionate and dark as you would hope and expect of a paranormally gifted assassin. The supporting characters are also well developed and just jump off of the page. They are sexy, powerful, and creatively written. The interactions are well sculpted and the characters play well of off each other.

    The world Ms. Estep has created is just full of enough paranormal components to give this story a real edge, but yet it keeps its feet somewhat planted on the ground. It is creative and compelling without being too far fetched and complicated. The atmosphere balances humor and warmth between characters with heavy elements of crime, corruption and violence.

    The action is fast paced, smart and violent- not too much guts and gore, more along the lines of slippery puddles of blood. The stakes are high without being ridiculous as our conflict manages to have potential impacts for the entire city, but focuses on our small group of heroes.

    I simply cannot wait to dive into the next couple books- my challenge will be holding back long enough to let Ms. Estep write more stories! I hate to run out of reading room!

  9. The Neverending Shelf
    January 25th, 2011 at 18:48 | #9


    Spider’s Bite revolves around an assassin code named “Spider.” Spider has built up one amazing reputation as the city’s most successful assassin. Gin is the man… well, woman, behind Spider. She is a stone elemental, meaning that she can control certain aspects of the element. While she does not use this as an advantage for her assassinations, this skill sure can come in handy. Gin’s life is suddenly turned upside down one day when she discovers that her friend and handler, Fletcher has been murdered in a deal gone wrong by an air elemental. Now Gin must team up with an unlikely ally to get revenge.

    This novel is an edgy, gritty, and utterly kick a** start to a new urban fantasy series. Without a doubt, this novel gets started right from the get go with its opening sentence: “My name is Gin, and I kill people.” From there it is just one powerful, action packed scene after another.

    Gin is an amazingly strong female character who can can kick butt. But it is not her strength that really drew me to her… it was her softness… her vulnerability. Behind her tough guy facade is an emotionally scarred person who has been basically living each day one step at a time. I loved Gin’s kick butt attitude, but when it comes down it to, I have to say that I loved reading about her past and what makes her tick more. It made her more realistic.. more complex… more human.

    Spider’s Bite is an action packed urban fantasy with tons more depth than I was expecting. Gin and her adventures have definitely caught my attention, and I cannot wait to see what is up next for her. I highly recommend for readers who enjoy strong female characters with urban fantasy mixed in.

  10. Tracy
    January 26th, 2011 at 08:14 | #10


    Jennifer Estep has created a new series with a quintessential antiheroine, Gin, an assassin with enough moral ambiguity to make mafia dons proud. Far removed from Estep’s lighter fare, Spider’s Bite is a dark urban fantasy featuring a very complex character, Gin Blanco, a woman who has suffered unthinkable loss and tragedy and turned herself into a deadly weapon to survive. But don’t rally behind her too quickly, because while there are certainly aspects of Gin’s character that are sympathetic and even one or two that are endearing, she’s unapologetic about her profession. She has lines that she doesn’t cross – no killing kids or pets, no torture, that sort of thing – but she’s racked up an impressive body count and her assassin tag, The Spider, instills fear into the hearts of those who may end up a victim of her blades.

    When a lucrative job goes as bad as it possibly can, Gin is double-crossed, almost killed, marked for death, her handler is brutally tortured and killed, and she’s framed for a murder she didn’t commit. She goes on the offensive to discover who hired her and why. With the help of her handler’s son, Finn, and the one honest cop on the whole of the Ashland police force, she’s committed to finding out who is responsible for killing her handler Fletcher and killing the hell out of them right back…or she’ll die trying. In the alternate universe Estep’s created, Gin lives in Ashland, a strange blend of crime, corruption, and picture-perfect suburbia, populated by humans, vampires, giants, gnomes and others, and Elementals – magic uses who control the elements of Stone, Ice, Fire, and Air. Gin is an Elemental with control over Stone and a lesser ability with Ice, but she eschews her magical talents when it comes to assassinations, preferring to rely on her wit, patience, and blades.

    The strongest aspect, and my favorite aspect, of Spider’s Bite is the character of Gin. Estep did an impressive job with her character definition and development. I very much appreciated her complexity, depth, and intelligence. She’s flawed, damaged, and almost sociopathic, and I was fond of the combination of internal strength, fortitude, and physical aptitude. I liked her friend/associate Finn, as well, and though he wasn’t as fleshed out as Gin and he played a careless playboy roll a little too often, I sympathized with him over the loss of his father. The cop, Detective Donovan Caine, was a bit too morally superior and WAY more judgmental and critical for me to warm up to him too much.

    While I’m a huge Gin fan, however, I’m not as big a fan of the plot and climax of Spider’s Bite. I thought the beginning was weighed down by too much exposition and the middle dragged as the book practically plodded towards a not too surprising (though it tried to be) conclusion. And the plot itself: assassin double-crossed, handler killed, has to find out who did it and fast – wasn’t all that compelling or dangerous and felt a bit cliched.

    I also had some serious issues with technical aspects of the book. I felt there was way too much repetition, most notably in descriptive passages (if I had to read about Donovan’s soapy scent one more time, or Gin’s cold, gray eyes/stare, or see anyone else’s eyes flash with emotion I was tossing my Kindle out the window). There were far too many awkward and unnecessary analogies used, as well, also as a descriptive tool that fell flat (“Finn’s voice dripped with sarcasm like grease off a piece of bacon.” “Emotions flashed in his eyes like lightning.”). It got to a point where almost everything described was “like” something else. Analogous narrative can be a useful tool, but it was horribly overused here. I also had a problem with a couple of Gin’s “hits.” I admit, I’m no expert in human biology or pathology, but it felt like it should have taken a lot longer for Gin’s targets to die from their wounds (in one case a screw perforating the trachea) than it did in several instances in the book. I’d have preferred either better description of the wounds inflicted or an explanation that a major organ – like the heart – or a major artery (like the brachial artery – thanks Basil!) was hit. Either that or be a little more realistic in length of time between a wound and death. I wish an editor had tightened up all those aspects of the book a bit more, because it got very distracting for me and I struggled at times to stay in the story.

    I have to say, though, points to Estep for the wickedly subtle but nifty series cross-over with the mention of Fiona Fine’s menswear collection. If you’re unfamiliar with the fab Ms. Fine, check out Estep’s delightfully campy and fun Bigtime series. Estep’s second book in the An Elemental Assassin series will be out on May 25, 2010, and I look forward to continuing the tales of Gin, because regardless of the issues I had, I’m still interested enough to keep going with the series.

  11. Rawrr
    January 26th, 2011 at 11:27 | #11


    A big bad assassin superstar with rock magic and a tortured past gets framed in a conspiracy and teams up with a straight cop (whom she’s got the hots for) to avenge her slain friend. It was a solid story, but it was just too over the top for me. And maybe it’s because I read way too much urban fantasy and PNR, but this was just one of those books where I almost felt like I’d already read it before…

    Gin lives in the southern equivilent of Gotham City—a place where crime is supposedly so rampant and widespread it makes you wonder why she even bothers with a cover. For whatever reason, vampires and giants populate her world, but there isn’t much to distinguish them from regular people; I guess they were just called such for the hell of it. I did like that for once, the conspiracy here wasn’t so convoluted, yet this is also the kind of book where the characters have a semi-painful tendency to explain and go over already obvious plot points (in case you didn’t get it) and the bad-guy characters speak loudly and conveniently of their motives and evil plans. Despite all this, I think the main thing that prevented me from getting into this book was that, even though Gin is supposed to be a superpowerful supersecret assassin, I thought she lacked street cred, and I often had trouble buying her act. Throughout the story, for instance, she and her banker friend (a well-connected businessman and high end clotheshorse, who also happens to be a computer expert/hacker/car thief/expert marksman, etc.) are conveniently getting around town by hotwiring late model luxury cars–BMWs, Lexus SUVs and the like–and even I know you cant do this anymore. Most people probably wouldn’t care, but it was just a bunch of details like this that bothered me. Depending on how you like your books, maybe you wont mind.

    There are definitely some interesting plot threads in there; Gin is the infamous Spider Assassin, but she’s also a nobody who’s obviously on her way up in the world; she’s ultra powerful, but, apparently, she’s just now “coming into” her ultra powerful powers (hopefully, her magical battles will become less tedious in the future…), her tortured past is obviously going to become more developed (and hopefully less annoying), while her hot/cold relationship with her cop will probably get hotter (and then somehow colder) once he realizes she’s an assassin with a real tortured past and a heart of gold… So plenty of room for development, but…either way, I doubt I’ll bother with the sequel.

    Edit: I recently bought the sequel for the bargain price of 25 cents at my library, and I found that one far more entertaining. While I’ll admit it might’ve had something to do with the price, I DO think the series is getting better (some of the things I complained of in this review are still in evidence, but it was not so glaring anymore).

  12. Judah
    January 26th, 2011 at 20:31 | #12


    Spider’s Bite hits the right high notes for an urban fantasy debut. The heroine is a tough, mature thirty-year old magical assassin. She does not have ridiculous magic powers, and what magic Gin does have (stone/ice) is used intelligently rather than ‘we throw big power around, watch things go boom.’ Let me rave more about Estep’s characterization here. Gin has ice powers, enough for chilling drinks or creating lock picks. Gin has stone powers which are supposed to be ‘huge’ that she only uses for psychometric scouting and perimeter alarms. Finally, Gin’s philosophy is a disinterested amoralism with clearly defined lines she won’t cross, and one of those lines is using magic to kill with.

    The novel begins inside an insane asylum, where we follow Gin the assassin through another day on her job. Plenty of action, plus a sense Gin is careful, does not grandstand, and actual thinks about the tedious aspects of her job. This level of thought is rare in urban fantasy plotting, and if Estep can keep it up in future novels, will make her an auto-buy for me.

    The world building includes an emphasis on elemental magic, and +strength characters. Dwarves (ave 4-5ft, super strength), Giants (7-8ft, super strength), and vampires (no given details, but +strength with fangs). The vampires are marginalized and generally written as hookers. More emphasis is placed on plotting and character than world-building, which is a good call for a longer series debut.

    Aside from the lead, characters are well-defined, if somewhat thin, and it was refreshing for me to see Gin’s love life had no stupid romantic games. The morality-based inner conflict on the part of Detective Donnovan, and the high level of detail given to Gin’s cooking hobby added enough specific details that I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to the series.

    Edit: Web of Lies (Elemental Assassin, Book 2) makes all the mistakes this one avoided, meaning the series disappointed me.

  13. P. Travis Millet
    January 29th, 2011 at 13:43 | #13


    As a teenager, Gin Blanco lost her family to a brutal attack which left her homeless, friendless, and running scared. All that changed after she met Fletcher, the kind own of a local BBQ joint. Fletcher got Gin back on her feet while wiping away her fear with the knowledge of how to protect herself and those she loves. Years later, she’s become a tough assassin, known as the Spider, with a killer record. And if her sharp knives don’t do the trick, Gin’s ace in the hole happens to be an affinity for stone, making her a rare elemental.

    After agreeing to a risky contract which ends up going south, Gin quickly finds herself fighting tooth and nail to protect those she loves while trying to stay alive herself. But the only way she’s going to make it out alive in the corrupt and brutal city of Ashland is by aligning herself with by-the-book Detective Donovan Caine. Which can only complicate matters since said easy-on-the-eyes Detective happens to loathe every single aspect of Gin’s chosen profession. Figures.

    Jennifer Estep has created an intriguing new world in her newest series Elemental Assassins. As a dangerous and corrupt city with dirty cops ready to look the other way, Ashland reminds me of a southern Gotham City with an added bonus of powerful magic. Though equipped with an appealing world-building concept, I struggled to connect to Gin as a character. Even in the face of tragedy, I never really felt that her grief was genuine. Sad to say, her narrative often seemed forced and quite repetitive. I often found myself hearing Gin describe the same types of scenes over and over again. Her enemies were always “sloppy, sloppy, sloppy” and every description of the attractive Detective Caine ended with “Mmm.” While I’ll give you that a good lookin’ man can be mouth watering, I don’t need the blatant reminder every time he pops up. Though I did catch a glimmer of chemistry between Gin and Caine, their awkward exchanges tended to leave me surprisingly uncomfortable and a little squeamish more often than not. How unfortunate. Gin’s story really had the potential for becoming a honest and hard-hitting UF series but Spider’s Bite ultimately failed to deliver on the entertainment front.

    On a side note, I am actually totally digging this cover. In a Urban Fantasy market awash of books that have no relation whatsoever to their story, the cover art for Spider’s Bite is refreshingly accurate, and really eye-catching.

  14. Detra Fitch
    January 30th, 2011 at 11:11 | #14


    Her main cover ID is Gin Blanco. Unknown to all, except an elite few, she is the infamous assassin-for-hire called the Spider. In her down time she works in the Pork Pit, cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, she can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel she walks upon to the Appalachian Mountains.

    The Appalachian Mountains cut through most of the city. It makes for a beautiful place. But looks are deceiving, more often than not. Take Mab Monroe for example. Mab is a young, lovely woman. She is also a powerful Fire elemental. Mab runs this town. Heck, Mab OWNS Ashland. Her true nature is hidden behind fund raisers, charity donations, and winning smiles. Mab never hires assassins, like the Spider, to do her dirty work. Mab prefers to personally deal with anyone stupid enough to cross her. In fact, Mab could kill someone in front of a room filled with cops and walk away without any interference.

    Gin stays out of Mab’s way. The Spider is NOT stupid. She has a few morals left. Gin never kills children or animals. Gin’s handler has chosen her assignments for well over a decade. He is one of the few she trusts with her life. So when an Air elemental double-crosses Gin and kills him, Gin is out for revenge. Gin will find out who is behind it all, one body at a time.

    Detective Donovan Caine is probably the only cop in Ashland that is not corrupted. Donovan wants the Spider dead for personal reasons; however, he agrees to help he assassin for even more personal reasons. But once this is over all promises will be null and void. The Spider will continue her deadly trade and he will do all in his power to arrest the assassin and put her behind bars forever.

    ***** FIVE STARS! Wow! This is the first of a new series featuring the Spider, an assassin-for-hire. I have to sympathize with the reasons of why Gin learned the trade and I admire the few morals she has. Author Jennifer Estep has created a remarkable and very different type of heroine that kept me reading far later into the night than I should have. But watching Detective Caine and the Spider interact reminds me quite a bit of watching Bruce Wayne and the Catwoman on television as a kid. they are very attracted to each other, but on opposite sides of the law. This is one walk on the dark side that I was too tempted to resist! *****

    Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.

  15. K. M. Martin
    January 31st, 2011 at 17:48 | #15


    This is urban fantasy with an over-the-top, tough-as-nails heroine. Gin is an assassin and is inapologetic about it. She is good at it. The money is good. She has her standards — no kids, no pets. Her mentor and handler who took her in off the streets when she was thirteen is encouraging her to retire — but there is always one more job. Only this one goes badly wrong. Gin escapes the double-cross and returns to find that her mentor has been brutally killed by an air elemental. She must team with the only honest police detective in Ashland (who wants to bring her to justice for killing his partner) to try to figure out what is going on and get revenge for the death of her mentor.

    I liked the character of Gin. I found her backstory interesting and moving. The flashbacks to her childhood and the murder of her mother and sisters illuminate her character. I like the mythology of the elementals and other paranormals in this world. The violent scenes were graphic and the sex scenes were very hot. After all, what would be more likely than being hot for the cop who is trying to bring you to justice for the murder of his partner and for him to be hot for you despite his better judgment.

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