Venom is one of those books I've been not-so-patiently waiting for. I am not so much like Gin when it comes to patience. Gin was originally given her symbol, her rune, because of her patience. Spiders have to be patient - they have to weave their web with attention to detail so it will hold up against whatever flies into it, then they must sit at the edge of the web waiting for their prey, and then they must wait for their prey to get sufficiently bound in their web before they finally make their move. Gin is good at that, laying her web, making her plan, and then slowly and carefully executing her plan.
Books one and two in the Elemental Assassin series introduced us to Gin, let us fall in love with her, and then told us her history. We've also met Mab, and we've met some pretty powerful elementals who aren't anywhere near as strong as Mab. We know that eventually Gin and Mab are going to have to duel it out, and that when it happens it has the potential energy behind it to take down half of the city.
But until that happens, Gin is going to continue working in the shadows, like a Spider. Before I go much further, here's the blurb:
It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances. Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer … who is about to save her life.
Yes, you read that correctly. Gin's sister Bria comes to town and joins the force as a detective. Someone had to take Donovan's job once he left, right?
Venom is an E Ride, taking us on several emotional rollercoasters as well as a whole lot of physical rollercoasters in the form of action scenes and fight scenes.
Donovan forced some of the "good vs bad" discussion into previous books, and now Gin's memory of Donovan continues to make her think of things the way he would have. Venom gives us a whole lot more of Owen Grayson though, and I have to say that I like him so much better than Donovan. I think we see Finn more in this book than in any of the others, and we also get plenty of the Deveraux sisters. We even get a bit of a peak into how Sophia cleans things up. I have a feeling that what Gin learns about that is going to come into play in a future book. Some of it felt like pretty strong foreshadowing to me.
The plot was perfect. It was a plot that was entirely wrapped up within this book, but that sets the stage for the next book (and probably a few books after that, as well). No cliffhangers, but I can't wait for the next two books.
Pacing was also well done. Some books are nonstop action and the pacing wears you out with the action. There were enough places where the characters had to stop to plan, or to regroup, or to wait for the next step, that this wasn't the case with Venom. There is a lot of action, but it is well paced.
Prose and dialogue are also skillfully written. Character development is as well crafted as the worldbuilding. I am attached to these characters. I am invested in what happens to them.
I think that's all of the writing elements: plot, pacing, prose, dialogue, character development, and world-building. Each of them with very high marks.
I have one teeny tiny concern about future books, but I'm not sure how to say it without a possible spoiler, so I'll hide it in spoiler text. Gin appears to be setting herself up as some sort of Batman, or even (heh) Spiderman. Well, not herself, but her alterego, The Spider. She owns a barbecue joint by day and saves the town at night. It's not what she set out to do, but taking out Mab's people and then taking out Mab will help wipe out so much of the corruption in Ashland, and like Batman's Gotham City, that is certainly what the city needs. Gin isn't doing it for the city, she wants to take out Mab for personal reasons, but the end result is still going to make her appear as a superhero. I love this series, it is rapidly becoming one of my favorites, and don't want it to turn into something that resembles a Batman story. (Select the spoiler text to view it.)
And now, something I loved. First, let me say that Ashland is a fictional city set in the area where Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina come together. I had some friends who used to live in Mountain City, so I'm familiar with the general area. I've also spent a ton of time in Knoxville, Gatlinburg, and Asheville, though I live more in the southern areas of Tennessee. I have seen bits of Bristol in Ashland, and some things that remind me of Asheville. Once or twice the descriptions have evoked visions of Knoxville, though I'm not as sure of that. I love her descriptions of the way the city is nestled in the mountains, and her descriptions of the mountains and the terrain. Much of that truly does remind me of Asheville. In Venom we have some of the action happening on the Delta Queen, which is currently based in Chattanooga. I've actually spent a bit of time on the Delta Queen in the past couple of months, and while I didn't recognize all of her descriptions (she does take license to change things when needed for the story, which is okay), I recognized enough. Very cool.
I've given both Spider's Bite and Web of Lies a 10 of 10. Venom easily gets a 10 of 10 as well, which means the Elemental Assassin series is also at a 10 of 10.
- Book Rating:Venom: 10 of 10
- Series Rating: 10 of 10
You can read blurbs and excerpts for the books in the Elemental Assasin series at Jennifer Estep's website.
1. Spider's Bite
2. Web of Lies (May 25, 2010)
3. Venom (September 28, 2010)
4. Tangled Threads (April 26, 2011)