Dec 18 2013 4:30pm

First Look: Jennifer Estep’s The Spider (December 24, 2013)

The Spider by Jennifer EstepJennifer Estep
The Spider
Pocket / December 24, 2013 / $7.99 print, $7.59 digital

How did I end up in a career where I always have blood on my hands? Well, let me tell you a story about an assassin who thought she could do no wrong. . . .

Ten years ago. A blistering hot August night. I remember like it was yesterday. The night I, Gin Blanco, truly became the Spider. Killing people is what I do best, especially now that I’ve honed my Ice and Stone magic. But back then, I had yet to learn one very important rule: arrogance will get you, every single time.

This particular job seemed simple: murder a crooked building contractor with ties to ruthless Fire elemental Mab Monroe. My mentor, Fletcher Lane, had some misgivings, but I was certain that I had the situation under control . . . right up until I exposed my weaknesses to a merciless opponent who exploited every single one of them. There’s a reason assassins aren’t supposed to feel anything. Luckily, a knife to the heart can fix that problem, especially when I’m the one wielding it. . . .

For the first time, the origin of Gin Blanco’s career as the deadly assassin “the Spider” is revealed in full, in a story that pre-dates the other nine books in the series.

From the release of book one, Spider’s Bite, readers have been hooked on Jennifer Estep’s tough-as-nails, emotionally stymied assassin, Gin Blanco aka The Spider. Orphaned at an impressionable age, Gin was taken in by Fletcher Lane. Known as The Tin Man, he raised her alongside his son and and taught her how to be the best assassin she could be in preparation for her showdown with the elemental who killed her family.

Through nine books we have followed her career as she strikes from the shadows, using her deadly skills and somewhat skewed moralities to bring justice to those the law can’t or won’t. This is not to say she is a vigilante. For the right price she’ll take anyone out—you just have to convince her they deserve it. We have watched her go from being a solitary lonely figure to having an extensive friend base and a lover with whom she is beginning to build a life despite their dubious start.

The Spider takes place ten years in the past. It opens with Gin receiving a bouquet of unique blue roses at her diner and it brings back memories of an assassination....and a terrible mistake that has haunted Gin for ten years. A mistake that Gin has paid for many times over. When Owen, her lover, asks for the story behind the flowers, Gin begins her tale of deception, betrayal, and revenge.

“It all begins with a girl-a stupid, arrogant girl who thought that she could do no wrong...”

Gin learns a young woman is being abused by her father. Fletcher has been hired to kill the father. Fletcher lets Gin see the files on the job and form her own conclusions. Gin learns the intended target is in bed with Mab Monroe, a mob style elemental, and that in itself pushes her towards the job. She, like Fletcher, has a funny feeling about it all, but her innate need to protect has her pushing her gut instincts aside.

I didn’t have any reservations, hesitations, or misgivings about this job, not a single one, not when a young girl’s life was in danger.

It was interesting to see the differences between the Gin of today and the Gin of the past. The Gin we see today is quiet, deadly, and circumspect. She keeps her friends close and her enemies closer. She is meticulous and always backs herself with plenty of research and information. The Gin of the past was filled with arrogance and bravado. Convinced of her immortality and skills, she was more apt to leap into the fray with her knives swinging. She could do no wrong and wrapped herself in a shield of righteousness. Her tragic past created an overly developed protective instinct that only grows more powerful as she grows older. It’s the Gin of the past who makes a horrible choice that leads her to take an innocent's life, destroy another, and inadvertently help a killer.

I killed an innocent man.

The thought slammed into my gut like a sledgehammer, and I almost got sick right then and there. But once again, I forced myself to choke down the bile in my throat, even though it burned me like acid from the inside out. My head was spinning in a hundred different directions...

When Gin realizes what she has done, Estep doesn't allow her the comfort of excuses or an easy out. She sees first hand what her overzealousness has caused and charges herself with cleaning up the mess she has made.

More guilt roiled in my stomach, along with deep, dark, unending shame at what I’d done. I’d been so cocky, so arrogant, so damn righteous in my desire to kill that I hadn’t thought things through, like Fletcher had wanted me to.
I was such a fool.

Gin’s reasons for her extreme wariness towards men romantically is explained and we now understand why Donovan’s and Owen’s rejections of her were indeed particularly heartbreaking and cruel in her mind.

My world shattered with every single cruel thing he said. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even cry anymore. All I could do was just stand there and feel sicker and sicker at how thoroughly, how totally, how absolutely he’d fooled me.

It’s at that pivotal moment that the Gin of today is born. Forged out of anger, fear, betrayal and shaped by retribution. She has learned her lesson well and now she will be judge, jury and executioner.

Every soft thought, every kind word, every silly, secret hope and hazy, wishful dream. Gone. Incinerated. Obliterated. But in their places rose one thing, stronger than all that I’d felt for him before: a cold, vicious, unending desire to kill him for every low-down, dirty, rotten thing he’d done.

The Spider was an exciting action packed journey down memory lane. It was enlightening to see how Gin came to be the way she is and those who had a hand in making her that way. Clues are given towards the final book and while I will miss this series when it ends, I am thrilled as what Estep has created with Gin Blanco. Fan of strong heroines with hearts of gold will delight in Gin’s latest adventure.

Learn more or order a copy of The Spider by Jennifer Estep, available December 24, 2013:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Tori Benson can be found at Smexybooks and at Twitter.

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