Book Review: Jennifer Estep, The Spider’s Trap

Posted August 10, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review:  Jennifer Estep, The Spider’s Trap

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Spider's Trap by Jennifer Estep
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Pocket Books on July 28, 2015
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

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One important lesson I’ve learned in the assassination business is that to be the best you have to roll with the punches. Now that I’m queen of Ashland’s underworld—by default, not by choice—a lot more punches are being thrown my way. But I suppose that’s the price of victory for taking down some of the underworld’s top dogs. Good thing I have my Ice and Stone magic to help me survive my volatile new position. Just when I think things are finally settling down, someone tries to murder me during a hush-hush underworld meeting. But the real surprise is how strangely familiar my shadowy assailant seems to be.

My job is to maintain order among killers, crooks, and thieves, and soon I’m embroiled in a bloody game where the ability to keep secrets could be the greatest superpower of all. My enemies have all sharpened their knives and laid their traps, waiting for me to fall. But this Spider weaves her own webs of death…

Also by this author: Killer Frost, Black Widow, Dark Heart of Magic, Bitter Bite, Unraveled, "Nice Guys Bite", Bright Blaze of Magic, Snared, Kill the Queen, "Winter's Web", Last Strand, Sharpest Sting, "Unwanted"

Thirteenth in the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series and revolving around Gin Blanco, a not-so-secret assassin and the current queen of the underworld. It’s been a few weeks since Black Widow, 12. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Elemental Assassin books on my website.

This ARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Pocket Books for an honest review.

My Take

This starts out hilariously with a “peaceful” mediation Gin is supposed to preside over between two of the crime lords. Gin is itchin’ to “simplify everything”, but Silvio reckons it could send the wrong message, lol. That itch gets scratched and simply proves how much better Gin is than the rest. I do love this about her. She is so incredibly competent. And, thank god, she knows enough to eat even if she isn’t hungry!

The bad however is how many of the bosses want to “talk” to her. Nope, they really do want to talk.

I do enjoy the food descriptions in the Elemental Assassin series. It gets my taste buds tingling and thinking about barbecue, coleslaw, pie, that pumpkin cheesecake…yum. Then there are those breakfasts Gin cooks up…sorry, I’ll have to stop for a minute or twenty and go make myself some French toast. Back in a bit.

Estep builds the question as she keeps pushing the symbolism of Lorelei’s disdain for Gin. I think she’s emphasized it too much, although the final reveal at the end was very interesting and sheds yet more light on Gin’s and Lorelei’s back history.

Estep also builds in the tension as she slowly unveils Gin’s memory, a memory of why that mace seems so familiar. It drove me nuts having to wait to find out every last bit of the back history, and it was quite effective in pushing me to race through the story!

I am curious as to why Gin didn’t simply throw the bomb. Why jump in with it? Get one of the giants to throw it if you need distance. Yeah, Estep does give a reason later, but I still wonder.

Oh, please. Now. Later. Pike would have caught up to her. I don’t see how Gin or her friends had any effect on what’s happening now. Hmmm, I’m thinking I may be wrong in this assessment. It was Fletcher’s fault if any. I don’t understand… No, actually, I do understand why Fletcher wants to hold to his own sense of what’s right, but the boy is not the type to get better with age.

I also wonder about the crooks who interpret the world around themselves so weirdly. Why is it okay to hurt, abuse, and torture someone, but when their victim strikes back, it’s not okay? A different wonder is why Gin didn’t think about how Pike’s metal magic would affect her knives. Over and over. Seems careless of such a skilled assassin. I did like the sound of those ice guns, though.

It’s a nasty bit of back history about one of the pro bono jobs Fletcher did to rescue a young girl and her mother. I will never understand someone like Renaldo.

It’s tense with the certain possibility of death. It’s dramatic as Gin finds herself outmatched. — and I loved the response Pike’s daughter gave that jerk. Taunting him with her true thoughts. Her speech at the end was another pip. And exactly RIGHT.

Chases, assassination attempts — some really spectacular ones! — fake waiters, bombs, fancy tea parties, and the trap that had me both surprised and relieved.

That final battle had my heart racing, especially with all those misses earlier.

Bless your heart…

The Story

It’s a nagging feel that accompanies Gin. There’s something about this dark element that feels so familiar. She knows she’s the target, heck, what’s changed? She simply keeps rolling with the punches as the crime lords of Ashland try to take her down. But Gin thought she had made it painfully clear that no one touches her family or friends. Obviously not clear enough.

Imagine her surprise when she learns the truth of those attacks…

The Characters

Gin Blanco was outed as The Spider, an extremely successful assassin with Stone and Ice elemental talents. Fletcher Lane was her mentor, a highly successful assassin, and Finn’s father. Finnegan Lane is also Gin’s foster brother, a snappy dresser *eye roll*, a ladies’ man, and a natural schmoozer. Detective Bria Coolidge (her talent is Ice) is Gin’s little sister, and one of the few cops in Ashland who isn’t crooked. And she appears to have tamed Finn!

Owen Grayson, a Metal elemental, is Gin’s lover. Eva is Owen’s little sister. Violet is her best friend, and she lives up at Country Daze with her grandfather.

The Pork Pit is…
…Gin’s barbecue joint left to her by Fletcher. Catalina Vasquez is one of the waitresses (Poison Promise, 11) and Silvio’s niece. Sophia Deveraux is a dwarf Goth, also with an Air talent like her sister Jo-Jo. Only Sophia uses her to “clean up”. She’s the Pork Pit’s cook. Jolene “Jo-Jo” Deveraux is a dwarven Air elemental who uses her talent to heal Gin’s wounds (must be a daily sort of thing the way Gin gets in trouble) and runs a beauty salon. The laid-back Rosco is Jo-Jo’s basset hound. Cooper Stills, another Air elemental, is a dwarf blacksmith and Jo-Jo’s beau. He was also Owen’s mentor.

Silvio Sanchez, vampire and former mob, is Gin’s personal assistant (see Poison Promise) with a love for lists and research. Phillip Kincaid runs the Delta Queen, a luxe riverboat-cum-casino and a friend of Gin and Owen’s. Gustav is Phillip’s cook.

Ashland PD
Xavier, a giant, is Bria’s partner, and he’s in love with Roslyn Phillips, a vampire, who runs the Northern Aggression nightclub. Dr. Ryan Colson is the honest coroner. The first two are friends of Gin’s while the latter is a supporter.

Ashland’s underworld bosses include…
Dimitri Barkov and Luis Ramos who are the crime lords in conflict while Jade Jamison is a madam who is both leery of Gin’s reign and has information for her. Harold Smith is staying at the Blue Moon Hotel. Emery Slater had been M.M. Monroe’s bodyguard and right-hand woman in Black Widow, 12, with a major hate-on for Gin.

Lorelei Parker is a smuggler who owns the coin laundries in contention. She’s never let on about her own talent: Ice. Jack Corbin is her right-hand man. Mallory Parker is a dwarf, a smuggler who clawed her way up as a grande dame of society, and Lorelei’s many greats-grandmother. She does have some good advice for Gin.

Raymond Pike is incredibly strong with his Metal element and so very much like his father. Renaldo Pike is a vicious brutal Metal elemental married to Lily Rose Pike whom he abused horribly. Laura was Lily’s mama.

There’s an Ice elemental named Deirdre Shaw, Finn’s mother.

Peggy and Fred are hotel guests who get lucky. Delilah loves her horses and bores on about them.

The Cover and Title

The cover is dark. Dark green, deep grays, black with Gin in a fitted black T, its back cut out like a spider’s web, a nice bit of symbolism that reinforces the title, which is Gin’s own plans, The Spider’s Trap. It’s also the trap Gin herself falls into. Every. Single. Time.

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