Spider’s Revenge: Somebody, just shoot Mab now!

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSpider’s Revenge by Jennifer Estep urban fantasy book reviewsSpider’s Revenge by Jennifer Estep

Spider’s Revenge is the fifth book in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. You probably shouldn’t be coming to this book without reading the previous four books, so I’ll assume you’ve done that already if you’re reading my review. If not, beware of spoilers for the previous books.

In Spider’s Revenge, Gin Blanco finally decides it’s time to kill Mab Monroe, the evil Fire Elemental who destroyed Gin’s family decades ago and is now the crime boss of Ashland Tennessee. I’ve been complaining for a while now that Estep is dragging the plot out by making Gin have to deal with one of Mab’s cronies or minions in each book rather than just taking the shortcut of going after Mab herself. It seems to me that there have been two main plots going on: the first (ostensibly) is Gin’s desire to get revenge on Mab. The second is Gin’s developing personal life which includes new relationships with her boyfriend Owen Grayson and her long-lost sister Bria Coolidge (who Gin thought was dead) and her still-smoldering-under-the-surface feelings for Donovan Caine, the detective who dumped her. This pussyfooting around about Mab felt, to me, like an excuse to put the Mab Plot on hold while Estep focused on Gin’s relationships. Now that Gin’s personal life has stabilized, Estep is ready for her to confront Mab directly. Finally.

Gin keeps telling us she’s the best assassin in the city, but she has a lot of what seems like unnecessary trouble with Mab. Her plots to kill Mab are so complicated and convoluted and there were several times during Spider’s Revenge that I yelled out loud “WOULD SOMEONE JUST TAKE OUT A GUN AND SHOOT MAB NOW?” But no, they have to have an elemental duel and Gin is usually armed only with short (silverstone) knives, so she has to get close enough to stab her enemy. Can she kill Mab this time? I won’t tell…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThere are two main faults with this series. One is that the plot just doesn’t ring true in so many ways. It’s not only Gin’s behavior (e.g. cooking a huge Southern breakfast for her friends while Bria is being tortured and needs to be rescued), but also her enemies and their minions (who are all of the over-the-top evil puppy-killing variety), and the Ashland police. Characters seem to do things the difficult way just because it makes a better story and they lack and/or forget they have devices such as cell phones and guns that could help them get things done more efficiently. As for the police, they hardly do anything and nobody ever calls them for help (such as when their own boss has been captured and will probably be killed). All these things are so difficult to believe, which means that I can’t get lost in the story.

The second fault is, as I keep mentioning, the constant reminders about what’s happened in the past, who people are, what they look like, etc. Much of this uses the same words each time such as when two people look at each other and it’s “violet on grey” (their eye colors). Who could forget that Gin has “chocolate locks” and that Finn’s has “walnut curls” and that Bria’s cheeks are rosy? There’s a formula Estep uses to describe a character each time they show up which seems, if not lazy, then at least unimaginative.

Despite all that, I find that I still want to know what happens to Gin and her friends and even though I get annoyed by the “sloppy, sloppy, sloppy” plot and have to skim past the reminders and rehashes, I keep reading. I think that’s because the audio version I’m listening to is fairly entertaining. Lauren Fortgang does a great job with Estep’s characters. She makes me like Gin; I’m not sure I’d like her if I read her in my own voice. I’m still interested in seeing where Estep goes next with this series.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I read the first one in my own voice (print version) and didn’t like Gin, or the book, at all. These sound like a lot of the same issues. I did like he Elemental aspects, though.

    (And I knew all through book one that the “dead” sister wasn’t dead.)

  2. I thought the first one was good fun, but couldn’t get into any of the later ones. Too many word-tics and not enough change in the plot.

  3. Yeah, I think with a series this specific it’s hard to keep both the overarching plot going, and come up with a book-length story for each one. I give critique, but I don’t know if I could do it.

  4. I enjoyed the first couple despite some issues that made me cringe. After the third it felt like one of those series that is written such that books can continue to be added–rather than a natural story arc or a satisfying conclusion. There were some good things in this series, but not enough to make me keep reading it past book 3.

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