Review: Widow’s Web by Jennifer Estep

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I’ve loved Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series for years, yet for some reason had a long pause after book 6. I think, perhaps, for me, the urgency had gone – major villain of the series dealt with, heroine in an apparently perfect relationship with a great guy, and still kicking ass. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bored with the series, I just wasn’t in quite so big a rush. Then I came across all the new books in the series that had come out, and felt badly left behind, so I bought book 7, Widow’s Web – and wasn’t remotely sorry!

If you haven’t come across the Elemental Assassin series, it’s set in a sort of parallel word, in the city of Ashland which is riddled with corruption and crime – and populated by magical beings like vampires, dwarves and giants as well as by ordinary humans. Some of these humans are not so ordinary, of course: a few have magical power drawn from particular elements like stone, air, fire and ice. Like Gin, who has both stone and ice magic to add to her formidable strength.

Gin Blanco is the kick-ass heroine of the series and Jennifer Estep’s talent shines through here by making us love what should be an irredeemably bad character: Gin kills people for money and she’s quite up front and unapologetic about it – and since she’s the first person narrator, she gets lots of opportunities for black humour. Perhaps it’s this mixture of honesty and humour that first endears her to the reader, even before you know her tragic back-story, her unique code of conduct and her strength of character. Gin is a great character and I’d missed her. Coming back to her in Widow’s Web was a delightful catching up with an old friend.

I also particularly enjoyed Salina, the villain of this book – you just know you’re going to love seeing her get what’s coming to her at Gin’s lethal hands. But more than this, there are interesting parallels between her childhood and Gin’s, which Gin acknowledges and which sew a hint of rare sympathy with her. Salina isn’t just evil, she’s mentally ill, and (probably) made so by the same cruelty that tore Gin’s life apart. To some extent at least, what Salina has become isn’t Salina’s fault. And we know she’s capable of love, because she loves Owen, Gin’s lover, with a blind, obsessive passion.

Yes, Owen… Maybe Owen was too perfect in the previous books. After Donovan, I was delighted that Gin had found such a strong, supportive and understanding man who wasn’t even remotely boring. But in Widow’s Web you do want to punch him occasionally. Everyone has their blind spots, and Salina, Owen’s ex, is his. Fortunately, he doesn’t undergo a complete and highly unlikely character change; his blindness is believable and there is a certain amount of tension in wondering whether or not it can be overcome. But an ominous note runs through this book; we know Salina’s return is going to change Gin and Owen’s relationship; we’re just not sure how.

And I’m not going to tell you  :). But I am going to read the next book in the series – very, very soon!

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