Susan’s Book Talk: Venom by Jennifer Estep


I’m posting this here instead of at Rocks ‘n Reads so more of you will see it. Once again, Jennifer Estep has knocked one out of the park. Go pick up Venom, which releases today. Or, heck, pick up the entire Elemental Assassin series.

Sometimes, when you work your way through a series of books, you get the feeling the author wasn’t expecting this or that to happen. That the unfolding series of events is as much a surprise to the writer as it is to you, the reader.

Not so with Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series. This is one of the best plotted series I’ve encountered in years. In other words, as we devour Venom, the latest release in the projected five-book series, there’s a sense that nothing has been left to chance. Everything that happens has a reason, and we’re building to something big, explosive, and Earth-shattering.

Just the way I like it.

In Venom, a number of things are happening. Gin Blanco finds that retirement is a difficult state to remain in. She may not be taking money to do her job, but people still need the skills of her alter ego, the assassin named The Spider. Just because she wants to run a restaurant and take classes at the local community college doesn’t mean people’s lives have gotten any easier.

In fact, as Venom progresses, Gin’s life is getting a bit harder. Her baby sister isn’t just alive, but is the newest hire on the Ashland police force. Bria is replacing Donovan Caine, the man Gin had serious chemistry with but who couldn’t handle her being on the dark side of the law.

Baby sister’s no pushover and her presence, sniffing around Gin as she attempts to figure out what’s going on, quickly becomes constant and reliable. Gin’s not ready to expose their relationship yet — although I do wonder how ignorant Bria truly is. I hope I’m not disappointed in future books and that she’s figured it out.

Also replacing Donovan Caine is a new dude in Gin’s life. The chemistry is there. He knows she’s an assassin. If the weapons he’d forged and hung on his wall are any indication, Owen Grayson could very well be Gin’s soulmate. This man has many mysteries he’s hiding. While some are revealed in Venom, it’s obvious there are many, many more we’ve yet to encounter. Owen has the same delicious potential as baby sister Bria.

Believe it or not, these are merely the subplots. Like I said, the Elemental Assassin series must have been planned out from the get-go, because the heart of this story is that of Roslyn the vampire. She’s found herself, entirely unwillingly, in a relationship she wants no further part of. As those dark secrets are revealed, it’s obvious that Gin is, once again, set on assassinating a truly heinous being. I dare anyone to argue for this low-life’s survival.

As awful as Roslyn’s problem is, it is at the same time a stroke of luck for Gin. This is the opportunity she’s been wishing for: the chance to bring down Mab Monroe and her city-wide-controlling operation. Oh, Gin’s not going to effect this downfall in one fell swoop. Nope. That’s where the beauty of Estep’s plotting comes in. This opportunity to help Roslyn becomes the first step in achieving Gin’s ultimate goal. As the series unfolds over the next two books, we’ll get to watch what happens. Will it succeed, will it fail… we don’t know. It could easily go either way.

That’s because Estep isn’t afraid to put her characters on the hook. She lets them get beat up (as Gin does in the opening scene of Venom). They take their lumps. By doing this, Estep creates the niggling sense that maybe Gin won’t have a happily ever after — at least, not in the way Gin’s envisioning it.

And as readers, we eat up that uncertainty. We need to keep reading. We need to know. And we agonize that book four in the series, Tangled Threads, won’t be out for another six months.

Overall, Estep’s dark world continues to both fascinate and feel like a familiar place we take refuge from our own lives in. This is a world where vampires go out during the day, where Giants are real people, and Dwarfs are infused with good magic. It’s a world of possibility. And by creating an assassin, not only does Estep get to play with the big moral questions, she allows us to wish we could be Gin. Just long enough to turn into the Spider and … take care of … things… ourselves.

Venom. You’re not surprised to hear this, but it’s a West of Mars recommended read.



  1. Mary (BookHounds)

    September 28, 2010 1:04 pm

    RAWR — Well said, Susan. I love the fact that there are no typical stereotypes in this story.
    .-= Mary (BookHounds)´s last blog ..GIVEAWAY! BLOG TOUR &amp REVIEW- Simply Irresistable by Jill Shalvis =-.

  2. Cindi

    September 28, 2010 1:06 pm

    It’s on my to do list this week. Buy Venom! 🙂 I LOVE this series.

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