Published 2010 416 pages
Reviewed by Ania Tyburska
Summary (from the book jacket)
What kind of assassin works pro bono?
It's hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.
To the public, I'm Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland's best barbecue joint. To my friends, I'm the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker – Mab's right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I'll take my chances. Then there's Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland's finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I'm a cold-blooded killer… who is about to save her life.
Every Elemental Assassin book begins the same: with a bang. The opening scene is a perfect mixture of suspense, humor and action making it practically impossible not to read on. Venom is not an exception. In the previous part, the main heroine, Gin, decided to dispense with a particularly problematic son of the most prominent of Ashland lawyers and now the said lawyer is trying to reveal the truth. In plain words she gets the crap beaten out of her by the city’s top criminals.
It is not a kind of opening that would endear a first-time reader, so I strongly urge to read the series in order. Only than will you be able to understand how exceptional it is that Gin takes a beating without fighting back. Later the story spins much as expected. There is a friend that needs Gin’s help (this time it is the vampire Rosalynn, but as always the tidbits about other races are very brief and uninformative) and there is an archenemy to kill. The characters introduced in the previous books get all incorporated in the story. The only new addition is detective Bria Coolidge, who in fact is Gin’s long lost sister. Kind of a massive coincidence, don’t you think?
As you probably already guessed the similarity to other books in the series is Venom’s arch vice. The idea that was new in Spider’s Bite and still fresh in Web of Lies started to run its course. The truly successful urban fantasy series tell a story of a character that matures and becomes different because of the things that befall him or her. Gin was most wholesome in the first book. By the third part she starts to be sloppy, blundering her hits and letting the opportunities slide. If it was a conscious endeavor to make her appear more human, it sadly missed its mark. From a highly intelligent and proficient protagonist she turns into a perfectly ordinary young woman. And not in the positive sense of the word.
At least the love story picks up, after the despicably dull Detective Donnovan left town. The new sweetheart for Gin is Owen Grayson, a businessman with a colorful past. He impersonates acceptance and indulgence when it comes to Gin’s secret occupation. He is so perfect, that there is completely no suspense to the relationship. And he is part dwarf. I’m not racist or, rather, speciesist, but that’s kinda off- putting.
So I cannot warm up to male characters in Jennifer Estep’s series and the story lost a bit of its momentum, but still Venom is not a bad book. It’s a fast read and thoroughly satisfying when it comes to elements like action scenes and catchy dialogues. I am just not sure if I will be able to muster enough interest to pick up the next book in the series.
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