Deadly Sting, the eighth book in the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep, was one of my most anticipated books for 2013. Ever since the end of the original story arc, which resulted in Mab Monroe’s death, I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for something to happen. Gin never seems to be able to catch at break. Since finally killing her arch-enemy Mab, she’s been on the radar of every low life, criminal in Ashland. They all want to be the one who takes the Spider down. At the request of her foster-brother, Finn, she agrees, somewhat reluctantly, to attend a museum gala showcasing all of Mab’s fortune and the reading of her will. Neither can resist the allure of seeing Mab’s ill-gotten gains displayed before all of Ashland’s elite. She even lets Finn talk her into dressing up in a fancy, red dress for the occasion.
While Finn is off talking up important people and romancing clients, Gin runs into Owen and realizes that he is there with a date. A date that happens to look like her and is wearing an identical dress. Poor Gin, her heart has been broken by this man who seemed to be the one who would accept her with all her faults. The cold distance between them for the last several weeks has been hard on her and seeing him with another woman gives her the feeling that they are never going to work things out. Of course, things never go as planned at any event when she’s in attendance and right in the middle of the festivities Owen’s date is in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and is mistaken for the wrong person. The very people who were supposed to be providing security for the night have turned on the crowd and are stealing every bit of art and jewelry in the building.
This installment seemed to be a turning point in the series for me. Almost all the events really happen over one evening. Gin is her usual violent, bloody self, but she also seems more emotionally vulnerable. She and Owen are still on the outs since the ending of Widow’s Web, where she killed Owen’s first love. Everything Gin does is with her family and friend’s safety in mind. She makes the hard choices knowing it’s going to come back and bite her on the ass. Gin may be an assassin better known as the Spider, but she’s first and foremost a protector. She has shown this in each and every book in this series. She’s avenged her families deaths, helped innocents bullied by criminals, won back the love of a sister thought long-lost and tried to keep the family she’s made for herself safe. There are flashbacks to her first killing, and what Fletcher says to her afterward that really give the reader an idea of where her head is at and how she became the person she is today:
A sad smile curved Fletcher’s lips. “I don’t blame you, Gin, and you shouldn’t blame yourself either. It’s just he nature of what we do — of what you do now. But no matter what, remember this: all that really matters in the end is protecting the people you care about, even if they don’t like how you do it, even if they hate you for it. Because I’d rather have somebody alive and hating me than dead and buried, with me knowing that I failed them.”
Gin is on her own for most part, sneaking around, killing the bad guys and trying to discover what is really going on behind the mask of a robbery. She must also save Owen, who the criminals have forced into helping them get into the safe. This brings them into closer contact in the latter part of the book, and even though the chemistry is still there between them, there is also an emotional distance that made me so angry at Owen. For once I would like to see a man give Gin what she needs. She has so many emotional highs and lows, feeling hope at certain moments and then ultimately more heart-break when she is let down again. I didn’t expect them to all of a sudden work their problems out, but I did want more from Owen. I don’t understand how he can be so obtuse over what happened in the last book, how he can still be unsure of his feelings and what he wants to do with his relationship with Gin. I’m really, really hoping he doesn’t go the way of Donovan. I had so much love for Owen for so long that I want him to live up to his potential as Gin’s love.
There are glimpses of all the secondary characters we know and love, mostly Finn, who has to be my favorite of the series. He seems like the only person in Gin’s life who will stand by her no matter what, and do whatever needs to be done to support her. But this is mostly Gin alone, with her thoughts and doing what she does best. She always manages to save the day, but the costs to her physically and to her emotional well-being are usually very painful. At the end I was surprised and excited. I say this is a turning point because I see a new foe on the horizon for Gin and hopefully a second chance at love with the man who should have never left her in the first place.
I’ve been hooked on this series from the first word of the first book. I can’t get enough of this world or these characters and find myself once again eagerly anticipating the next release, Heart of Venom, which has a release date of August 2013. Final Grade: B
“You know, Gin, you really should warm up before you tee off on somebody like that,” Finn murmured. leaning across the counter and staring down at the dwarf. “Wouldn’t want you to pull a muscle or anything.”
“Oh, no,” I sniped, letting go of my Stone magic so that my skin would revert back to its normal texture. “We wouldn’t want that. Have I told you how much I hate shopping?”