Title: Black Widow
Series/Universe: Elemental Assassin #12
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: November 25th 2014
Page Count: 384 pages
Age Rating: Adult (blood, gore, violence, and a semi-explicit sexual scene)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received an ARC to review
Publisher’s page: Black Widow
Lethal, sexy, and always ready to protect her friends, Gin Blanco (a.k.a. the Spider) takes on the mysterious M.M. Monroe in book twelve of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.
There’s nothing worse than a cruel, cunning enemy with time to kill—and my murder to plan. With wicked Fire elemental Mab Monroe long gone, you’d think I could finally catch a break. But someone’s always trying to take me down, either as Gin Blanco or my assassin alter-ago. Now along comes the Spider’s new arch-nemesis, the mysteriously named M. M. Monroe, who is gleefully working overtime to trap me in a sticky web of deceit.
The thing is, I’m not the only target. I can see through the tangled threads enough to know that every bit of bad luck my friends have been having lately is no accident—and that each unfortunate “coincidence” is just one more arrow drawing ever closer to hitting the real bull’s-eye. Though new to Ashland, this M. M. Monroe is no stranger to irony, trying to get me, an assassin, framed for murder. Yet, as my enemy’s master plan is slowly revealed, I have a sinking feeling that it will take more than my powerful Ice and Stone magic to stop my whole life from going up in flames.
Gin Blanco, the badass ice and stone elemental wielding assassin with a seemingly perpetual target on her back, is back in the 12th installment of the Elemental Assassin series. The person targeting Gin this time around is very different from her usual adversaries – M.M. Monroe is calm, confident, and very very cunning, patiently bidding her time and quietly weaving a web of misfortune around Gin and her friends from behind the scenes using all the power money and connections can buy in a town as overrun with corruption as Ashland, and that’s before she even unleashes a drop of the powerful acid magic she has at her finger tips.
The ball takes a while to get rolling (the first 15% or so of the book is pretty much backstory and rehashing of characters and important past events), but once it does it’s a great action-packed and nail-biting ride. Black Widow doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the action/fight scenes- they’re intense and vicious, with some pretty violent and gory deaths littering the pages. One thought that kept popping into my head throughout the book was how incredibly lucky Gin was, despite her claims of “perpetual bad luck”. She gets put in some extremely tight spots and faces some pretty insurmountable odds and yet she comes out on the other side pretty much unscathed (so much so that it started to strain believability to me, but I enjoyed the book so much I just decided not to worry about how extremely fortuitous some of the scenarios were.)
This series really is a must read for lovers of Urban Fantasy, especially if you enjoy a strong female lead. Don’t be intimidated by the number of books in the series; I’ve only read the last two (Poison Promise and Black Widow) and that 15% set aside for rehashing really does a great job of making new or returning readers feel right at home. It’s a really addictive series and I’m already looking forward to the next book (Spider’s Trap, coming out July 28th 2015).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m Team Blanco all the way, but it was the villainess of this book that really pulled focus for me. Immaculately suited with her angelic face, all white ensembles, and matching stilettos, M.M. Monroe calmly spins her web around Gin and her friends, hardly having to lift one of her perfectly manicured, powerful acid magic dripping fingers. Coffee Beanery Caramel Apple is a great compliment to this stand out character – on the surface, the coffee has a rich, sweet caramel flavor, but underneath that is a restrained crisp acidic green apple flavor that is all the more powerful for its subtlety.