What's next for Gin Bianco? I asked this before, and one book after we still remain with the same question, wondering where Jennifer Estep is taking this series next. It seems like for the time being the author is content with using the stage built in that initial arc and writing some standalone thrillers with a bigger focus on relationship developments. Widow's Web doesn't necessarily answer the question above, but by the end of the novel I can assure you there'll be a more pressing question looming as for the future of our favorite assassin.
Gin Bianco is still adjusting to life as a retired assassin, while people are still trying to make a name for themselves by taking her out, the Spider. Despite all that, she seems happy for once. She's surrounded herself with family and friends, and someone who loves her for who she is. Things quickly take a turn for the worst when an old acquaintance of the Graysons, and also of a crime boss who hires Gin with a hidden agenda to cater at one of his parties, comes to town with aspirations of taking back what is owed to her, including that with Gin holds dear.
Widow's Web was a bit different than all the previous novels in the Elemental Assassin series. It was more drama oriented than the novel's predecessors, and the action was more limited. It was surprising to find that this novel was one of my favorites in the series despite this. More surprising when you consider that most of the drama centered on relationship problems between Gin and Owen, and as some of you may know, it's not what I'm looking for when reading a novel. Yet, I found it to my liking. Estep created some great tension that lasted the length of the novel, which kept the pages turning.
The action was more of the manipulative sort. It's a new type of fight for Gin, who's used to cutting throats to solve her problems. With all that said, when there's action it's great as always. There's one particular scene that was quite awesome, quite eye-popping. Let's just say that The Legend of Korra would be wise to steal some of Estep's ideas for waterbenders. Worth mentioning that in the last few novels I've been noticing Gin relying on some powerful weapons to help her get an advantage over her more powerful enemies, or rather just noticing a tendency towards using them. I not sure I'm liking this development since part of what has made Gin great is her cunning use of her simple weapons combined with her fighting expertise, and later supported with her growing elemental powers. So I don't think we need to rely on the crutch of powerful weapons to get her out of jams. That said, it was interestingly used in this one, and maybe it's a one shot deal.
The book itself focused more on the Graysons' past, their untold history, their struggles of how they came to be as they are now. Some reveals are made about past friendships and enemies, and how they affect the present and the possible future. More importantly, the context of what all these revelations mean for Gin who's placed right in the thick of things and walking on eggshells as to be as supportive as possible with all those concerned. In typical Spider fashion, it'll be up to her to take it upon herself to make the difficult choices, and face the consequences with her head-up, whichever they may be.
I feel Estep is improving as a writer as I've stated previously. A well marked growth since Spider's Revenge. I still think that references to previous events in prior novels can be minimized even more. We're getting frequent releases, so events are still quite fresh and the story are easy to follow and characters easy to remember. Events are easily inferred otherwise. Nothing that I found bothersome though. The flashback sequences were much better balanced this time around, so I'm glad for that at least. But all around, I feel the best written of the bunch.
Plot-wise, nothing really surprised me as far a mystery and revelations went. Many of the things were well implied through the narrative before they came to pass. But I need to keep reminding myself, this story is not about the mystery, it's about the thrill and I'm glad that Gin is a smart character, so even when you recognize something, Gin's quick to point it out soon after. I think the most surprising things came with the decisions Estep took to shake things a bit on pretty much all aspects of Gin's relationships. She was getting a bit too comfy, so it was time to rock the boat a bit. There'll be some frustration for some readers regarding some characters, but I thought it was handled quite well.
Some new characters were introduced, or better some were re-introduced. They were great, fitting right in seamlessly with what has been established, and added new entertaining dynamics. Will be curious on their role going forward, particularly on how they'll influence Gin.
I think I'll leave it at that as talking about the book further will telegraph too much of what went on through the novel. I'd like to point out though that I'd like to see this series take next logical step in developing a storyline that goes beyond the relationship drama and the self-contained stories. This is a rich world, full of possibilities, and there's room for something fresh to really take this series to a new level. The villain this time around was a good one, quite the psycho which served the purpose as both a powerful enemy and someone who managed to change the status quo in Gin's personal life. Even so, I would like to get the impression that something bigger is at foot, but we'll see.
Once again Jennifer Estep has delivered an entertaining installment in the Elemental Assassin series. Widow's Web, while still having the good action sequences, delivered on the strongest interpersonal plot so far in the series. I'm sure that fans of the series will be pleased with this installment and will anticipate the next one eagerly; Deadly Sting is up next.
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Please visit Jennifer Estep's website for more information and short stories set in the Elemental Assassin universe.