Black Widow Author: Jennifer Estep Series: Elemental Assassin 12 Publisher: Pocket Books, November 25, 2014 Format: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages List Price: $7.99 (print) ISBN: 9781476774541 (print) Review copy: Provided by the Publisher
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.
I discovered Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series last spring, and I only caught up to her writing when Poison Promise came out. So I was very excited when I received Black Widow for review. For most of the earlier novels, Gin Blanco’s nemesis was Mab Monroe, the queen of the Ashland underworld, but Gin put an end to her and thought she was finished with threats to her family and herself. Even after ending the next contender for the crown in the last novel, Gin cannot rest on her laurels. As revealed in the last novel, the mysterious M. M. Monroe is actually Madeleine Magda Monroe, Mab’s daughter, and this novel shows that she is just as evil and cunning as her mother, if not more so.
With the unusual elemental power of Acid, Madeleine also may even be stronger than her mother, and Gin’s Stone and Ice powers may not be enough to stop her from taking control of the Ashland underworld. However, it is when Madeleine attacks Gin’s family, surreptitiously causing problems for those she loves, Gin decides that things have come to a head, and she begins to take action against Madeleine.
With Estep’s usual mixture of action and characterization, Black Widow speeds along to its finish. There were several points where I worried whether Gin could actually get out of the fixes that Madeleine set. However, as usual, Gin is able to save the day.
There is a significant twist at the end of Black Widow, one which I did not see coming; however, I felt it was resolved much too quickly. Estep had several directions that she could have taken with the reveal, but chose to use what I would consider a “Deus ex machina” to determine the matter. I can appreciate the major decision that Gin ultimately makes, and it is totally in character with Gin herself, but I just felt there was more that could be done. I hope that Estep revisits the issue that she set up and takes the story further.
All in all, Black Widow was another galloping read that adds to the myth surrounding Gin Blanco. The teaser for the next Elemental Assassin novel, Spider’s Trap, is excellent, and I cannot wait for it's release.