Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep

Tangled ThreadsMs. Estep was kind enough to send me an advance copy of the fourth book in her Elemental Assassin series to review, so I'm here to give you the early buzz on Tangled Threads.

Gin Blanco's arch-enemy, Mab Monroe, has hired another professional assassin, from a family of assassins (Like the Flying Wallendas?) to kill The Spider. The assassin is also a woman, called LaFleur, and uses a variant on air elemental skills, electrocution, as well as her formidable physical skills, to make her kills. Gin is investigating one of Mab's drug dealing minions down by the docks when the first trap is set, but her gut instinct tells her there's something wrong with the setup, and she witnesses LaFleur murder the hapless fool who is bait for the snare.

So now Gin and her friends must figure out how to take down LaFleur before she kills Gin. Gin begins to investigate, and finds out that one of the bartenders at Northern Exposure, Vinnie, an immigrant from the Soviet bloc, has been passing information along to Monroe. Monroe kidnaps his daughter, and Gin's need to save the innocent complicates things further.

LaFleur is, if not romantically, sexually involved with one of Mab's lieutenants whose son Gin killed in an earlier book, and he convinces the assassin to kill Gin Blanco, the restaurant owner, as well, only on the grounds that she had a run-in with his son earlier in which he lost face. So Gin is a target for two reasons, though none of the bad guys knows she is The Spider. Mab also has reasons to want Gin's sister, the policewoman, dead, and Gin also needs to find a way to protect her baby sister, Bria.

Gin's relationship with Owen Grayson goes through some evolution in this volume. It becomes apparent to her eventually that he's not put off by her alter ego and is more than eager to help in her crusade against the Monroe mob. We see some hope that Gin might once again feel loved and part of a "family" again.

One of the things I wondered about while reading this book was exactly how Gin gets trained in her elemental magic. In one scene, she creates some delicate lockpicks out of ice, but most of the time she just uses the brute force approach or creates knives out of ice. There's a bit where an ice elemental bartender at Northern Aggression creates the entire bar setup out of ice, and keeps it maintained with his magic. It seems like Gin might have wanted to consult with him for some tips. She doesn't seem to spend time with any ice elementals, at least as it's mentioned in the books, and I just wonder how she could go about perfecting her skills.

In fact, none of the elementals in these books really seem to do a whole lot more with their magic than create some huge blast of power to battle with other elementals, or temporarily raise the power to intimidate someone. One exception is Gin's friend, the dwarven healer, who seems to be able to do quite delicate healing and cosmetic surgery with her power. Shouldn't Gin spend more time with her, at least understanding the principles of control, even if it's a different element? All Jo-Jo seems to say to her is basically, "you are strong in the Force, young Skywalker".

Another thing that I thought was odd was that Gin has, throughout the books, used her stone elemental power to check her surroundings for evil intent. Even when she enters her own home, she checks the stones, and is able to determine that no one has come around while she's gone with an intent to do her harm. But at one point in the book, when she checks the pavement around her restaurant, the Pork Pit, she detects no bad vibes. A little later on, we discover that the assassin, LaFleur, had been around to check the place out. Why couldn't Gin detect that?

Overall, a great book, and I'm hoping to see the next book, Spider's Revenge, soon

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