Series Spotlight: Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep
I just finished a massive re-read of every novel, novella, and short story of the Elemental Assassin series. Actually, I listened to most of it, since all seventeen novels and one novella are available in audio. It was fabulous! I just love Gin and the gang and all the justice she brings to Ashland and beyond.
Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Cover: Tony Mauro
Description (from Goodreads): The Elemental Assassin series focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin code-named the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Invested Ivana says…
Seventeen novels and ten novellas/shorts make for a lot of time to invest in a series. But long series are perfect for a reader like me who invests heavily in the characters and their lives. Every new book is a chance to visit with my friends, and I always want to know what happens next in their lives because happily-ever-after just doesn’t happen. If you haven’t invested in the series yet, or have just dipped your toe into a book or two, here are some observations about the series that you might want to know.
Ashland is the Gotham City of the South.
By that, I mean that Gin’s world is governed by the rules, not of reality, but of graphic novels. Picture any Batman movie–Ashland, like Gotham City, is chock full of bad guys and their thugs/minions–probably more baddies than regular folk. And some of the “baddies” are actually the good guys! Though there is no Penguin, Catwoman, or Riddler, there is a mix of super-human citizens–giants, dwarves, vampires, and those with elemental magic–who, for the most part, are just as “human” as anyone else but with a few physical bonuses.
The world is highly stylized, with individuals and businesses identifying themselves via runes placed on everything from business cards to jewelry to kitchen decorations. Plus, some villains go in for a theme, dressing themselves, their minions, and their environments like Wild West cowboys, 1920-era mobsters, Renaissance-fair actors, etc. Thugs and minions are killed in droves, but their deaths are of consequence only if they drive the plot forward. Secrets are revealed from beyond the grave as though the deceased had uncanny prescience, and the elimination of each opponent brings a bigger, badder villain forward. And, of course, there are wildly wealthy people everywhere.
While the characters, their motivations, and their relationships are fully fleshed out, rich, and realistic, the sett
ing follows its own rules, similar to those of Gotham City. Understanding those rules allows your suspension-of-disbelief skills to flourish, and you’ll enjoy the story that much more.
There are three main story arcs (so far).
The other day, I was chatting with a friend who was criticizing long series for being “repetitive and formulaic.” Though I understand her point, I argue that it depends on WHICH STORY you’re focused on. As with all good TV and book series, there is the episodic story — each book or short — and there is the story arc — the events that tie a whole season together. I love story arcs. A well-written series pulls me from book to book because there is a compelling arc. Each episode fleshes out the characters, deepens relationships, introduces new players, and gives the characters new knowledge or skills that lead them toward the completion of the arc. Now, I admit that those arcs can be more obvious when you “binge” a series, like I just did. That is why I love rereading books; I get to see how all the pieces fit together toward the story arc. Some readers just don’t have that kind of patience with or invest that much in series, and that’s fine. Stand-alone novels, duologies, and trilogies are made for those kinds of readers.
From what I can see, there are three main story arcs in the Elemental Assassin series. The first five books or so deal with Gin’s back story and her nemesis. The next seven or so books explore the back stories of some of the other main characters while dealing with the consequences of the first arc, including a successor villain that turns the tables on Gin’s world view a bit. This arc may seem a bit meandering to some readers, but new characters are introduced, existing characters are fleshed out, and everything we learn about them pays off in the end. The final arc is in progress at the time of this writing, and I can already tell it’s going to be amazing. After finishing the most recent novel (Venom in the Veins), I’m on the seat of my pants to see what Gin finds out next!
Taken individually, each book is about Gin and her friends solving a mystery and fighting a bad guy, and I guess you could call that repetitive and formulaic if you want. But each episode adds something to the story arc, and that arc is what compels me.
The entire series takes place in a short amount of time.
Though the series has been in progress since 2010, far less than nine years have passed in book time. My best guess is that the whole series takes place over two to three years or so, not counting a couple of “flashback” stories. I want to say there have been two Christmas parties since the first novel — one at Owen’s and one at the Pork Pit (Jennifer–correct me if that’s wrong!) It would be interesting to see a calendar layout marked with the time frame for each book.
It can be hard for readers to keep “book time” and real time separate while reading a series, but it can often help put some things in perspective if you remember how little time has passed in Ashland since we first met Gin.
The audiobook version is fantastic.
If you’re an audiobook fan, you should know that Lauren Fortgang is superb at portraying Gin and all the characters of Ashland. I understand that the appeal of narrators’ voices can be subjective, so take that for what it’s worth, but not only do I find Fortgang fantastic, but after seventeen novels, she is SO totally ingrained in my head as the voice of the Elemental Assassin series. Unfortunately, that made listening to the only novella in audio, Nice Guys Bite, narrated by David Marantz, difficult. Marantz is a fine narrator, but he’s not “the” narrator for this series, and audiobook listeners feel strongly about the continuity of narrators.
So I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Audible for producing Venom in the Veins using Lauren Fortgang even though Pocket dropped the Elemental Assassin series (WTF, Pocket?) and Venom in the Veins was self-published (also thank you to Jennifer and to Tony Mauro for maintaining the continuity of cover art!) I also hope that someday, when publishing rights can all be arranged without breaking the bank, Jennifer can publish an anthology or two of all the shorts and novellas and that Audible will produce them with Fortgang as narrator. Because of Fortgang’s performance, Elemental Assassin is one of those series I’d rather hear than read.
Feeling like there’s no justice in this world? Gin can help!
Hopefully, my observations about the series will spark your interest in reading, re-reading, or listening to Elemental Assassin. But if not, here’s one that might: vicarious bloody justice. Right now, our world feels like Gotham City — full of wealthy, corrupt villains who too often get away with their evil deeds. Even well-adjusted, non-sociopaths need to indulge in a revenge-fantasy or two just to stay sane.
Reading the Elemental Assassin series is a socially-acceptable way to exercise your revenge fantasies. Assassin Gin Blanco goes after those wealthy, manipulating, corrupt, exploiting, entitled asshats, stabs them with her knives, and bathes in their blood. So the next time you feel oppressed by the wealthy, cheated by politicians, or angered by the news, crack open an Elemental Assassin book and let Gin take down the baddies for you.
Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 5/6/2018
Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip. Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.
We certainly have some books for you today! Things are exciting around here – not only has spring arrived but there is a super deal out there for a fabulous author, Laura Bickle.
Laura Bickle created one of my favorite characters ever. Sparky, a salamander familiar and elemental, is half the investigation team with Anya Kalinczyk being the other half. If you want a super read, check this out: Anya Kalinczyk series.
In more recent publishing is Laura’s series, Dark Alchemy also known as Wildlands series . The news this week is that this series is on sale as Kindle Monthly Deals for May! Each price pointed at .99, a person can hardly go wrong with that entertainment value!
Title: Dark Alchemy
Author: Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #1
Released: March 24, 2015
Publisher’s description: Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.
Title: Mercury Retrograde
Author: Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #2 (or Wildlands series)
Released: October 27, 2015
Publisher’s description: Something venomous has come to Temperance …
It’s been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance’s resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.
Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don’t want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters’ own murderous skills.
Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival. With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.
LOOK OUT! Owl is on the adventure path again!! Also, Kristi Charish is a B & N spotlight pick! How exciting is that?? What that means is that you can get Owl and the Japanese Circus, Adventures of Owl #1, for $1.99 until Monday, May 7, 2018!! Take this series for a spin –
Title: Owl and the Tiger Thieves
Author: Kristi Charish
Series: Adventures of Owl series #4
To Be Released: May 7, 2018
Publisher’s description: In this fourth Owl novel, Kristi Charish (The Voodoo Killings) melds sparkling fantasy with the grit of urban underbelly—with a detour through the world’s most spectacular cities. This is perfect for fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and fantasy lovers everywhere.
Through no fault of her own, Alix has found herself essential to the fate of the world as we know it. She didn’t mean for this to happen—she was quite happy being merely the notorious antiquities thief, and ex-archeologist, known as Owl.
However, years ago, Owl reluctantly entered the secret world of the supernatural. Her goals: complete one job, escape one bounty on her head, continue her thieving in peace.
Fast forward to today. Now, she has become a key player in a brutal paranormal civil war that is rapidly getting out of hand. The leader of one of these factions—a lethal opponent called the Electric Samurai—grows more powerful by the second. To stop him, Owl sets out to find the long-lost, legendary group known as the Tiger Thieves.
But will it be too little too late? One thing Owl misses about “normal” archaeology: there are few emergencies with thousand-year-old relics.
HOLD ON TIGHT!! Here comes Harry Dresden! Whoo! Hooo!
Title: Brief Cases
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: Dresden Files #15.1
TO BE RELEASED: June 5, 2018
Publisher’s description: An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard.
The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue–and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.
From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.
With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.
The collection includes:
* “Curses”, from THE NAKED CITY, edited by Ellen Datlow
* “AAAA Wizardry”, from the Dresden Files RPG
* “Even Hand”, from DARK AND STORMY KNIGHTS, edited by P. N. Elrod
* “B is for Bigfoot”, from UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT
* “I was a Teenage Bigfoot”, from BLOOD LITE 3: AFTERTASTE, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
* “Bigfoot on Campus”, from HEX APPEAL, edited by P. N. Elrod. Republished in WORKING FOR BIGFOOT.
* “Bombshells”, from DANGEROUS WOMEN, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
* “Jury Duty”, from UNBOUND, edited by Shawn Speakman
* “Cold Case”, from SHADOWED SOULS, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes
* “Day One”, from UNFETTERED II, edited by Shawn Speakman
* “A Fistful of Warlocks”, from STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, edited by David Boop
* “Zoo Day” – brand-new novella, original to this collection
DO YOU NEED AN ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN FIX? Jennifer Estep will be self-publishing Venom in the Veins, Elemental Assassin #17. Aren’t we all so happy for self publishing! We’d all be stuck holding the bag if the publishers got their way about some series! Anyway, here is what Jennifer has to say about her new book.
Print book: The print book won’t be available to order until release day, June 12. I’ll share those links as soon as they are online. The price will be $14.99.
The print book will NOT be stocked in your local bookstore so you will have to order it online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, the print book will be trade paperback size—not the smaller mass market size as the previous books in the series.
Audiobook: There will be an audiobook, and the awesome Lauren Fortgang will once again be the narrator. I’ll share more info about the audiobook as it becomes available.
Title: Venom in the Veins
Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin #17
To Be Released: June 12, 2018
Publisher’s description: Blood might be thicker than water, but venom is stronger than just about anything …
It was supposed to be a nice, quiet, simple dinner with friends—but nothing is ever nice, quiet, or simple when you’re Gin Blanco, the Spider, notorious assassin and current queen of the Ashland underworld.
This time around, someone seems to be targeting Stuart Mosley, the president of First Trust bank. Lots of people have grudges against Mosley, but the more I investigate, the more Mosley’s problems seem to be connected to some of my own, especially when it comes to the Circle, the evil, shadowy group that is secretly responsible for much of the crime and corruption in Ashland.
But when another blast from my dark and deadly past as the Spider comes to light, I wonder if I’ll be able to survive this dangerous new enemy, who has a burning thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with one thing: my death.
Read the first chapter: http://www.jenniferestep.com/books/venom-in-the-veins/
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Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 1/28/18
Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip. Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.
There are a lot of things I want to share with you today.
James A. Hunter has a new audiobook series coming your way. It was introduced on Audible at the beginning of this month.
Title: The Artificier
By: S. R. Witt, James Hunter
Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
Release date: 01-05-18
Publisher: Shadow Alley Press Inc.
Description: October, 2042
In two weeks, the world will die, murdered by a nine-mile-wide, extinction-level asteroid.
And Robert Osmark—billionaire and savvy tech-genius—couldn’t be readier for the fiery apocalypse.
Unlike the shortsighted masses, he’s been diligently preparing for this day from the moment the asteroid first appeared. Through his relentless efforts, digital salvation now awaits anyone bold enough to take the leap and permanently transition into the brand-new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. And Robert Osmark will lead this new world he has created.
But even with every advantage skewed in his favor, Osmark faces powerful opposition. A rogue faction of global elites led by US Senator Sizemore isn’t content to merely survive the apocalypse. They have their sights set much higher, and are recruiting dangerous allies, undercutting Robert’s efforts at every turn, and hiring VGO’s most deadly assassins to get what they want. To win, Osmark will need to viciously crush all opposition before his plans turn to ash.
While this book is released in audio, it’s also in print. If audio is not your game, don’t worry, James A. Hunter has thought of you too.
Next up is: Jennifer Estep
If you’ve not tried the series Elemental Assassin, you really should think about it. I know, the heroine is an assassin and that may turn a person off of the story just like that. But, give Gin a chance. Here’s what Jennifer has to say:
Assassins might not be the most sympathetic characters or the easiest to identify with, but I think they are some of the most fascinating. Plus, I wanted to write a really smart, strong, tough female character, which I think that I’ve done with Gin Blanco.
Jennifer has introduced the next Elemental Assassin book. It’s #17 in the series and it’s called: Venom in Her Veins.
Venom in Her Veins — Elemental Assassin #17 —Spring 2018 (no cover available at this time)
Gin and the gang will be back with a new adventure.
As of right now, after this book, there will be two more books in my Elemental Assassin series.
Also, starting with Venom in Her Veins, I will be self-publishing the series. I am hoping to release the book in spring 2018, but we’ll see what happens.
Note: The title of this book has been changed from Cold Sting to Venom in Her Veins.
NEXT: Lara Adrian
For us romance lovers, Lara Adrian has released Claimed in Shadows on January 23, 2018. This is one series I haven’t tried although I want to. You know, my TBR list is really, really long! 😉 Anyway, those that have a penchant for Vampire romances, check it out!
Title: Claimed in Shadows
Author: Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed #15
Released: January 23, 2018
Description: In this pulse-pounding new Midnight Breed vampire romance novel from New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Lara Adrian, passion explodes between a daywalking member of the Order and a fiery female warrior whose shadowy past will test the bonds of both duty and desire.
As the son of a formidable Breed warrior, Aric Chase has been devoted to the Order all his life. With his training completed, all he needs is one successful mission before he can join the fight to destroy the Order’s chief nemesis, Opus Nostrum. His rare ability to daywalk lands Aric an assignment in Montreal, where he learns he’s to be teamed with another new recruit, a beautiful, but tough-as-nails Breedmate named Kaya Laurent.
Independent and driven, Kaya wants nothing more than to become a full-fledged member of the Order. Having grown up in squalor and neglect on the streets of Montreal, she longs for the close-knit family she’s found during her training to be a warrior. Eager to prove herself, she is thrilled to be given the chance at a key operation—even if she must share the mission with an arrogant, far-too-seductive Breed male who’s practically Order royalty.
Their unwanted partnership soon erupts into a desire neither of them can resist. But when Kaya’s past reaches out from the shadows to call her back, she must decide between protecting a dark alliance that could shatter her dreams of joining the team and a truth that could not only forfeit Aric’s faith in her, but bring the enemy right to the Order’s door.
SPI Files #7: The Solstice Countdown
SPI Files #8: The Pandora Predicament
SPI Files #9: The Demon Directive
Obviously, there are no descriptions or covers yet. Stay tuned.
Check in tomorrow for the cover reveal and description of Ken Lange‘s new book, Dust Walkers. This is book #2 in the Vigiles Urbani series.
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