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Venom by Jennifer Estep
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Jul 29, 11

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Venom is the third in Jennifer Estep's series about an assassin named Gin Blanco--at least, that is her public name as far as Ashland's social and business communities are concerned. In actuality, she is Genevive Snow, a Stone and Ice Elemental who has been sought by Mab Monroe for seventeen years in order to remove what she has been told is a person who will kill her. Under cover of this public identity since she was 13 years old, Gin has made her living as a paid assassin. Even though she "retired" several months before this novel begins, she is still caught up in the need to revenge the deaths of her mother and older sister at the hand of Mab and her henchmen, and in the process, gets caught up in the danger Mab's current activities pose for Gin's friends.

Gin Blanco is a complicated heroine, one that might be difficult to applaud under any other circumstances than in a novel. Yet underneath her cold and calculating exterior beats the heart of a caring and giving woman, one who really wants to be loved and accepted, who wants to be a part of a family, who wants the love of a good man--one who sees her and not what she does--and who wants to re-unite with her baby sister whose welfare and safety Gin was willing to preserve at the cost of her own life. Bria Coolidge is that sister, a detective who has come to Ashland to take the place of Detective Donovan Caine, the man who stole Gin's heart and then smashed it with his moralizing rejection when he left Ashland. Bria doesn't know that Gin is her older sister who protected her after their mom and sister were murdered. And even though they form an uneasy first acquaintanceship in this novel, it will be in the future before they come to know each other as they once did.

This is a marvelous and complex novel, filled with rare and wonderful characters, many larger than life and all of them with one foot in the real world and the other in the fantasy sphere. Individuals with magical abilities live and move among the mere mortals, while powerful dwarves and giants complicate life for ordinary people. Yet it is an emotional story that pulls at heart strings as Gin stands in the gap for a woman who is being stalked and whose life is in serious danger, a woman who wouldn't be in this position if she hadn't kept her word to protect Gin in another situation (see Web of Lies, Estep's earlier novel in this series). The love for her sister motivates Gin to insert herself in several dangerous situations that could result in her death. Her love for her foster brother Finn is always there, running throughout every eventuality in the story, and her loyalty to Jo-Jo, Sophie, and Finn never wavers.

This novel is also full of action and the reader knows that with each turn of the page there will be danger, possible injury to good people, the incursion of corruption and the death of important characters possibly because law enforcement is in Mab's pocket. The tension never lets up. Add to that the understanding that Gin has been nearly defeated in her own personal life by the rejection of Detective Caine, by his judgmental attitude toward her that eventually overcame his attraction for her. When Owen comes into her life and protects her during a very dangerous episode, she begins to wonder if perhaps here was a man who could wipe out the pain and insecurity left in Caine's wake.

This is one really terrific read!! Estep tells a darn good story and even though I didn't think I would like this series very well--why, don't ask me--I don't really know. But I have been enthralled by this series from the first, and unlike many series, each novel has successfully continued the strenght, tension, and action of the previous works. The story continues on after this book--another novel is in the offing, and I, for one, will be delighted to read the next "chapter" in Gin's story. Admittedly, she is taking on Mab's mob and that includes just about everyone in Ashland. She will also be furthering her relationship with Owen and I am curious to see where that goes. So stay tuned: I have a feeling that the best is yet to come. I give this book a 4.75 out of 5.

This review was originally posted on Book Binge by Judith.
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