4 stars: Enjoyed - strongly recommend (A-)
Originally posted here: http://twimom227.com/2013/08/review-heart-of-venom-by-jennifer-estep.html
Electronic review copy provided via Edelweiss
Looking for some downtime after the events in the previous story, Deadly Sting, and some female bonding with her friends, Gin Blanco (aka the Spider) retreats to the relaxing haven of her friend Jo-Jo’s spa. Unfortunately, things turn ugly quickly with the appearance of Fire elemental siblings Harley and Hazel Grimes. Harley has dark history with Gin's close friend and Jo-Jo’s sister, Air elemental Sophia Deveraux. The Grimes’ attack Sophia and Jo-Jo right in front of Gin and her sister Brie, and then get away with Sophia in tow.
The opening scenes of Heart of Venom are extremely powerful and dramatically touching as Gin is almost helpless in her efforts to save two members of her “family.” One thing we know about Gin is that she protects her own, and that is the message of this novel. I was moved at how deep that sentiment runs during the course of the story. It gave me new appreciation for Gin and all she does to help others.
I also admired the relationship between Sophia and Gin. We don’t know much about Sophia or her history, and being privy to some of her life is a treat. There was more than one time the pair shared a few quiet moments or expressed their affection and appreciation for one another that moved me deeply. In addition, watching the entire scene unfold and play out gave Gin time for some touching self-reflection.
For those waiting from some movement on the Owen and Gin front - Ms. Estep delivers, as she allows the pair to hash it out and speak the words that needed to be said. After “going on a break” with love Owen Grayson at the end of Widow’s Web, and little to no progress made in Deadly Sting, readers are treated with discussion and movement on this front. Following on the heels of Owen’s own POV novella, Kiss of Venom, Heart of Venom solidly addresses what has and hasn’t been happening between the pair. And although I about tossed my Kindle across the room out of frustration at one point, there is definite resolution made by the end of the book. I am just thankful that they finally talked, and one of my favorite quotes in the books comes from Owen, explaining why he’s going to fight Harley and Hazel with Gin:
"Because I've spent too much time lately not having your back, and you need that today more than ever. "
The action is intense and brutal. There are references to torture, but there isn’t anything overly graphic. The scenes are well-choreographed and exciting to read. It is fantastic to have more of the gang than just Gin on the offense for this one. And while some of the actions taken are dark, I love that everyone supports one another in this tight-knit group.
All-in-all, another excellent book from Ms. Estep. There isn't anything in Heart of Venom that makes it stand out any more than the other stories in the series, because as in each story, this one is unique and fresh and more of what I love from the Elemental Assassin series. What I love best about these books is how much we get inside Gin's head and heart. I love how Gin's mind works... seeing how she outwits everyone around her. I love how confident Gin is... she knows she may not survive, but she knows she will kill Harley and Hazel. In Heart of Venom - it is personal because someone is out to hurt her family. And Gin ALWAYS protects those she loves. I admire how much she cares about those closest to her. Gin is amazing! Her character continually grows and develops, which is needed for a series to remain successful after nine books!