Widow’s Web is book seven in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. I wasn’t too impressed with book six, By a Thread, but I continue to read the series because I’ve already purchased most of the books at Audible and, even though I recognize the problems with the plot and the writing, the truth is that I like Estep’s setting and characters well enough that I don’t mind reading the books in order to get them reviewed for FanLit. Based on the high marks the series gets at GoodReads and Amazon, I’m guessing that many readers are perfectly happy to overlook the little “issues” I’ve mentioned in previous reviews. Clearly, the formula is working for Estep.
In this seventh installment, Gin and her friends are back in Ashland Tennessee after a disastrous vacation during which Gin saved another damsel in distress, saved another city from its tyrannical crime boss, and satisfactorily dealt with the reappearance of Donovan Caine, her sexy ex. Now it’s Owen’s turn to deal with the reappearance of his sexy ex. That would be Salina, a powerful water Elemental who left Ashland years ago and broke Owen’s heart. Now that Mab Monroe is gone (thanks to Gin), Salina has decided to return and (guess what?) she wants Owen back. It seems that Owen hasn’t quuuuiiiiiiite gotten over Salina. Owen’s sister Eva and his former best friend Philip Kincaid insist that Salina is evil and that Owen was blindly in love with her. Eva wants Gin to kill Salina. As usual, Gin “can’t say no to the hope” (how altruistic!) but knows that it’s dangerous to go against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.
Fans who’ve enjoyed the light romantic tension and flimsy love triangles/squares that Estep has constructed so far will probably be happy to see another one here, but I felt like it was a predictable move, especially since Gin had to deal with her lost love in the previous book. One of my main issues with this series so far is that we keep seeing the same elements over and over, just slightly changed and rearranged in each new installment. This time it’s Owen’s ex, who’s another different type of elemental (water) and who plans to take Mab’s place as the new crime lord in Ashland. Also reminiscent of the previous story, it turns out that Owen’s old girlfriend chose later lovers who looked like Owen, just like Donovan Caine chose a woman who was similar to Gin. We go to more high-society parties on fancy riverboats and mansions. Gin has to plan another assassination, etc.
There was much that was predictable or at least not surprising, but one thing that did seem to come out of nowhere was that sweet Eva Grayson has a relationship with Phillip Kincaid, the riverboat casino owner who, up until now, we’ve been told is an “underworld shark.” Along with the explanation for this we get a lot of Owen and Eva’s backstory, including their family’s relationship with Mab Monroe. It’s nice to get to know Owen a little better though, unfortunately, I think he comes off badly in the end.
Gin does something really dumb at the end of Widow’s Web — something that will haunt her in later stories, I’m sure. In fact, a few of the characters do really dumb things, including not telling other characters important information that, if told, could have changed the outcome for the better.
Oh well. As I keep saying, despite the plot problems and rehashings and the repetitive prose (“Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy” “Enemy, enemy, enemy” “I counted seconds in my head: 10, 20, 30, 45”, etc), ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN fans will probably enjoy this installment. It’s pretty good in audio format. Lauren Fortgang does a great job with the narration and I enjoy listening to her performances, even when I don’t especially like the story.