30 September, 2011

Review Duo: Jennifer Estep's Spider's Revenge and Touch of Frost

Published: September 2011, POCKET (SIMON AND SCHUSTER)

Series: Elemental Assassin #5
Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin #1
Web of Lies (Elemental Assassin #2
Venom (Elemental Assassin #3
Tangled Threads (Elemental Assassin #4
Source: Publisher via Authors After Dark Conference, no other compensation given for an honest review

From Good Reads:
...Killing used to be my reg­u­lar gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spi­der, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly mat­ters: Mab Mon­roe, the dan­ger­ous Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily when I was thir­teen.

Oh, I don’t think the mis­sion will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more prob­lem­atic than expected. The bitch knows I’m com­ing for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keep­ing Bria safe is my first pri­or­ity. Tak­ing Mab out is a close sec­ond.

Good thing I’ve got my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre­sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This bat­tle has been years in the mak­ing, and there’s a chance I won’t sur­vive...

My Review:
Every time I read a book that is 4 or later in a series without having read the previous books, I feel the need to state this right off in my review. I also feel the need to state that I read books out of order all the time, and the mark of a really great writer is being able to capture my attention without an info dump of the previous plotlines and characters. But at the same time, I don't want to feel like I have missed something. Jennifer Estep did not fail in any way on either of these points.

SPIDER'S REVENGE dropped me right into the action from the very beginning. The opening page, the opening chapter made it clear that here was a long-term rivalry that was going to come to a head before the end of the book. With other books, I'll admit to reading through the “other stuff” to get to the inevitable confrontation of two characters, but not here. Gin is a fascinating character, not just because she isn't the “good girl triumphant over bad”, but because her love and fear for the safety of those in her family (not just blood relative) directly motivate her actions. She's an assassin, but she's not an emotionless machine.

Estep makes the pages come alive with her writing in SPIDER'S REVENGE. There is constant danger, there are awesome fight scenes, and there are even some emotional scenes. But, one of the best things about this book, in my eyes, is the fact that there is a humming intensity underlying everything. Even when Gin is just doing a shift at her restaurant, there is nothing boring here. Every page exposes more of Gin, Bria, and their group of friends cum protectors. Every page drives the plot and brings the reader closer to the face-off of Mab and Spider.

Absent the expectations of what the other books in this series might have given me, I really enjoyed reading SPIDER'S REVENGE. And, I'm not even sure that if I had been expecting anything that my hopes would have been let down. I honestly think that any urban fantasy lover would have to read not just this book, but the whole series to date or be missing something good.

4.5/5 for plot
5/5 for characters
4.5/5 for language

My Rating: 14/15 (5 stars) Must Read

Purchase book at:
Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Available formats: Nookbook, Paperback (mass market), Kindle

Challenge Participation:

Find the author at:
Website | Blog | Twitter | GoodReads

Published: July 2011, KENSINGTON TEEN

Series: Mythos Academy #1
First Frost (Mythos Academy #.5)
Halloween Frost (Mythos Academy #1.5)
Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy #2)

Source: Publisher via Authors After Dark Conference, no other compensation given for an honest review

From Good Reads:
My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy — a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword and Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, also happens to be the deadliest.

But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things. Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I'm determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why—especially since I should have been the one who died. . .

My Review:
Having received (and gotten signed!) both of these books from Estep at Authors After Dark 2011, I chose to read SPIDER'S REVENGE first. I am an avid urban fantasy reader, and lately I had been finding paranormal YA lackluster and derivative. While TOUCH OF FROST certainly has elements that have been seen before in YA, I enjoyed reading it.

As an adult reader of YA, I always weigh my feeling on the technical structure and language of the book against the fact that I am not, nor should be the target audience of the particular book. That said, I would recommend TOUCH OF FROST to readers of the full spectrum of YA, in terms of the language. Estep includes elements in the story that keep the pace up, but don't make it feel rushed. At the same time, I was very aware that this was the first book in a series, because I could see that an overall plot arc had been created. I could also see that the student body, teachers, and even Gwen herself, would have many characteristics and abilities come to light that were not just going to fit into one book (even if it hadn't been called Mythos Academy #1).

No, the writing was not as complex as the writing in SPIDER'S REVENGE, but it was good. In fact, there are many times when I can tell that a writer previously wrote adult books, by the inconsistency in teenage language, thought processes and habits. Estep managed to avoid this pitfall, and I finished TOUCH OF FROST wanting to read the next MYTHOS ACADEMY book.

4/5 for plot
4.5/5 for characters
4/5 for language

My Rating: 12.5/15 (3.5 stars) Highly Recommend

Purchase book at:
Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Available formats: NookBook, Paperback (trade), Kindle

Challenge Participation:

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