Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Mass market paperback: 384 pages
Release date: February 28, 2012
Series: Elemental Assassin #6
Reviewed by: Jenn
When killing people is your job, there’s no such thing as a vacation.
Then again, how often does an assassin live long enough to enjoy her retirement? In this line of work, you either get lucky or you get dead. And since I destroyed my nemesis Mab Monroe a few weeks ago, all of Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning to make a name for themselves by taking out the lethal Spider—me, Gin Blanco. So I’m leaving behind my beloved barbecue joint and heading south with my baby sister, Bria, to cool my heels in a swanky beach town. Call it a weekend of fun in the sun. But when a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic threatens an old friend of Bria’s, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. Complicating matters further is the reappearance of Detective Donovan Caine, my old lover. But Donovan is the least of my problems. Because this time, the danger is hot on my trail, and not even my elemental Ice and Stone magic may be enough to save me from getting buried in the sand—permanently.
Yay, Jennifer Estep!! By now, I’m sure you’ve all figured out that I love, love, love, LOVE her work. She’s one of my favourite authors and her Elemental Assassins books are consistently excellent. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from By A Thread since it’s the beginning of a new chapter in the series, and I was worried that Gin would be directionless with Mab dead. I really shouldn’t have worried, though, because Jennifer has delivered a smorgasbord of awesome in By A Thread. The author maintains all of the things I love about Gin and her world -- clever plot, beautifully choreographed fight scenes tempered by quiet emotional moments, stellar characters -- and added in some extra goodies like the unexpected return of Donovan Caine, some flashbacks to her life with Fletcher, and a whole new setting. It’s also the first post-Mab book, which makes it a milestone in the series.
At the end of Spider’s Revenge, Gin’s in a relatively good place, having accomplished her goal of killing Mab without dying herself. Unfortunately, this has created a new problem for Gin: she’s been outted as the Spider and now everyone wants to kill her to prove how wicked they are. A couples’ weekend away seems like the solution: she can get away from Ashland and the slew of folks wanting to prove themselves and spend time with Finn, Bria, and Owen. Of course, if things went smoothly, it would be an uneventful novel and so Jennifer Estep has thrown a new enemy at Gin: a 300-year-old vampire who’s threatening Bria’s best friend, Callie.
Can I just take a moment and say that assassins on vacation almost always make for a great story?
As interesting as I found the baddy in the book, it was the emotional storyline that I was most invested in, maybe because I know there’s another Elemental Assassin novel due out this year. I’ve been wondering what happened to Donovan Caine since he dumped Gin in such a heartless fashion and now I know. And although they’ve both moved on from their relationship (if we can call it that), his reappearance stirs up a lot of feelings in Gin and we get to see a more vulnerable part of her. In fact, By A Thread really exposes a lot of Gin’s vulnerabilities, particularly when it comes to her relationship with her sister. After all, now that Mab’s dead, Bria doesn’t really need Gin’s protection anymore and it leaves them -- and me -- to wonder if they can have a relationship when they’re so morally divided.
On the Donovan front, it was great to see how much Gin has grown since they were lovers. Donovan is less changed but he wasn’t particularly flexible in the earlier novels so I wasn’t terribly surprised. He’s still got all fo the qualities that made him attractive to Gin in the first place, though, and I was happy to see that Jennifer didn’t take the easy route and make him completely unlikeable. There was one scene that in which I found his actions a bit out of character but it could just be me. (If you see it too when you read the novel, let me know in the comments, please. I’m *dying* to talk about it with someone.)
It’s impossible not to compare Donovan and Owen and this highlights just how awesome Owen is. He accepts Gin’s profession and abilities without judgment, something Donovan could never do, and he understands that they are a part of what makes her who she is. It’s something I knew about him a long time ago, especially when he made her special knives, but it was gratifying to see them interact.
All in all, By A Thread is a wonderful entry into the Elemental Assassin series and I can’t wait to see what happens to Gin in Widow’s Web. In the meanwhile, I’ll have to tide myself over with Thread of Death, a brand new e-novella that is being released tomorrow. It’s set between Spider’s Revenge and By A Thread. You can read all about it on Jennifer’s blog. Make sure you get your copy, too!