Two Blogs and a Book – Review and Giveaway – HEART OF VENOM by Jennifer Estep

July 31, 2014 4 Star Reviews, General, Giveaways, Reviews, Two Blogs and a Book 2 ★★★★½

Two Blogs and a Book – Review and Giveaway – HEART OF VENOM by Jennifer EstepHeart of Venom by Jennifer Estep
Series: Elemental Assassin #9
Published by Pocket Books on August 27, 2013
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, General, Romance, Urban, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
The hotly anticipated ninth novel in the hugely popular Elemental Assassin series finds Gin Blanco on a dangerous mission to rescue a friend. 

When a terror from the past threatens Gin’s friend and body-disposer, Sophia, Gin will stop at nothing to protect her, even if it means walking straight into a killer’s trap. Meanwhile, the rocky romance between Gin and Owen reaches a turning point—can they reunite and rekindle their love? Or will the things Gin has been forced to do in her line of work as the deadly assassin the Spider keep them apart forever? Assuming, that is, she survives long enough to find out…



My buddy, Braine, of the spectacular blog Talk Supe, and I are doing a buddy read of the entire Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep.  The author was kind enough to give us a guest post and giveaway this month so read our discussion here and then head over to Talk Supe to find out some of Gin “The Spider” Blanco’s cooking secrets.  Check out the links at the end!


Note:  Though this interview is spoiler free for the current book, it does assume a knowledge of the previous books in the series.


TS:  So what did you think of HEART OF VENOM? Did you like it?

SWR:  I really liked HEART OF VENOM.  It hit me while I was reading it that, while I understand some people’s complaints (perhaps I was one of them) about the books feeling formula, there is something comforting about that formula.  This book highlighted that idea for me.  I know what I’m getting — a problem that Gin has to solve and survive while moving towards some overall emotional or character developing arc.  What sucked me into this one was that the problem was personal.  I mean, it’s Sophia!  She has been such a mystery throughout this series, this steady presence in the background, and I think Estep was brilliant in devoting a book to understanding something about this beloved character.  I know you have mentioned the idea of the series starting to feel a bit formula…What did you think about this one?

TS:  It’s still the Elemental Assassin formula but like what you said, it’s personal this time around so the stakes are higher. The three books after Mab weren’t all that great. Sure, it still had the action we so love but it felt repetitive: someone’s after Gin and she kills them in the end. Now she’s really the heroine, saving Sophia from her baddest nightmare.  So yeah, I like it because of Sophia. OMG I want to hug the goth dwarf but I don’t think she’ll like it!

SWR:  I know.  I think I may have teared up at that moment between Gin and Sophia in Cooper’s garden.  “Not soft anymore.”  I had tears.  There was something genuinely touching about this story and about those moments between Jojo, Sophia, and Gin.  And the photos?  Heart-wrenching and disturbing to finally understand who Sophia is and what she’s overcome.

TS:  Me too! And not just that, the scene in the pit and Gin feeling guilty about Sophia being her clean up crew after her kills really hit me. And Sophia would just grunt and brush it off all this time, I never imagined how hard that must have been for her psychologically.

SWR:  What did you think about the villains in HEART OF VENOM?  Disturbing, creepy, and a very twisted brother-sister relationship.  I feel like they were twirling their mustaches in their villainy, maybe a bit too “Villain in the house!”

TS:  Amen to that. At one point I even feel like maybe there’s something salacious going on between those two the way Hazel feels so possessive of his psychotic brother.  And I’m happy that Bria took a backseat here, frankly I don’t want her moral dilemma this time around because this is Sophia we’re talking about.

SWR:  True though I think Bria has come a long way.  With the exception of a couple of tortured, perhaps judgemental, looks, she seemed to understand what needed to be done.  This reminds me…I would love to see a Bria – Finn novella because I want to understand their relationship. Just a tangent.

TS:  There’s a lot of in-between novellas right? I haven’t really looked at those. I think I’ll  pass on that because Bria isn’t all that interesting for me. Now Finn, I love him! So if it’s something else I’d read that. Now I do like Owen standing by Gin. Finally, he got his balls back. Do you buy Owen’s apology and proclamations of love to Gin?

SWR:  Thank god these kids have figured their crap out!  I couldn’t endure this lasting any more books.  I never totally bought his conflict so his apology was just as skeptical for me but I don’t care.  He loves her, he’s proven it, and I think these kids are in it for the long haul.  I hope Estep doesn’t throw them any more curve balls because I couldn’t take it.

TS:  Fletcher Lane continues to blow me away. I never saw that note coming, I would think Gin’s read everything the old man left behind, his kill order was a surprise, though not unwelcome, I loved the fight scenes between Gin and those hideous siblings because of it.

SWR:  Agreed.  Fletcher was a man of mystery.  But here lies one thing I didn’t totally get…Fletcher didn’t succeed in killing Grimes but I was never quite clear on why Grimes stayed away.  Did Fletcher put that much fear into him?  He did but Gin didn’t because Grimes still came after her?  I didn’t buy that or understand it.  Grimes, the ruthless psychopath who did whatever the hell he wanted, was scared by a failed attempt to murder him?  I don’t know.  It’s not a big deal but I still didn’t buy it.  What do you think?

TS:  I never thought of that. Maybe? But now that you mentioned it, why did he wait this long to come after Sophia given his obsession with her? Maybe he got too busy building that house and salon for her? Or maybe his sister talked him out of it, delaying things? Something we should ask JEstep next time.  For a minute there I thought Gin would endure another near-death experience like with Mab. I feel like fire elementals are her kryptonite. I love that touch though, this time around Gin is right to second guess herself, the siblings are formidable especially with their combined powers.

SWR:  Yes!  Fire elementals seem to get the best of her but those fight scenes – turning the mountain to ice and showing down the siblings were great.  Lots of tension and action.  With the return of Mab’s mysterious heir, I think Gin is in for another fight of her life!  What do you think of all these flashbacks?  I feel like Estep is setting us up for the next book which is a prequel and origins story.  I have to admit to feeling a little apprehensive about it.  After finishing HEART OF VENOM I immediately wanted to move onto the Monroe mystery.  Something about going into a prequel makes me hesitant.  I hope that though it’s an origins story, it still pushes the overall arc forward.

TS:  You’re on to something there. I believe Fletcher Lane knows more than what he led Gin to believe with all these notes and instructions he’s left for her. That second Mab arc is interesting, nothing like revenge to get someone fired up not just that, Mab was powerful and clever, I don’t think she’d spawn a weak child esp with all this suspense and hype surrounding this child of hers. I’m both scared and excited for this, maybe Gin will meet her true match with the next Monroe.


Final Verdict:

I loved HEART OF VENOM.  After the last book, I was worried the series was going to get stale but Estep did a fantastic job of bringing this back to the personal.  At stake is no less than Sophia, one of Gin’s own, and she doesn’t let anyone she loves get hurt.  You come after hers and she’ll come back and finish it on you.  There was action, tension, and a lot of raw emotion.  I loved learning how her relationship with Sophia has progressed over the years.  I may have even teared up a bit.  And finally, Owen comes to his senses!  I thank Estep for not dragging that separation out.  Best of all?  Mab Monroe manages to complicate Gin’s life from the grave and I am practically salivating to see where this new storyline will take us.  Strong 4.5 Howls from SWR! 



Check out the giveaway below and then hop on over to Braine at Talk Supe to see what Gin, The Spider, would cook for a romantic dinner!





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About Jennifer Estep

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin adult urban fantasy series for Pocket. Books in the series are SPIDER’S BITE, WEB OF LIES, VENOM, TANGLED THREADS, SPIDER’S REVENGE, BY A THREAD, and WIDOW’S WEB. THREAD OF DEATH, an e-novella, is also available.

DEADLY STING, the eighth book, is set to be released on March 26, 2013.

Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington.

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