Deadly Sting is the eighth book in the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. For me it serves as an unofficial companion book to the previous book Widow’s Web. There is a character plot point that ties the two together beautifully. I am glad that I waited to read the previous book just before this book. I think the read of this book would have been hampered otherwise.
* Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not read the previous seven books *
Gin Blanco, assassin extraordinaire, is reeling from a personal decision from the previous book that has inserted a wedge between her and her lover Owen. Newly separated she agrees to attend a luxe art exhibition at the prestigious Briartop, Ashland’s chic art museum with her foster brother, Finn. Cleaned and gussied up Gin encounters a coup that forces her to rely upon her skills – and her knives – to rescue the occupants of the museum.
For the first time in the series Estep explores a new territory. A giant portion of this book is devoted to the actual action itself. Estep usually blends both the action and the character development with a finesse. In this book she amps up the tension, describing every moment of intensity to a tee. This does a few things for the reader – it draws them into the moment and isolates them with Gin as if they were stalking the darkness of the museum behind her. It also displaces them from the ongoing character dynamics because there is so much less time exploring them.
For me this worked… and it didn’t. I liked that Estep pushed herself to structure a novel this way. It’s risky, and it could alienate her readers if not done well. However, it knocked me out of the action after a while and I found myself skimming portions. I like these novels for more than Gin’s sheer bad-assery. I read them because of Gin, and Finn, and Owen, and Jojo, and Sophie, and all of Ashland. I like the moments in Gin’s kitchen and the moments in the Pork Pit. While this novel was not short on these moments it felt cursory, and rushed, and not placed well. The decision to focus much of the novel in the museum altered the pacing from the rest of the books. I think certain fans will be turned off from this new formula.
But it was a good book and it had some good moments. I can see a lot of growth in our main heroine directly from the results of this book, as well as the introduction of a potential new adversary. And I appreciate both at this point in the story. Do I want Estep to do this action heavy formula again? Not any time soon. I miss my peoples too much. And while I’m okay with it happening occasionally, I would be disappointed if it happened again in the next book.
4 out of 5 stars.