Elemental Assassin short stories by Jennifer Estep
In a departure from my usual post, I wanted to take some time to talk about some free short stories available on Jennifer Estep‘s website. Author of the fantastic Elemental Assassin series, she’s graciously posted these stories on her site and I love it! I think it’s great when authors take the time to write little things like this for their fans. (Kelley Armstrong and Ilona Andrews are two others who jump to mind.) I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to talk briefly about each of them since they’re all tiny gems. Read on only if you’re up-to-date on the series since there are spoilers ahead.
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First up is Spider’s Bargain, set before the events of the first book, Spider’s Bite. Spider’s Bargain recounts how Gin took on (and took out) Donovan Caine’s corrupt partner, Cliff Ingles. (Ingles’ death is what sparks Caine’s crusade to capture the Spider, and it’s also one of the times that Gin does a job pro bono, since Ingles is not a nice man.)
Coming in at around 4,000 words, Spider’s Bargain is short and sweet, if the recounting of a successful assassination counts as sweet. It’s a very satisfying glimpse into Gin’s character since we see both her ruthlessness as an assassin and her desire to do a tiny bit of justice by the girl that Ingles raped and beat. It’s this dichotomy that makes her such an interesting protagonist and Jennifer Estep does a wonderful job of capturing this in Spider’s Bargain, and even manages to incorporate information about Gin’s backstory while she’s at it.
The next short story, Web of Death, is set between Spider’s Bite and Web of Lies, the second book in the series. Gin retires at the end of the first book but her retirement is interrupted while she’s in the process of moving into Fletcher’s house, when she finds a giant and a vampire beating a hooker for trying to move to another employer.
Slightly shorter than Spider’s Bargain, I didn’t find Web of Death as satisfying. I really enjoyed the beginning and, as a whole, I enjoyed the story but I wasn’t as invested in this one. It’s a nice vignette but nothing I was particularly curious about.
The third story on the site is Web of Deceit, which takes place when Gin is a teenager. It’s about Gin’s first solo job as the Spider and is told from the perspective of Fletcher Lane, Gin’s assassin mentor.
At about 5,300 words, there’s a bit more meat to this story. It’s also an excellent story that gives us a glimpse into early Gin, which I’ve always been curious about. It’s fun to see her getting her feet under her and learning how to become an assassin. Perhaps even better is getting to know Fletcher a bit more. His death is central to the first book, and all the ones that come after, but we only know him through other people’s memories and never get to see him in and of himself, except for that very first chapter of Spider’s Bite. Web of Deceit is a wonderful glimpse into Fletcher and his motivations for taking Gin under his wing, and also at the father-daughter relationship these two characters have cultivated.
Poison is another story from Gin’s teenage years, this time narrated by Finnegan Lane, Gin’s foster brother. Finn’s one of my favourite characters in the series and it’s a treat to see the inner workings of his crazy smart brain, particularly when tinged with teenage jealousy.
This is one of the short stories on the site at under 3,000 words. Despite this, it’s an engaging read. Finn’s resentment is real and convincing, and Gin already shows the characteristics that made Fletcher want to train her. Plus, scrawny Gin is endearing in her desire to do right by the man who took her in. All in all, a lot of fun.
Wasted takes place in between the events of the second book, Web of Lies, and before the beginning of the third, Venom. Also told from Finn’s point of view, Wasted is about his encounter with a beautiful woman who walks into the bank where Finn works, with trouble following soon after. Grownup Finn is just as much fun as teenage Finn, if not more, and it was great to see Xavier get some more screen time. Plus, there’s a cute shout-out to one of Estep’s other series, when she mentions Bigtime, New York.
The next story is Tangled Dreams, set between Venom and the fourth book, Tangled Threads. It’s told from the points of view of the Deveraux sisters, Jo-Jo and Sophia, as they deal with the aftermath of Gin stepping in to save a mother and child from a group of carjacking dwarves and vampires, and getting injured in the process. After she shows up at Jo-Jo’s for healing, as usual, the one carjacker who got away also puts in an appearance, giving us a chance to see just how Jo-Jo and Sophia made it through life as long as they have. The short story also lets us learn more about what they do, which was really interesting, particularly the parts narrated by Sophia. In fact, all of her part of the story made me desperate to learn more about her and her mysterious and tragic backstory, which is teased so well in Tangled Dreams.
The final story on the site (for now at least) is Tangled Schemes. It spans a period of time starting from the last chapter of Spider’s Bite and ends right before the beginning of Tangled Threads, all from the perspective of Gin’s long-lost-and-until-recently-thought-dead sister, Bria, now a detective with the Ashland Police Force, who’s trying to bring down Mab Monroe (Gin’s nemesis) for killing her family, and find her sister.
I really enjoyed this story since it gives you a new perspective on Bria and definitely leaves you wanting more information, specifically about how she got away from Mab Monroe the night of the fire. It’s a great tease for Tangled Threads, which is out in just a few days (so excited!!). I can’t wait to hear more about Bria and to see where Jennifer Estep takes her characters next.