Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Series: Elemental Assassin #5
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Gin Blanco has been waiting for this moment since she was a child and it’s finally here. The time has come for her big showdown with Mab Monroe: the ultra-powerful Fire elemental who killed Gin’s mother and older sister and has caused her so much grief. I’ve seen Gin embrace her life as the assassin nicknamed The Spider and watched her kill without remorse. I’ve been along for the ride as she lost her mentor, lost her confidence in her ability to be loved after being rejected by her lover, nominally retired only to find herself taking on pro bono work, found the baby sister she thought was dead, found another chance at love, and gradually worked her way towards avenging her family’s murder – one body at a time. In comparison, I have only been waiting one year and eight months for a resolution to this chapter in Gin’s life but it was worth the wait.
Mab Monroe knows The Spider is coming for her so she puts a bounty on the assassin’s head, never realizing Gin Blanco, the unassuming owner of the Pork Pit (Ashland’s best BBQ joint) is The Spider. Gin’s sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, is also in Mab’s crosshairs under the mistaken impression that Bria is the sister who wields dual elements strong enough to pose a threat to Mab. As the story progresses, the masks come off, the body count rises, and the only way Gin is getting out of this one alive is if she can learn to rely on her friends and family and trust in her elemental Ice and Stone powers.
It will come as no surprise, given the way I describe Gin, that I find her a surprisingly relatable and oddly sympathetic character. Urban Fantasy is scattered with tough women but Gin brings something unique to the table. I find it refreshing to engage with a character who is blunt, brash, always ready with an F-bomb, sure she knows the best solution to every problem (which usually involves a fatal application of her silverstone knives) and truly unrepentant about being a killer. On the flip side of that coin, she is a character who is humanized by her awkward skills at relating to people, her tortured nightmares of her family’s murder, her intense feelings of guilt at her perceived failure to save her family and her mentor, her struggle to find love and acceptance from her romantic interests, and the soft-spot she develops for those who have no other place to turn for help.
There’s a very superhero/comic book vibe to this series. Not a surprise given a protagonist with a secret identity, super-powers, an evil nemesis with minions at her beck and call, a city that becomes a character all its own, and very vivid fight scenes. I’ll admit that by this, the fifth book, some of the new has worn off and elements of the world Gin inhabits have become repetitive. Gin’s multiple references to her “black black” heart and repeat reminders of past events (even from earlier in the book, not just series refreshers) does a disservice to the reader, whose memory and ability to cull inference from the “show” part of the narrative and not the “tell” part should be given more respect. Overall, though, this book (and this series) is a vivid, straight-forward, action-packed, engaging listen. It’s peopled with interesting characters who grow throughout the series and it moves forward at a nice pace with plenty of well-written and exciting action sequences.
Lauren Fortgang turns in a good narration with this book. Her voice embodies Gin Blanco for me and each character is uniquely voiced. I’d be interested to hear male/female differentiation done in more subtle tones since I feel like too many of the male characters get a growl to their voice as part of the masculine characterization. To be fair, a lot of those voices belong to giants (and now that I think about it their voices sound a lot like you would expect if you were reading Jack and the Beanstalk out loud and dropped into a gravelly voice to say “Fe Fi Fo Fum”…) and that may also contribute to that air of comic book-ness I pick up. The core narrative is delivered in a deliberate and relaxed drawl apropos of the fictional Southern setting, the range of Gin’s emotions are nicely conveyed, and the tension that builds during action scenes is superbly assisted by the vocal choices of the narrator.
A good wrap-up to the first arc in a really fun series – this audiobook delivers tension, action, and good narration that draws you into the world.