BITTER BITE by Jennifer Estep: a REAL 50 Shades of Grey

Bitter Bite

Bitter Bite CoverElemental Assassin Series
Book #14
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster
Type: Audio Book, E-Book, Print Book
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2016


E-Galley provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.



Note: This contains major spoilers for Spider’s Trap. So if you absolutely do not want to be spoiled, skip reading the book description.


Which is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship? That’s the question Gin Blanco is asking when a friend’s long-lost relative comes strolling back into Ashland under suspicious circumstances. The unexpected reunion is a surprise for everyone—and a big problem for Gin. Book 14 in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series RT Book Reviews calls “unbeatable entertainment!”

It’s not easy being queen bee of an underworld abuzz with crooks and killers. Wielding my potent Ice and Stone elemental magic will only get me so far—my real secret is my tight-knit makeshift family, a motley crew of cops and criminals, dwarves and playboys. My foster brother Finnegan Lane is my right-hand man, but when his suddenly not-dead relative comes back into the picture, I’m the one on the outside looking in.

It’s funny how life works: one minute your best friend is rock-steady, and the next he’s doe-eyed and buying into this whole loving-relative routine to the point of ignoring you. I’d like to be happy for Finn , I really would. But all of my instincts are telling me that beneath the syrupy sweet demeanor and old-fashioned charm, this sudden interloper is planning something. The whole shtick leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This person might have avoided the grave once, but I’ll put anyone who hurts Finn in the ground—for good.


My Take Oblong

This series offers me a real paradox: a female anti-hero. Gin Blanco is hard not to like; it’s hard to believe she is not, at the deepest level, a good person.  She is the female Tony Soprano — somehow sympathetic but violent.  More than once in this book, she is darkly gleeful in killing.

For me, that offers a personal quandary; makes me step out of my reading comfort zone.  I was very uncomfortable in the reading of this one. No one seems nice. 

In the world building Estep creates a place of almost our reality but with a colder, harsher feel plus magic.  It has often reminded me of an old episode of Star Trek where a world is ruled by gangsters. In the case though, the gangsters have elemental magic and there are giants, dwarves and vampires too.   The morality herein is not that of our world, so can it be measured against ours?  And, nothing is black and white except the cop cars.  That’s what I mean by 50 Shades. There’s actually not much in the way of sex, and no one gets tied to a bed post.

The loyalty Gin feels is to her family, both biological, adopted and chosen.  There’s not much of a societal morality in a world where the society reeks of corruption, nor does this earth seem to have a functioning spiritual tradition.  In fact, moral bankruptcy may be defined by a willingness to kill family.

In all of this, I think Estep is pushing us into this discomfort which was, for me reading this series, the most I have experienced. There is no using of  words over fists, or crowbars or shovels. Life is cheap.  

We get the same characters as before, with the addition of this mysterious new relative. We also get a couple of nightmarish twists. 

There is a nearly universal theme of betrayal that makes identification with the story easy and engrossing. Have you ever had a friend meet someone new of either gender who they were infatuated with but, of whom you could see was fake, and bad news?  Sometimes that new person causes a rift between friends and when they take off the chances are about even you can repair the friendship?   That is a big part of this story.  Oh, how betrayed and sad it is to be shut out of a friend’s attention as we watch them go down a dangerous path.

Another twist comes closer to the end of the book, and it is a pretty big one; pretty devastating. In the end, I remain discomfited by Gin’s story, her behavior, her world. It is by pushing me out of my comfort zone that Esteps sucks me right into the series.  In the final chapter of each book I regain hope that somehow Gin Blanco, the Spider, will be redeemed. Like her character, the spider, I will just have to be patient and wait it out.

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Jennifer Estep:

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