By A Thread by Jennifer Estep is one of the novels in her fantastic Elemental Assassins series. Those of you who haven't met assassin Gin Bianco are in for a treat but you really should start with the first in the series, Spider's Bite and continue with Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, and Spider's Revenge to get up to speed. This excellently crafted world is peopled by those who are inherently other than human and use their powers accordingly (giants as bodyguards, a vampire madam, a dwarf obssessed with mining, etc.) intermixed with those who appear human yet have powers based on elements such as fire, ice, stone, and metal. Gin Bianco was tortured and orphaned as a child by the machinations of the evil Fire Elemental, Mab, but was adopted and trained to become an assassin and incidentally, a fantastic cook. Her adult life has been divided between expertly fulfilling her assignments as an assassin, attending class, working at a barbeque joint and planning revenge on Mab.
***SPOILER**** beyond this point
Thread of Death is the novella that connects the first 5 stories to Gin's life after Mab. By A Thread follows Gin's life after she has defeated Mab and is trying to go back to her version of normal. Unfortunately, just like the gunslingers from the old West, everyone wants to challenge the victor and Gin is unable to rest on her laurels. She finally acquiesces to her foster brother's repeated requests to go out of town for a vacation in an attempt to relax and get reacquainted with her long-lost sister, Bria, but discovers that it is not going to be a simple matter to visit the place where her sister was raised after their family was destroyed and meet the woman who has been the friend that Gin wishes she herself could have been. Gin finds herself in the middle of yet another struggle against a villain who seeks to monopolize business in the town, no matter who he has to intimidate or kill to achieve his goals. She could have stayed at home and needed her assassination skills less but what would have been the fun in that?
I really enjoy the creativity that goes into this series. There is a fair amount of violence but it isn't so overt that one becomes numb or overwhelmed and the fascinating characters and scenarios keep the story moving. The author has a facility for painting vivid word pictures that make it easy to visualize someone like the Goth dwarf who is as efficient at serving up a tasty meal as disposing of a dead body, a person receiving stories from the stone walls that have witnessed many events, or an assassin who can keep her equanimity even as she distributes countless sharp silverstone knives over her person. My only complaint is that I am inevitably hungry after reading about the tasty dishes served up in these very entertaining tales.
My Amazon review is at this link under ELF2060. I'd appreciate a "helpful" vote if you enjoy it.
I received an ARC of this work in return for an honest review.