Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

Publisher: Amazon Audible
Format: Unabridged - 11 hrs 59 min
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang

*Amazon: 4.2 out of 5 Stars (103 reviews)
*GoodReads: 3.95 out of 5 Stars (2,683 Ratings; 463 Reviews)
Reading is Fundamental-

*Note- Ratings and statistics current at the time of writing.

Every now and then I read a book where it seems that the story was written for Hollywood.  You know, not a script, but told in such a way that lends itself to adaptation.  Almost as if the writer's focus is more about selling movie rights than leveraging the advanatages of print media.  Think comic book only with more words and fewer pictures (I listened to the audio, but even it has a cover picture). I've noticed a trend in the U/F genre lately where many books are being converted into graphic novels (i.e. Mercy Thompson, the Dresden Files, etc.).  Spider's Bite would make an exceptional graphic novel.

I'm not a personal friend or family member of Jennifer's, so I don't know if movie adaptation or graphic novel were first and foremost in her mind, or if she merely thinks in action based, visual terms, but I can tell you I would much rather have seen this story than read it.  That's not to say that the story was bad or that it was poorly written.  I actually enjoyed the book and will likely continue on with the series at some point, but then I "enjoy" most books.  It was a fairly average read that I think would be better suited for the big screen.

Spider's Bite is not premised on an original concept.  We have a child, orphaned by violence, who grows up to channel her pain and grief into vigilantism.  Gin a.k.a the Spider is a stone cold killer.  Except of course she isn't.  Yeah, she knocks off people for a living, but all of them deserve it.  They have to, or most of us wouldn't be able to relate, let alone like the character.  The plot itself is pretty transparent, so much so that I was a little incredulous.  Predictability is one thing, characters ignoring or disregarding things for the sake of allowing the story to move forward is another when these actions are completely out of character.  It wasn't so igregious that it ruined the book for me, but I would have prefered for Jennifer to take a better approach.

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Jennifer does have an interesting, if odd, take on "elemental" magic.  I found it somewhat strange that ice is considered a major element and water a lesser element, same for stone as opposed to earth in general.  Jennifer doesn't really explain the workings of magic in her world the way that other, better stories, in the genre do.  This is not Kim Harrison's The Hollows, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, or Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series, all of which are much more thorough in explaning the inner workings of magic and what it can and can't do. It's much more like Harry Potter in that magic does whatever Jennifer says it does and she's pretty vague about it.  Some of the things she says it can do are a little wierd, but, going back to the strong visual thing, it would make a hell of a movie. 

There is a feminist undercurrent to the book that I think gets in the way of what would otherwise be a better story. Look, I'm all about empowering women, but the men in this book are fairly useless, generally wrong, and have few redeeming qualities outside their "hawtness".

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The book's pacing is a little strange, particularly near the end where it continued for a good bit after the storyline had resolved itself.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just something that doesn't happen much in modern writing.  Much of the added material was unnecessary or could have been worked into the story prior to the climax.

Lauren Fortgang does a very good job with the narration of the book. She gives Gin a subtle southern accent that I found perfect for the character. As it isn’t overblown, it supports the locale of the story without detracting from the professional nature of Gin’s character. Lauren does gruff or raspy voices effectively without sounding silly or forced. Her male voices are subtly different from each other with no hint of exagerated tone. Obviously, she doesn't sound like a guy, but she doesn't sound like a girl pretending to be a guy either which is something I generally find grating. Instead she subtly deepens her voice so the listener knows a male is speaking.

Overall, Spider’s Bite is not spectacular, but it’s a fun read that was definitely worth my time. A fair start to a series.



  1. Hey, I love that you guys do audio book reviews here because I listen to the ALL the time.

    Where's the "follow" button for this blog, though? I can't find it.

  2. OK, nevermind. It wasn't showing up in Internet Explorer 9 but it shows find in Chrome. Ugh Microsoft!

  3. *fine in Chrome. Gah, what's with me and typos today??