For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.
But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.
I finished my first book for Femslash February, and it was an amazing way to start the month.
I’m not particularly surprised, because every detail I heard about this book sounded wonderful. I mean, sea monsters? Female pirates who kick ass? A progressively-getting-morally-greyer protagonist who also kicks ass? An f/f romance at the center of it all? YES. Everything about this book just sounded perfect.
I was right to be excited, because The Abyss Surrounds Us turned out to be excellent. The world is so unique and fascinating; I hung on to every detail we learned, and I can’t wait to explore it more in future books. The book’s vibe reminded me of Pacific Rim a little, which is great because I love Pacific Rim. I had more feelings about genetically engineered sea monsters than I ever anticipated having. I love the characters–the complicated dynamics aboard the ship and the way Emily Skrutskie handles everyone’s just-as-complicated morality. And of course, Cas and Swift’s relationship made me feel a lot of things.
The Abyss Surrounds Us is quick, fun, and intelligent, with a unique premise and a fantastic female-driven cast. It’s an adventure you’ll want to go on.
The Abyss Surrounds Us was so much shorter than I thought it would be! I would have loved more world development, and more time to get to know some of Swift’s crewmates aboard Santa Elena’s ship. Then again, that’s what the second book is for!
The number one thing I got excited about with this book: ALL THE LADIES. All the complex, awesome, capable, unique, morally grey female characters who make difficult choices and fight for what’s important to them. The protagonist, love interest, and antagonist are all excellently written women and it’s just so refreshing to see.
Also, the world is incredibly cool. Emily Skrutskie takes a fairly simple premise–the oceans flooding–and explores how it would change the world in a very original way. I loved the concept of training biologically engineered sea monsters to fight pirates and protect ships. Like I said, I got Pacific Rim vibes in terms of tone and also a few Scorpio Races vibes–obviously, the books are wildly different, but just the concept of a trainer growing to love an animal that could definitely kill them makes me feel all of the things. I also loved the research that went into developing the concept–how the ecosystem would change, how training the Reckoners would work. My inner ten-year-old just kept making excited noises every time we learned something new.
Then we have the ship, and I feel like I should make some sort of pun here because pirate ships but it’s too late at night for me to be clever. But Cas and Swift’s relationship was the high point of the book for me, which is saying a lot because this book had a lot of high points. They had excellent chemistry from the beginning, and their development is slow, believable and lovely. I loved how their perceptions of each other changed, the way they constantly challenged each other’s worldviews, and the fact that the power imbalance between them is never ignored. The wonderful slow burn and complexity of their relationship has definitely added Cas and Swift to the ranks of my favorite f/f otps.
(Also, the casualness of the f/f romance was nice. Yes, coming out stories are important, but it’s been a while since I read a book about girls in love where the fact that they were both girls wasn’t even remotely an issue, and it was just such a wonderful change.)
The plot is intense and quick and kept me hooked, and the action scenes are wonderful. This is one of the rare books I would actually love to see as a movie, because I think certain battle scenes would work so well on film. Emily Skrutskie kept the tension up, and even when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen, I was always turning to the next page, fully invested in the characters’ survival.
If you can’t tell, I really highly recommend this book. Pick up if you want to read about high-seas adventures, women being awesome, moral questions with no easy answers, sea monsters, and FEELINGS.