Book Review: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

24790901The Abyss Surrounds Us

Emily Skrutskie

4/5 stars

Release Date: February 8, 2016

Publisher: Flux

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

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.

Review:

I absolutely loved The Abyss Surrounds Us. It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Pacific Rim. Skrutskie combines some of my favourite things to create this non-stop, action packed, female lead debut novel. I seriously couldn’t get enough of it!

The protagonist, Cassandra Leung has been around Reckoners – genetically modified sea monsters – her entire life. Cas is a really likeable character, I could relate to her almost immediately and once I started the novel I couldn’t stop. Cas is about to go on her first solo mission when the novel starts, so we as the reader get the behind-the-scenes look when it comes to creating and training Reckoners. Skrutskie is really great with character development, especially when it comes to Cas. She opens up to the reader, to Swift – another great character – and to herself.

Going into this, I thought it was fantasy but it delves more into sci-fi. This was a pleasant surprise because I love these types of books. Cas lives in a post-apocalyptic world, the borders of North America having changed. We don’t have an exact time period of how far off into the future this takes place, but there is some explanation into why countries became smaller – it’s better suited to handle and govern its people. In this day and age piracy has run rampant so governments and companies have created Reckoners, genetically engineered sea monsters, to protect important cargo and passenger ships.

Skrutskie is really good when it comes to world building – this world isn’t so different from ours in that we focus on the story and not the history behind it. I had questions – which are mostly answered – but it didn’t deter from the plot. Modern-day pirates and genetically engineered animals are things we can readily imagine – they’re familiar elements. I do feel the world building could have been expanded on a bit more. That’s my favourite element, so I always want more. For example, there are floating cities which are dependent on piracy. These cities literally float on the water and go wherever the ocean currents take them. I wished we could have seen more of that, they seem like a really interesting aspect.

I loved characters like Santa Elena, a pirate queen with a badass story to tell. Each character has their own story, their own worth. However, I didn’t feel like we got enough time with secondary characters. The Abyss Surrounds Us is largely focused on Cas and Swift.

Santa Elena has gotten her hands on a Reckoner and tasks Cas with training him. Named Bao, he’s a terrapoid which is like this giant turtle with claws. Minus the scary I-could-eat-you parts, I wanted my own Bao – I just loved everything-Reckoner. Skrutskie really impressed me when it came to them.

If you love pirates, sea monsters and diverse characters, this is the book for you. I’m really impressed with Skrutskie’s debut and I cannot wait to read her next book. When it comes to writing fiction, Skrutskie is talented. We can expect outstanding work from her in the future.

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