Weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the pirate-queen Santa Elena and released Bao, the Reckoner she’d been forced to train for the Minnow. The training is hard, sure, but not as hard as seeing Swift everyday after learning what she did to Durga.
But Cas’ got bigger fish to fry—literally. Bao isn’t the only wild Reckoner that’s been released to roam the sea, and their presence threatens to destroy the ocean’s ecosystem. Now the Minnow has a new mission—destroy the untrained Hellbeasts. And it’s one that, if failed, could affect the entire world.
Sea monsters, pirates, and lesbians—oh my! The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie was one of my favorite novels of 2016, and its sequel, The Edge of the Abyss, has been one of my most anticipated books of 2017. After squeeing over it for sometime now, I’m thrilled to shout to the world that IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT.
Like the first novel in the series, The Edge of the Abyss managed to pack a lot into very little page space. The novel itself is a little less than 300 pages, but balances its pacing so well that it’s hard to believe the novel is anything but 500. Everything lovable about book one has been amplified—and it’s done in such a way that I was torn between feeling grateful it was pulled off in only two novels and moping about because the series is only a duology. It wraps up nicely, ending with a solid twist.
The worldbuilding in book two is just as thorough as it is in book one. With now Cas permanently aboard the Minnow, we’re pulled deeper into the world of piracy. A pirate council is introduced, bringing more colorful characters, ships, and competition to worry about. While most of the attention is centered on the untrained Reckoners that are floating around, enough details are dropped to give a picture of the world beyond the plot. It makes for a very creative read, one where your imagination wants to roam.
Like the first book in the series, a large portion of this novel is introspective, and it’s with good reason. Since book one was really about Cas learning about the world beyond the shore and choosing her own path, book two deals with the consequences of that. Cas has abandoned her job, her family, her values—and she did it in such a way that there’s no chance she can ever go back to it. The poor girl underestimated how well she’d be able to recreate her character to fit the new role she’s chosen for herself, and is heavy with guilt. She blames herself for the pending destruction of the NeoPacific, and like any 18-year-old, is having trouble figuring out what to do about it.
Because of this, her relationship with Swift is… complicated… throughout the majority of the novel. The way the romance is handled isn’t clean or predictable like a rom-com. Torn between wanting to forgive her and feeling like Swift needs to be punished for what happened, Cas is very hot and cold around her. They circle each other throughout much of the book (like sharks…in love?), trying to establish that “equal footing” they desperately wanted in book one. I never felt the need to yell “JUST KISS ALREADY”, but I suffer a bit of second-hand embarrassment thanks to Cas’ internal “I love her/I hate her” struggle.
Despite the fact that I repeatedly wanted to reach into the book and shake her, she felt very human to me, which I respect. It’s hard enough to find sci-fi with f/f romance, let alone one with a compelling romance. It certainly made their (spoiler alert) happy ending all the more satisfying, and was a welcomed breath of fresh air against the typical backdrop of YA’s romance tropes.
Swift gets a fair amount of character development as well, but I can’t dive too deep into that without dropping some major spoilers.
Now it’s time to talk about the best part of the book: the sea beasties! There are more of them! A lot more of them! And the battle scenes involving them are spectacular. From Cephalopoid to FUCK-THAT-NOPE-NOPE-NOPE-FUCKING Sea Bigfoot (Simioid), the action involving these creatures is as creative as the creatures themselves. I always love reading a scene I can tell the author had fun writing, and it was hard not to smile throughout most of the book. It was the kind of action you want to see on a screen, but have just as much—if not more—picturing it in your own mind. A++, two thumbs up, 10/10—would highly recommend to anyone who loved Pacific Rim or gushes over Godzilla.
Overall, a solid sequel and finale to a series that should be shared with anyone who likes kaiju action, queer characters, and adventurous pirates. If you haven’t had a chance to read The Abyss Surrounds Us, then what are you waiting for? Get thee to a bookstore right now. And if you already have and, like me, were waiting for one of the best sequels of the year, then make time to read it in one or two sittings.
5 out of 5 stars
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