Series: The Abyss Surrounds Us #1
Published by Flux on February 8th 2016
Genres: LGBT, Fantasy, Dystopian
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For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. SheÂ’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 CasÂ’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, CasÂ’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
ThereÂ’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.
IÂ’ve posted numerous times about how this was one of my most anticipated books of 2015. The description hooked me immediately. I was so excited about this book that I actually became cautious because I was afraid that it looked too good. IÂ’ve been burned too many times by books that have an incredible description but thatÂ’s the best part about it. Luckily, this book lived up to the hype. Pirates, sea monsters, complete with a monster wrangler, a dystopian world and a slow burn romance make this book a must read.
I loved CasÂ’s relationship with her reckoners. She was an animal trainer, and like any trainer she formed a bond and they became a team. I know and work with numerous guide dog teams and Emily Skrutskie got this 100% right. This was a big part of the book and it could have gone very badly. Emily Skrutskie managed to make the training of an animal that she made up sound interesting at every turn. Animal training is a time consuming and multi-step process that this story captured but never made boring.
Another thing important aspect of this story that Emily Skrutskie got absolutely right was the slow burn romance between Cas and Swift. When they first meet and throughout the story, Cas is a captive of the pirates. She is there as a prisoner. There is a very real power imbalance between Cas and Swift. Cas canÂ’t give consent because she is SwiftÂ’s prisoner. All of this is out in the open in the story and clearly discussed. Cas wonÂ’t start something with Swift while they are not on equal footing and Swift respects that. ThatÂ’s how it should be.
If thereÂ’s any complaint I have about this story, itÂ’s that I wanted more. More information about the supporting cast, more scenes with Santa Elena, more world building and descriptions of the world, more everything. I thought the story itself was great. It was surprising, fun and engrossing and lead perfectly into the sequel. Still, I wouldnÂ’t have complained if it was 100 pages longer.