“Home is what you kill for.
And I killed for Swift.”
Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?
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.
TW: violence, gore, mutilation
Oh my god. OH MY GOD.
This book officially owns my soul and I’ve never been so delighted in my entire LIFE.
I knew I’d like The Abyss Surrounds Us. It had everything that interests me in its summary, plus it was sent by one of my best friends who has perfect taste in books. I knew going in that I could trust it. I also knew going in that it was f/f, which had me extra excited.
Nothing could have prepared me for how much I liked it. LOVED IT.
For starters, there’s the giant sea monsters, which are so damn cool just in concept, and then in the execution, they’re even cool. Like, Pacific Rim level cool. I adored this future world set up where sea monsters help to protect the seas from pirates, where they are weapons but living creatures and an integral part of the story. I also love that Cas’ particular monster was named to be cute, usually called “little shit” instead, and was a powerful, terrifying beast. I could imagine the size of these creatures (kind of; think of how big you think a blue whale is and seeing one in the flesh would be bigger, so this is the same principle), and all their dangerousness. It was incredible.
But even more incredible was the plot, which kept moving. It was tight, without holes as far as I could tell, and positively captivating. I ate lunch two hours late because I read this book in one sitting and didn’t want to put it down for anything.
And EVEN MORE INCREDIBLE were the characters. Cas was phenomenal, growing as a character in the best ways, and Swift unfurled piece by piece until I was hopelessly in love with her because she’s absolutely amazing and multi-faceted. Santa Elana was vicious and terrifying, the other trainees were interesting and I expect to see more of them in the future, and Bao? For a sea monster who doesn’t have the intelligence level of humans, he had personality nonetheless and I loved his big, scaly, dangerous head. A good boy, when he’s not busy being a little shit.
Plus, the characters were wonderfully diverse! Cas is Chinese, I believe (if I understood it right between her name, the way she named Bao, and when she said at one point she understood snatches of Canto – short for Cantonese, I’m guessing?), she and Swift are queer, Santa Elana is brown and so is her son, the pirates themselves come from a variety of backgrounds, and it was just so refreshing? And fantastic? And wonderful? And the best part was that it was seamless. There was no stewing over any of it, no homophobia or racism or what have you, and while those topics are important to discuss in the interest of social justice, just for once, I was so excited to read a book where these characters were who they were, and the more important conflict was surviving pirate activities on the open oceans. Social justice is so important, but now more than ever, it fills every damn day because of the current political trajectory, and it felt so good to escape for a couple hours to a world where that wasn’t the main concern. It was a breather from the real world and all the stress that comes with it, and I needed that.
But easily my favorite thing of all was the way the romance worked with the plot and the character development. It wasn’t a subplot, not when it affected everything so much, and I think Emily Skrutskie must have looked straight into my soul or something, because the romance tropes used are my FAVORITE. Enemies to lovers with genuinely growing mutual respect? Check. Bed sharing? Check. Clothes sharing? Check. Witty banter? Check. HANDCUFFED TOGETHER FOR THE DAY? CHECK.
Basically, I was in trope heaven for this one because it made me laugh and worry in equal parts, and I don’t remember the last time I shipped anything quite this hard. From the start, it had me hooked and refused to let go, and I so rarely say that about romance in YA novels as of late. It was everything I have ever dreamed of in an f/f novel that’s not about being queer, and then it was even better.
Also, I take great comfort in that fact that Swift, known tough girl and survivor of basically everything, is gay and can’t drive. Same, Swift. Hard same.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, brilliant, witty, inventive scifi book, please pick this book up, especially if you’re looking for f/f rep in genre fiction. Everything about this has been a sheer delight from start to finish, and I am so thrilled about it, 100%. As soon as I can get my hands on Edge of the Abyss, I will, and for every day I have to wait, I might cry just a little because I DON’T WANT TO WAIT.
It’s that good, I promise.
Have you read TASU? Are your feelings about it as strong as mine? If you haven’t read it, what other sea monster stories do you love? I’m in the mood for some ocean beasties in my fiction now.