Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.
But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?
Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?
TW: death, violence, a lot of emotional manipulation
So, TASU had super emotionally invested, and EotA?
Oh yeah, definitely super invested. Really, really invested.
The dynamic between Cas and Swift is what had me hooked the whole time. They’re the only f/f enemies to lovers I’ve ever read before, and their relationship is so complex and fraught because of the circumstances, which of course means I love it. Swift has made mistakes. Cas makes mistakes. They kiss, they make up, they fall apart again. Santa Elena meddles plenty, and nothing is simple.
I think that’s what I love most about this duology: nothing is simple. There are not always good choices available. Doing the right thing sometimes isn’t an option. The characters aren’t good people as a result, not all the time, and I THRIVE on that kind of complexity. Characters don’t have to be good people to be interesting, especially when faced with choices like the ones before Cas and Swift, ESPECIALLY when faced with choices largely rigged by the manipulative Santa Elena.
And speaking of Santa Elena, she’s a fantastic antagonist. She’s cunning and can be absolutely cruel. It makes her fearsome, honestly, and at the same time, she’s devoted to her crew, her life on the sea, and all the people who aren’t able to enjoy the benefits of citizenship that people like Cas are born into. Some of the things she does are for good reasons, like banding all of the NeoPacific pirates together to fight the threat to the ocean’s ecosystem, and some of the things she does are entirely selfish, such as the way she goads Swift on in her training and uses Cas as a tool to do so.
But I will say that this wasn’t as good as the first book, which is a shame. It felt slower, probably because it didn’t have as much of the “will they, won’t they” component to it, not to mention Cas training Bao the first time was more compelling than the gradual threat of the Hellbeasts in this book. On top of that, the structure overall didn’t feel as tight, and the logic behind some of the choices sometimes didn’t strike me as sound or even understandable.
In the end, though, I’m in this series for the characters, so Cas and Swift continued to delight, and Cas’s interactions with her brother Tom had me in tears because they were so, so good. Varma and Chuck even had more time to shine, and I came to like Varma especially, who’s a good kid, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker. And Bao? Man, I love that big turtle boy. He could squish literally anyone if he wanted, but I love him.
All in all, a four star read! Even when it dragged, I was still invested in the characters, and I think it’s true that good characters can save a weaker plot. I’m glad I stuck through to the end (though I want to know more about their lives after all this!), and I think Cas and Swift are going to be my favorite bookish couple for a very long time.
Have you read Edge of the Abyss? Did you like it? Do you need more sea monsters in your life? I need more sea monsters, that’s for sure. Give me all the ocean beasties. All of them.