The Edge of the Abyss

26219455by Emily Skrutskie
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I have been waiting for this since I read the first book last year and it did not disappoint! More pirates, more adventure, more mayhem, more kissing!

Cas has had a tough three weeks since she pledged her loyalty to the pirate queen Santa Elena. But keeping busy with training lets her avoid Swift as much as possible, which is perfect. Then the crew of the Minnow discovers that Bao isn’t the only unregistered Reckoner in the NeoPacific—sightings of the untrained sea monsters, dubbed Hellbeasts, start popping up everywhere, threatening the entire ocean’s ecosystem (not to mention all the ships). Cas must find Bao and train him to fight the Hellbeasts if they want to restore balance to the ocean.

This book is filled with manipulative mind games from Santa Elena and the broken pieces of a relationship between Cas and Swift and I loved every page of it. All three women are ambitious, stubborn, ruthless, selfish, and constantly abrasive to each other. The power dynamics here are just addictive as Swift and Cas try to see if equal footing is even possible, and as Santa Elena challenges them to see who will be her successor. It’s a satisfying character study of pushing people to the brink of their conscience to see what they’ll do.

I felt like I could smell the sea the entire time, this story feels that real! I’m still impressed by how much the writing crams into such a short space. Every sentence is working hard and yet it’s easy to read. This short duology is a swashbuckling adventure you shouldn’t pass up!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Edge of the Abyss is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina chose to embrace her powers and it is leading to a rift between her and her sister Violetta, and her allies. It’s also opening a darkness within her that she must face before it destroys her. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel and Arin engage in games of deception that affect the war between their nations and the warning desires in their own hearts. For power plays and mind games there’s no better book than this! See my review here.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – A fun romp of a graphic novel about shape-shifter Nimona’s goal to become a villain’s sidekick. The usual themes of good vs evil, what makes a monster, does your past define you, what is justice, with plenty of good jokes thrown in the mix! See my review here.

What’s new this month

It’s a slower month for me (just as well since I have a lot of reading to catch up on!) but here’s what I’m excited about:

306538534/11 – The Upside of Unrequited – by Becky Albertalli

Molly is seventeen and heavier than she would like. Her careful avoidance of relationships has ensured her heart remains unbroken. But then her twin sister Cassie falls for a girl who brings along a cute boy that Molly immediately crushes on—but can she win him over and get her sister back? That’s hard enough without dealing with her coworker Reid who is a Tolkien fanatic Ren Faire pass-carrying nerd she could never fall for—right? This sounds like a jumbled mess of relationships and after Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda wrecked me with emotions I am very excited to read this!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

262194554/18 – The Edge of the Abyss – by Emily Skrutskie

Oh my goodness, so much was packed into the slim first book that I have itched for more ever since! Cas is such a nuanced and ruthless protagonist and she had me hooked from the first chapter. (See my review here). Three weeks after she pledged herself to Pirate Queen Santa Elena and released Bao, the Reckoner she was forced to train, Cas is still dealing with the fallout.  Not only is she training, she has to deal with Swift, the girl who broke her heart. And then she realizes there are other Reckoners roaming the seas illegally that endanger trade ships and pirates alike. It might be up to her to restore balance, even if that means betraying the creatures she used to protect.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What to read again:

Reading the previous books in a series a second time lets you soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—I find it makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

abyss surrounds us

This debut wowed me last year and I’m so excited for the sequel! (See my review here). In the future, genetically engineered monsters known as Reckoners protect trade ships on the high seas from ruthless pirates. Cas has been training her whole life to be a trainer assigned to a beast and a ship–but as you can guess, her first mission is a disaster. Captured by the Pirate Queen Santa Elena, Cas is forced to train a stolen Reckoner to attack trade ships. Her ambivalent ally on board is Swift, a girl with secrets and a questionable moral compass that keeps Cas on her toes–even as the pirate girl begins to touch her heart. There is so much packed into this slim book! I highly recommend it for a healthy dose of adrenaline, romance, and betrayals.


The Abyss Surrounds Us

abyss surrounds usby Emily Skrutskie
YA Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: February 8, 2016

This book was an amazing surprise! I’ve had this on my list since I heard “pirates + sea monsters + LGBT” and it was nothing like what I expected–in a good way! The setting was a lot to absorb. In the first few pages we learn the United States has dissolved due to rising sea levels, and pirates are destroying the limited sea trade that’s trying to survive. In response, giant, genetically engineered monsters (Reckoners) are bred and trained in labs to sink pirate ships. Cassandra (Cas) Leung is one of those trainers–in training. As you can probably guess, her first solo mission is a complete disaster. Enter: the pirate queen Santa Elena and her crew of miscreants!

The first fifty-ish pages are a bit clunky from explaining what the world is like and introducing a bunch of characters amidst near non-stop action. After that, it was smooth sailing (sorry, I had to)! Santa Elena ties Cas to one of her trainees, Swift–a teenage girl with a partially-shaved head and a short fuse–and orders Cas to train the Reckoner she’s mysteriously acquired to fight FOR the pirates. If Cas doesn’t do it, Santa Elena will kill Cas and Swift. At first, Cas doesn’t care. Swift is just another pirate girl responsible for terrible attacks on innocent people. All pirates are the same.

But as Cas shares Swift’s room and learns what the pirate girl is really like, the lines between “good” and “evil” begin to blur.

Cas is an incredibly nuanced character! She is the gold nugget of this book. Cas starts off seeing the world as black and white, and her narration matches that. She’s direct, honest, stubbornly holding to her principles. But then Swift introduces all sorts of shades of gray and Cas realizes she herself might be as monstrous as the pirates–it’s just hidden on the inside. (I don’t want to say more because of spoilers). As she gradually develops mixed feelings about her past and her current imprisonment aboard the ship, we see how someone’s point of view can change so subtly, with just one choice at a time. And it’s not until the end when you realize you are so far from where you meant to be.

The end of this story had me completely riveted, and I’m pretty sure my jaw was hanging open for most of it. Cas is a new favorite character for me (even though I’m not sure I like her–explain that!)  and I’m incredibly exited for a potential sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Abyss Surrounds Us is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina has never been the favorite sister, but when strange and terrifying powers manifest in her, she realizes she is one of the Young Elites–survivors of the blood fever given dangerous abilities. Now she has to decide what to do with them. See my review here.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – The second in a trilogy that features plenty of swashbuckling, betrayal, and battles with darkness. Alina gains further knowledge of her power as the Sun Summoner and fears the only way to destroy the Darkling and his grip on her country is by embracing the same darkness.
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – A breathless chase across the seas and the world as rogues and allies hunt Safi for her truth-seeing ability. Safi and Iseult know the price on their heads, but they don’t know there’s a bigger conspiracy at work. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel has always been unconventional just because she doesn’t want to be a soldier or a bride. But when she accidentally wins the slave Arin, she begins to question her entire world and how she could change it. See my review here.
  • The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas – Specifically, the novella The Assassin and the Pirate Lord. Celaena Sardothien is on her way to becoming the most feared assassin in Adarlan, but some of her missions are starting to turn her stomach. When she finds out about an unsavory deal between her master and the Pirate Lord, she decides to go rogue. See my review here.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Nimona is a shape-shifter determined to work for the baddest bad guy around, Lord Blackheart. But she has her own reasons for this partnership that Blackheart has to uncover if he is to understand and control the rage that lives beneath her skin. See my review here.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A group of criminals agree to join forces for the greatest heist of the century–kidnapping the only man known to create a serum that enhances Grisha magic. Naturally, they all plan to betray each other given the first opportunity. See my review here.
  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Victor and Eli were brilliant college roommates that successfully found a way to given humans superpowers–then discovered they have completely incompatible views on how those powers should be used. See my review here.

What’s new this month

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the February releases this year! Here are the books I’m adding to my list this month:

KR2/2 – Kings Rising – C. S. Pacat

The much-anticipated conclusion in this trilogy centered around political intrigue and the relationship between banished prince Damen, now a slave in enemy territory, and his new master, Laurent, prince of that country. So much drama and (all kinds) of tension! It’s so character-driven, which is unusual in the fantasy genre, so I can’t wait to read more. I devoured the first book and I need to find out how this ends immediately!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble



assassin's heart

2/2 – Assassin’s Heart – by Sarah Ahiers

Pitched as The Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet, this story about assassin families and intrigue caught my eye immediately. If anyone has gotten obsessed with the Throne of Glass series, here’s another assassin to keep you on the edge of your seat until September! Lea must avenge her family’s death which probably happened thanks to her secret relationship with Val, an assassin from a rival family. I expect plenty of murder and intrigue!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


stars above2/2 – Stars Above – by Marissa Meyer

For everyone who just can’t handle the end of The Lunar Chronicles, enjoy this collection of novellas set in the same world with more to love from your favorite characters. As someone who still hasn’t gotten around to the brick that is Winter, I probably won’t read this for a while, but I think it’s timed perfectly for everyone who finished the last book in November. I love that publishers are getting more comfortable with short fiction! (5 new stories are included with 4 previously published tales).

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


abyss surrounds us2/8 – The Abyss Surrounds Us – by Emily Skrutskie

Pirates! Sea monster/dragon creatures! Lesbians! Story, you have my interest – please please please don’t disappoint! The takes the adventure and kick-ass heroines I love and promises some new twists and exciting world-building. This is part one of a duology, so more points for not stringing me along for years. I’ve found this structure tends to cut down on the “middle book” syndrome of stretching out character arcs and events just to fill space. This is the first of several pirate debuts for 2016 –I’ll resist making a pirate joke of some kind.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


morning star2/9 – Morning Star – by Pierce Brown

I’ll admit, I think I’ve read enough dystopian books to get the gist and I’m kind of over the commoners uprising against the rich ruler types. I admit the Communist leaning of the cover intrigues me. Anyway, I know this has a strong following so to all the existing fans, rejoice, the conclusion is here! Darrow’s long-standing battle to bring justice to his world (no doubt at steep cost) will wrap up in this volume. His plan is to bring down the Golds from the inside, but we all know plans tend to go wrong…

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


blackhearts2/9 – Blackhearts – by Nicole Castroman

The story of Blackbeard before his legendary status as a pirate captain! Edward Drummond is chafing against the restraints of high society. Anne Barrett loses her family fortune and must become a maid—in the Drummond household—when her true dream is to return to her mother’s island. I can’t wait to see how these characters chase their “unconventional” dreams together! I’m also intrigued by pirates used in a slightly historical sense as well.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


these vicious masks2/9 – These Vicious Masks – by Tarun Shanker

Jane Austen meets X-Men? I’m down for that. A girl searching for her missing sister, Victorian romance, family secrets, London (my favorite city!)…I think this will be a fun little adventure! I’m a bit worried about some of the tropes but if the characters are well-drawn it will be quite fun enough for me. I’m hoping this will be similar to Silver in the Blood but with smoother pacing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


girl from everywhere2/16 – The Girl from Everywhere – by Heidi Heilig

Similar to January’s Passenger, we have time-travel and high stakes relationships! Nix has followed her father through time for years and even has an out-of-time love interest on board their ship. But now her father wants to return to Honolulu, Nix’s birthplace—before her mother dies in childbirth. He wants to save her mother. Nix isn’t sure what will happen if her father tries to change time, but his dream could kill her. The relationships and conflicts in this story sound amazing, I can’t wait!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


A Gathering of Shadows Final2/23 – A Gathering of Shadows – by V.E. Schwab

OK, I haven’t gotten the chance to read the first book yet (A Darker Shade of Magic) but I fell in love with her writing last year and I want to read more of her stuff! Again, set in London and promising tons of addictive mayhem, I want to explore these characters as soon as I can. Time-travel, magic, intrigue—I’m sure it’s amazing! I just need to make room on my shelf. This month has too much awesome stuff coming out!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


Raven King2/23 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

Remember that this gorgeous, epic book was delayed until April 26th! I know it’s the second delay, but it stings less. I have to re-read the books – and all of these amazing February releases – so April will be here before I know it! And at least we have cover art now. 🙂

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