Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2016
Rating: 3 1/2★
Reading Level: 940L / 6.3
Recommended For: Fans of Eragon, Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen, or Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Cassandra Leung’s been a sea monster trainer ever since she could walk, raising genetically engineered beasts to defend ships crossing the NeoPacific … until pirates snatch her from the blood-stained decks.-Flux
YAY: The Abyss Surrounds Us is an action-packed science fiction novel that boasts a diverse cast of main and side characters, including a queer woman of color lead. Though science fiction may be a hard genre for some to get in to, this novel should be an easy fantasy crossover because the Reckoners seem so fantastical.
NAY: Due to the quick pace of the novel and the short page length, a lot of character development for main and side characters is shirked in favor of action scenes. This makes world building and character motivation hard to figure out at some points, and doesn’t contribute to the believability of the novel.
I heard good things about this novel from other bloggers and YouTubers, but I’m always hesitant about picking up Science Fiction books. It’s just never been a genre I’ve particularly liked. However, this novel didn’t really feel like typical science fiction. It read, honestly, like a dragon book that was released back in the early 2000s after Eragon got really popular.
Guys, I am HERE FOR IT.
Cassandra, the main character, was born and raised to train Reckoners. Reckoners are (sea dragons) genetically modified sea creatures designed to imprint on and protect certain ships from the growing pirate problem that has apparently taken over the world’s seas. Again. They’re massive, massive monsters that are raised from birth by highly skilled individuals to destroy anything that threatens their partnered vessel. Cassandra, as previously stated, is one such trainer. However, on her first solo mission aboard a cruise ship, everything goes terribly wrong when pirates attack just as her Reckoner starts to fall apart from the inside out. Cassandra knows that if her mission fails, everyone in the industry expects her to kill herself to protect the secrets of the trade. However, when faced with the very real possibility of death, will she be able to follow through?
I know I gave this book three-and-a-half stars, which could be considered a poor rating by some people, but I want to emphasize that I loved the premise for this book. This book is for people that read Eragon way back when and went, “Wow, this is very, very white, and very, very heteronormative.” Emily Skrutskie saw our pain and blessed us with The Abyss Surrounds Us, which still has the fun factor of raising a sea dragon, combined with a more diverse cast and questions about blindly trusting authority. Also, she briefly examines the environmental impact of the events described in the book, which is a view I appreciate. Not enough young adult literature examines the environmental impact in books, especially in science fiction. But I digress.
My main problem with the book is that there wasn’t enough of it. I need about 200 more pages to fully flesh out character motivations, and world building. Skrutskie includes elements of both things, but they seem rushed and at times because she needs to quickly get back to the fast-paced plot. If a little more time had been given to character development, I definitely think this book could have been one of my favorites of this year. However, book two is coming out soon, so maybe my problems will be fixed then.
This book is still one that I would recommend, especially if you’re looking for a queer, female-led, action-packed science fiction novel. Also, the sequel comes out TODAY, so unlike me, you’ll be able to dive straight in to the next one. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Edge of the Abyss.