Review: The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

May Contain Spoilers

I love, love LOVE the concept of this series.  The execution – maybe not so much.  Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the US is now comprised of small independent territories, and the oceans are havens for pirates.  Without citizenship on the land, people on the sea are forced to live in flotillas and floating islands. They depend on pirates for the goods needed to survive, so piracy flourishes. In order to combat them, Reckoners, huge water beasts, are bred and trained to defend a ship that they have been bonded with.  What happens when the pirates try to harness the power and brutality of the Reckoners for themselves?  Mass chaos and a threat that puts the ocean biosphere at risk.

The Edge of the Abyss picks up a month after The Abyss Surrounds Us.  Cas is a trainee on Santa Elena’s ship, Minnow, and she’s being groomed to take over command of the ship from Santa Elena.  There are five trainees vying for the coveted role of Elena’s heir, including Swift, the girl Cas has a love-hate relationship with.  When Cas realizes that there are more untrained water beasts in the sea, she feels even more guilt at abandoning Elena’s pup, Bao.  When she realizes that many of the other pirate ship captains also abandoned Reckoners, she fears that they will destroy the oceans. Suddenly, the petty bickering between the other trainees seems insignificant. Convincing Santa Elena that her livelihood is at sake, as well as the livelihood of every single person who relies on the ocean for a living, Cas must undertake her greatest challenge – track down the beasts and wipe them out.

As long as the story focused on the monsters, this was hard to put down.  The back and forth squabbles between Swift and Cas, though, soon got irritating.  Like in the first book, their relationship is not an easy thing.  Swift killed Cas’ Reckoner, Durga, in the most horrific way possible, and she was also responsible for Cas’ capture by the pirates.  Now that Cas is one of Elena’s trainees, they have even more friction between them.  The see-saw romance got on my nerves.  One minute they would  work out their differences, and the next day – BOOM! Something else happened to put them at odds again, and frankly, it got old after the second or third time.  Then I would hope for some monster action, to get things back on track again.

The battles with the Hellbeasts were well done. They were exciting and vividly described.  I loved them.  I wish there had been more of them.  The ending resolution to all of the story threads was convincing and satisfying, and I’d even like to follow Cas, Swift, and Bao on more adventures, though with fewer personal upheavals. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book

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?

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