Monday, February 8, 2016

The Abyss Surrounds Us ~ Emily Skrutskie (earc) review [@skrutskie @fluxbooks]

The Abyss Surrounds Us
February 8, 2016
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

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.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she's not about to stop.

So it's actually because of a one star review that I read The Abyss Surrounds Us. Or rather, the author's response to it in this tweet (and the six following). I read the book's description on NetGalley and was back and forth about whether I wanted to request it. But then . . .

In some ways I wish I hadn't seen those tweets. I don't know if having an idea of what was coming affected how I saw their initial interactions. It did seem that Cas was questioning more than made sense for the time and/or being more forgiving.. I also didn't always comprehend or really grasp Cas' justifications for those early, key decisions.

As a result, I had trouble connecting with her character in the beginning.

Once things got going, however, things worked out. I may not have understood why Cas made certain calls, but once she was following through with those decisions, I understood her and her choices more. The characters and their interactions also got better for me. Though, I will always think of this when someone calls someone else's hair stupid:

 There was enough of a foundation there, especially once we really got into the story, that I could understand their uncertainty about each other, themselves and the situation they found themselves in. It really works that there are starts and stops, good and bay, and ups and downs.

One of the things I appreciated most in The Abyss Surrounds Us is that there was acknowledgement of the hierarchy/position of power or authority present between the characters. Though what that all meant for some developments was frustrating at times, I do think the story, the characters and any relationships are ultimately better for it.

There are sea monsters - a bit like if you had a kraken do what personal security dogs do - and pirates - girl pirates at that*, danger, a lot of gray areas and questions over what's right or wrong, or more right or more wrong, and complicated relationships. It seems like things are clear: Cas, the Reckoners and the world she comes from are the good guys, the pirates are the bad guys. Things are never quite that simple, though.

I loved that the story and characters were messy. (In the best way.) Just when you think you have them and their motives all figured out, you're in for a surprise. Not always a good one, either. It made for an emotional read and the ending has me anxious to read Book 2.

received for review from publisher, via NetGalley

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