The Edge of the Abyss
by Emily Skrutskie
Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to 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 Boa is not the only a 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 the 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?
Like I did with the Six of Crows duology, as soon as I finished The Abyss Surrounds Us I jumped straight into The Edge of the Abyss; I needed to know what happened next, especially to Cas and Swift’s relationship after the revelation at the end of the first book.
I’ve been wary of series, and stayed away from them, for a few years, but this year they’ve welcomed me back with open arms and I’m pleased to say I enjoyed this second book even more than I enjoyed the first one.
Cas and Swift’s relationship is complicated, so I appreciate that Skrutskie writes it like it is. They have moments where they’re madly into each other and moments where they don’t know if they’re right for each other or not, because as much as we might want to see characters get together they don’t know how well matched they are. This isn’t a story to them, these are their lives, and I like to see them being played out realistically.
Or as realistically as a story about sea monsters can be.
Having realised that Santa Elena isn’t the only pirate to have purchased a reckoner of her own, and discovering that vicious, untrained reckoners are now loose in the ocean where they’ll disrupt the ecosystem and kill both sailors and pirates alike, Cas, Swift, Santa Elena and the rest of the crew are on a mission to stop these creatures before the ocean becomes too dangerous for any of them to make a living on. This can’t happen in a world where there is no future for many people on land anymore.
While the first book is a little slower, and I don’t have a problem with that at all, The Edge of the Abyss was so much fun to read because it was constantly moving. There were quieter moments, moments where Cas got to contemplate where her life was headed now that she’d become a pirate herself and what kind of future she could have with Swift, but the plot was always moving forward.
As long as it’s done well I don’t mind if a book is slow or fast-paced, but I tend to lean towards slow books because I’ve read plenty of fast-paced books where the characters were left behind in favour of the plot, and I will always choose character over plot. This didn’t happen with The Edge of the Abyss.
I can’t say I got answers to all of the questions I had – we didn’t learn everything about how the world ended up the way it is here and there were some side characters I’d’ve liked to know more about – but everything I didn’t know I had enough information to make a guess at, and I’d much rather that than a lot of explanation that made zero sense.
It wouldn’t have made sense for Cas to relay the history of the world when she’s thinking so much about her present and her future – her concern is what comes next, not what’s already been. Similarly, the side characters we didn’t learn much about are characters Cas didn’t know well enough for her to know everything about them, she hadn’t earned their stories, and it would have been a disservice to those characters if they were to open themselves up to someone they didn’t trust.
For me the important thing was what Cas’s future was going to look like now that she’s so much more morally grey than she was at the beginning of The Abyss Surrounds Us, and what was going to happen to her relationship with Swift. Personally I thought Skrutskie brought this story to a close beautifully, I was so satisfied with the ending and with the fates of Cas, Swift and even Santa Elena. Swift, especially, I grew to love even more in this book, and I still think she’s such a fantastic spin on the typical YA ‘bad boy’.
If you’re looking for some LGBT+ sci-fi, or you’re in the mood for a new pirate book, I highly recommend this duology!