Imagine a future where pirates’ attacks are foiled by bio-engineered monsters.
“The Edge of the Abyss” by Emily Skrutskie is the second book in a series, with “The Abyss Surrounds Us” being the first book. Now, I don’t normally review serial books for my column, but this one I've made an exception for since the story revolves around a pair of lesbian pirates.
Yes, lesbian pirates who raise sea monsters are what really caught my eye initially when it came to this book. I haven't read any books where the special monster the protagonist raises is a sea monster, and most, if not all, of the popular young adult books current available have a heterosexual relationship as the main relationship focus. Skrutskie's ability to weave their relationship into the action-packed plot was masterful.
Protagonist Cassandra Leung — Cas for short — was born and raised to be a Reckoner trainer. Reckoners are specially created sea monsters that were engineered to protect ocean ships. This was brought about as Cas’ world became more reliant on ships after global warming melted the polar ice caps.
What is threatening the oceans’ ships? Pirates — lots of them — which Cas raises a Reckoner for a band of pirates that kidnapped her. At the end of the first book, she joins their crew.
The opening of the second book has Cas training to take over the pirate ship called Minnow, and in competition with four other young pirates. Which one of them is her love interest, a girl named Swift.
However, what held my attention was Skruskie’s development of Cas. I was worried the sea monster aspect would turn out to be a gimmick, just a twist on the common young adult dystopian future genre. But Cas was a flawed and relatable character who couldn’t throw away her past, which is something that resonates with me. One of her moments of reflection in particular:
“Joining the Minnow was like throwing away the first seventeen years of my life, and at the time it felt necessary. It felt right. But if I survive the Hellbeast crisis and carry on with the pirates, I’ll be preying on the weak. I’ll be killing in the name of greed, and the first seventeen years of my life have made sure that I’ll never be able to justify that.”
These moments of introspection added depth to the story and kept me from feeling disconnected from the events in the book.
Another point I found in Skruskie’s writing style is she didn’t dwell on things that were normal in her story. There was no need to explain why two girls loved each other; they simply did. I found that refreshing, as many stories with LGBT characters have seemed to feel the need to justify the character’s orientation, which gets old quickly.
I completely recommend “The Edge of the Abyss,” which will be available for purchase April 18 for $11.99 and while you are waiting for it to come out, whet your appetite with the first book, “The Abyss Surrounds Us.”
Dixie Sun rating: 5 out of 5 suns