b543a9505294c4760bcdf8f782e273e4THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US by Emily Skrutskie
Release Date: Feb 8, 2016
Publisher: Flux
Format: ARC Ebook from NetGalley
Purchase: Paperback (Amazon)


This book is pure girl power. Sometime in the future, the world has fragmented into smaller nations, and the rise of cities floating in the ocean has created a booming piracy industry. In order to combat this, many ships hire giant, genetically-engineered sea monsters called Reckoners to protect them. From the beginning, Cas is a girl that’s driven to succeed and prove herself as a Reckoner trainer, no matter what it takes. When she’s captured by pirates, rather than give up or give in, she takes matters into her own hands in order to do what’s right. Rather than just let the pirates get away with having their own terrifying monster of the deep, she’s determined to discover just who enabled them to get their hands on such technology, even though doing so comes at a high personal cost. Cas is not physically strong, but her inner-strength and determination are admirable.

And then there’s Swift. Oh man, I am 100% straight but let me tell you, Swift could convince me otherwise. She’s totally kick-ass, doesn’t take crap from anybody, and even though she’s kept on a short leash by the captain she has her own set of morals and obligations. You can tell that Swift, though extremely loyal to Santa Elena, faces a lot of internal conflict—and not just romantic—once Cas arrives, and that tension is fantastic.

Santa Elena, though very important in her actions, doesn’t make a super in-depth appearance in this book, but since it’s a series I’m seriously hoping to see more of her. She herself is a badass in her own right, and though I downright hate her at times for the things she does, I can’t help but admire her strength and fortitude. She took charge of a ship with a baby strapped to her back, and as a mom myself I always appreciate them getting some screen time. Even though she’s pretty much the antagonist, I loved that there was a strong woman that could kick ass, take charge, and be a loving mother at the same time. (Not to mention all the sexy outfits she wears—seriously, #goals.)

From the outset this story seems like a simple swashbuckling adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean style, but it actually poses some interesting questions about morality, in particular the morality of counter-terrorism. Until she was captured by pirates, Cas was basically on the side of the law—but in the NeoPacific, certain systematic factors drive people inevitably to piracy for their own survival. Is utter destruction a fair punishment for scavenging the seas to survive? These are questions that Cas battles with, and can’t really answer by the end. But as a reader, it’s apparent that underneath the action and adventure and sexual tension, there are some really deep themes being explored.

Before I read it I did have some doubts. A friend I was describing it to asked me if it was like Pokemon. To set the record straight: it’s nothing like Pokemon (even though Pokemon is totally awesome). It’s a wonderfully diverse, girl-powered adventure, and it’s written in a delightful voice that’s quite funny at times. It’s definitely a page-turner, because I couldn’t put it down! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Cas and Swift in the next installment.

This is my first every book review. Sorrynotsorry if it sucks.