Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Review: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us (The Abyss Surrounds Us #1)
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Publication Date: February 8, 2016
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 273

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Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

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.

Unfortunately, this book ended up being incredibly disappointing for me. I have heard pretty much nothing but rave reviews for this series since it's release almost two years ago, and I wish I could say the same. Ultimately, it all boils down to me wanting more from this book. The story seemed interesting, the world was unique, the characters were intriguing, but I needed so much more.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is set in what appears to be our world at some unknown time in the future. The world has been broken up into much smaller territories in an attempt to better govern the people. And there are these things called Reckoners, which are aquatic beasts of various builds that protect ships from pirate attacks. This sounds pretty cool, right? Well, unfortunately, that is pretty much the only information you get about the world in the entire book. I wanted to know so much more. What led to the division of the world? In the story, Cas meets a man who was alive before the transition, meaning that it is a more recent development. So shouldn't there still be some things getting worked out? You can't decide to divide up the ENTIRE WORLD and have everything working smoothly in just a couple years. Who came up with the idea of the Reckoners? Why was there a demand for Reckoners? How long have Reckoners been around? JUST TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE RECKONERS HOW COULD YOU CREATE SUCH A COOL STORY IDEA AND TELL ME NOTHING ABOUT IT SERIOUSLY WHYYYYYYYYYY.....

Phew, ok, now on to the characters. Again, this is something that needed more development. A pirate crew can always provide a smorgasbord of personalities and back stories, but we got barely any detail on most of the characters. We did learn about the childhood of Swift, the love interest, but by the time it came, I didn't care about her at all. And don't even get me started on Cas' character arc. It made zero sense and her personality changed drastically from one second to the next.

Cas and Swift's relationship didn't make sense at all to me. I liked the idea of them being together and I was excited about that prospect, but the development of the relationship was confusing and WAY under-developed. Cas would always think things like "the Swift I know," "I know she's clever," and "I know she cares for me," and I kept screaming HOW DO YOU KNOW THESE THINGS???? We only witnessed them having a few interactions and those were mostly full of insults and fighting. So how in the WORLD could Cas know ANYTHING about Swift? I feel like this was a terrible case of telling rather than showing. The reader was expected to assume that they had interactions "off-screen" that made them start falling for each other. But you can't tell me that Swift was really sweet and caring and only show me her being a complete jerk. I'm never going to believe you. And, this really isn't important to the story at all, but if Cas mentioned Swift's bad haircut ONE MORE TIME, I was going to throw the book across the room. This was a seriously unimportant detail and wasted so much space that could have been used actually DEVELOPING THEIR RELATIONSHIP.

Even though I didn't like the characters involved in the romance, one thing that I did appreciate about this book is that there was a f/f romance that existed without anyone having to point it out. There was no coming out aspect or negative views from the other characters. Cas and Swift being together was perfectly natural, and it was nice to read a book that included LGBT+ aspects, but didn't make them the focus of the story. This was the saving grace of the book for me.

To be completely honest, I don't understand why so many people love this book. It is a fun story, but it is missing so much. It feels like a good first draft that would become a great book if it was developed more. I see so many reviews saying that there is a vivid world and detailed characters, and I just didn't see it. Cas' development as a character made no sense and happened way too fast. The romance happened way too fast. Basically everything in this book happened way too fast.

I already own the second book, so I will probably continue with the series. I am not going to give up on this author based on this one experience. I feel so bad that I really didn't enjoy this book that everyone loves so much. Obviously, I was hoping that I would enjoy it as well. But I truly don't see what everyone finds so amazing about it. As if I haven't said it enough, I just wanted MORE.