Cover of The Abyss Surrounds Us, with a girl standing on a ship shooting light out of her hand with a large reptilian eye behind her

About the Book

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us (The Abyss Surrounds Us #1)
The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2)
Published: 2016
Series: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: There Be Monsters
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Future Fishy
Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Fall Fling

Cover Story: There Be Monsters

These covers are … not good. I struggled to find really good quality (i.e., not blown-out) versions, but these are as good as they get. The photoshopping of the girl in front of the monsters leaves a lot to be desired, on both covers. The second is slightly better, but what is she standing on? These books deserve better.

The Deal:

The Abyss Surrounds Us tells the story of Cassandra Leung, a young trainer of sea monsters who protect the oceans of the world from pirate attacks. During her first training mission, she’s kidnapped and taken aboard a pirate ship captained by the dread Santa Elena and told that she’s expected to raise a rogue Reckoner pup to serve the pirates instead—or else.

The Edge of the Abyss continues the adventure, and finds Cas creating a name for herself even while confused about her place in the world, She also finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy that effects all inhabitants, pirate and land-dwellers alike.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

I really liked Cas at first when I could commiserate with her situation and her conflicting thoughts. But then I struggled to fully understand the decisions she makes at the end of The Abyss Surrounds Us/the beginning of The Edge of the Abyss. But the end of The Edge of the Abyss saw a Cas I recognized, or one that made sense from a character growth perspective. So there was a bit of flip-flopping in our relationship from start to finish, and I could see us struggling as friends at points, but ultimately our friendship would be a pretty solid thing.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cas doesn’t want to make friends, much less a romantic attachment to someone, while being held prisoner. But she can’t help the electricity she feels when she’s around Swift, the pirate girl Santa Elena tasks with being Cas’s keeper.

Talky Talk: Future Fishy

At first glance, The Abyss Surrounds Us feels more like science fiction than your standard dystopia—I mean, genetically engineered sea monsters who can be trained to protect ships?—but it soon becomes clear that the situations in the duology are frighteningly believable. (Climate change is real, y’all.) The idea of a world filled with pirates who are, in large part, pirating to make ends meet rather than just for the money and fame, isn’t far-fetched. The Reckoners continue to be a bit more unbelievable, but it’s only a matter of time. Skrutskie’s worldbuilding, particularly around the societies that live, love, and fight in this world, is really excellent. Cas and Swift were pretty fleshed-out, too, with a lot of teen angst mixed with the weight of the world on their shoulders. I would have liked more from the secondary characters, however, who are frequently named with a few characteristics, but never become fully real.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

When these books were published, lesbian relationships in YA were still pretty unusual. They’re still not as usual as they should be today, but I appreciate Skrutskie leading the charge with these books. There’s no coming out story at the heart of the swoon, either; they like each other (much to their own chagrin) and liking girls isn’t a thing. Thank goodness for this kind of future!

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

Santa Elena is a terrifying, cutthroat pirate queen who plays her choices for her replacement—young folks like Swift—against each other in the most manipulative of ways. She’s also a total badass, and someone I’d likely follow as captain were I in a position like Cas or Swift. But is she nice? 100% no. She contains multitudes.

Relationship Status: Fall Fling

We had a good time together, Book. We didn’t hit it off to the point that I think we should continue attempting a real relationship, but I’ll think back fondly on the adventure we shared.

Literary Matchmaking

The Vanishing Deep

There aren’t any monsters of the sea kaiju variety in Astrid Scholte’s The Vanishing Deep, but there’s a very similar land lubbers v. seafarers vibe.

Seafire (Seafire #1)

Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire series also features a crew of pirates, the majority of which are badass ladies.

Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)

And for more pirate kidnapping adventure and possibly enemies-to-lovers swoon, check out Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King duology.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy The Abyss Surrounds Us from Flux and bought a copy of The Edge of the Abyss with my own money. I got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Both books are available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.