‘The Edge of the Abyss’ by Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Edge of the Abyss
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Genre:  Young Adult, Sci-fi, LGBT
Date of Publication: 18th April, 2017
Page Count: 320 pages (ebook)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the 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 that Bao is not the only 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 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?

This was a hard one for me to review – objectively, the author is quite talented; her characters leap off the page, there’s a ton of action and adventure, this alternate reality she’s crafted is amazingly original and the plot had me hooked. BUT I found the lead character so frustrating and some of her reactions and decisions were borderline nonsensical, so it was painful reading certain parts and having to resist the urge to hurl my phone across the room and scream.

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It’s a testament to the skill of the author that despite my profound irritation with Cas, I couldn’t put the book down, I simply HAD to keep reading and find out how she’d get out of this mess. I found her journey to be gripping, as the uncertain treacherous path she chose had very high-stakes and created a breathless adrenaline-rush of a reading experience. Some books telegraph their ending a mile away in blazing ten-foot high neon signs, but I didn’t know what Cas would do or where she would end up from one chapter to the next, it was completely unpredictable. I never could’ve seen the ending coming if I had a thousand years to brainstorm possible outcomes, and yet when I look back over the journey, there was no other way it could’ve ended and the author chose a beautifully poetic and fitting way to conclude the duology.

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But MY GOD, did I want to knock some sense into Cas’s thick head sometimes! The romantic arc was my main investment in the series as I adore LGBT+ relationship and the hook of lesbian pirates was irresistible. But the way Cas treated her love interest seriously vexed me – I understand that this person had committed an unforgivable sin in her eyes, and that’s fine, but then Cas would fall into her arms and passionately make out with her one moment, only to recoil and throw her out or run off the next. Of course it’s human nature to have conflicting emotions, but as a reader, this repetitive hot-cold-hot-cold situation was boring and made me roll my eyes when Cas threw a fit YET AGAIN and stormed off.

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It made me feel so much sympathy to the love interest and wish that she could invest her affection in someone else instead of a person who would jerk her around like this. Perhaps the author was going for some irony as the love interest was in a position of power over Cas in the first book and didn’t treat her very well, but flipping the power dynamics this strongly in the reverse direction served to diminish her character as she was basically a doormat that let Cas walk all over her when she was in one of her moods. I did enjoy the parts of the book where they got to be happy with each other and there were some very sweet parts that made me grin, but it didn’t last long before the drama started up again.

In summary, I had serious issues with the protagonist’s wildly vacillating emotional responses and questionable morals (killing innocents in the first book was something she did not get called out for and she never really reflected on it enough to justify it as an in-character action). However, the exciting story arc was strong enough to compensate for this and kept me turning the page, no matter how fierce my frustration and occasional desire to give up. This is a wonderfully complex and outstandingly original story that will be rewarding for those who don’t have the same issues with Cas as I do.

Personal Rating: 3 of 5 kitties approve this book.

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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Flux via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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