The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2) by Emily Skrutskie

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?

Disclaimer: I received a copy free from the publishers via Netgalley is exchange for an honest review

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie follows the events in the previous books. Cassandra Leung has pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate queen Santa Elena, rather than return to the safety of her home. The Reckoner she was training, Bao, has been released free into the vast ocean. Cas is now training, she’s in the running to take over Santa Elena in being the captain of the ship. However, that is the least of her problems. The Neo-pacific and the whole eco-system is in danger. Bao isn’t the only Reckoner roaming free, there are many other illegal Reckoners sold to pirates that have escaped their captors and are wrecking havoc in the ocean. It’s up to Cas and her fellow crew members to stop it.

There are so many things I love about this duology. It is a futuristic science fiction book, a fantastic one at that. It has pirates! Sea monsters! A f/f romance! And just a lot of badass ladies.

The world building is fabulous as usual. I really liked the introduction of the pirate alliance and expansion of the pirate world, that was a really interesting aspect. This series is very action packed, which I also really enjoyed. Skrutskie has a really good writing style which makes this a very easy and quick, fun read.

I was a massive fan of Swift and Cassandra’s relationship in The Abyss Surrounds Us and I loved the further development in this instalment. They are truly a great power couple. In The Edge of the Abyss, there was a lot of conflict in their relationship between them following the revelation in the previous book, but also due to Santa Elena showing a lot more interest in Cas and her role in potentially taking over the ship. This led to some really surprising development with Swift. We find out what really motivates her. We explore her internal conflicts, her wants and wishes, and I really loved that.

Santa Elena is also another favourite of mine. She’s intelligent, brave, fearsome, manipulative, and ruthless – she’s a true pirate queen. I’m a little disappointed in how it all ends for her. The rest of the supporting cast were also great, which came as no surprise.

Overall, though, this is a great ending to a fantastic duology. A duology that I’ll forever be recommending.

I’ll definitely be reading more from Emily Skrutskie because I love her writing – I’m especially excited her next novel Hullmetal Girls, pitched as a YA Battlestar Galactica ‘in which two girls risk everything they have for new lives as mechanically enhanced soldiers; after a rebellion against the governing body forces dark secrets to the surface, the fate of the entire fleet is left in their hands.’ HOW AWESOME DOES THAT SOUND?!?

RATING: ★★★★☆


Odd & True by Cat Winters

Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Disclaimer: I received a copy free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Trudchen grew up hearing stories, from her older sister Odette, about her monster-slayer mother and a curse that was placed upon the family. Tru is older now, and Odette has been absent for a year, seemingly sent away by her aunt. Tru doesn’t know whether she should believe in the stories her sister told her, unsure whether they were just lies used to comfort her. Until one day, Od reappears with an old suitcase that supposedly has a magical weapon in. She promises to battle the monsters on the way to attack Tru. The sisters’ start search for their mother which leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil. Tru then starts to believe that perhaps monsters do exist, and she might, in fact, have magic.

I’ve read most of Cat Winter’s books, and I am a huge fan. Her books are magical, haunting, and atmospheric. So, I had high expectations for Odd & True and it did not disappoint. What I usually love about Cat Winters books is the subtlety of the paranormal aspect, and Odd & True was no different, yet had a little twist to it.

The synopsis is a little misleading as this isn’t necessarily a book about hunting monsters. At the centre of Odd & True is a story of family, sisterhood, and secrets, which made this a charming and captivating read. This book was very character driven compared to the rest of Cat Winters’ books but I loved it nonetheless. Od was a very fierce and likeable character. She was, at heart, a storyteller but also a protector and I loved her fiercely. Tru was just as fierce but she was full of skepticism. I loved their relationship and how it developed throughout the book.

Tru was also disabled, she has to wear and brace and/or use crutches due to having polio as a child, but I can’t speak for the representation. Odd & True was written in alternative POVs. Odette’s chapters were set in the past, and Tru’s were set in the present, which was seamlessly done and I loved how the mystery of Odette’s past was slowly revealed into the present day plot.

Overall, Odd & True was an immersive, magical, and atmospheric read with fierce sisters at the centre of the story.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Walking on Knives by Maya Chhabra

The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.

When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…

Walking on Knives contains some explicit content and a scene with dubious sexual consent.

Disclaimer: I received a copy free from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Walking on Knives is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. It isn’t anything like the Disney version – it was dark, cruel and brutal at times. I do feel like readers need to be aware that there were some scenes with dubious sexual consent, so proceed with caution.

Walking on Knives ended strongly, but it did lose its way in the middle a bit and I felt the plot was confusing and messy at times. However, it was an original take on a classic fairytale. I also liked the fact that it was a f/f retelling of The Little Mermaid.

Because Walking on Knives was a novelette, I feel like it did lack some backstory that I would have liked to see, such as that relationship between the Sea Witch and her sister. I would have loved some more exploration of the characters, but it is supposed to be a novelette.

A short read that I would recommend, but I also recommend proceeding with caution.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


Jackaby by William Ritter

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I received this free from the publisher via NetGalley

Release Date – September 16th

Abigail Rook has run away from home in search of an adventure. She arrives in New Fiddleham and she is in desperate need of a job. Abigail runs into R. F Jackaby, an investigator and a seer – someone who can see the supernatural. Abigail gets the job as his assistant. She is valuable to Jackaby as she notices the ordinary and people. On her first day she finds herself on the trail of a serial killer, and they aren’t entirely human.

Jackaby is a lovely little novel which will leave you very satisfied and entertained by the last page. It is said to be Doctor WhomeetsSherlock, while I didn’t really get the feel of Doctor Who, it definitely had the Sherlock who-done-it feel. Our investigator R. F Jackaby is very much like Sherlock in his eccentricity and his factual approach to many things, as well as his directness and outspokenness. All this makes him a very entertaining character to read about. Abigail Rook is his assistant. She is a keen observer, noticing things such as waste bins, mail boxes and people, which are something our Jackaby misses as he focuses on the supernatural elements. I very much liked Abigail. She was independent, assertive and bold. She was determined to have an adventure and do what she wanted and not what others wanted for her. Her and Jackaby’s chemistry was fantastic. I liked how it was totally platonic, which is unusual in books with two main character who are male and female. Their personalities fit together like two puzzle pieces fit together. They were very enjoyable.

There were other secondary characters who were also enjoyable, such as Cane, Jenny and Douglas – the duck. They were nice additions and I liked their relationships with the characters. The romance was there, but barely, and the main focus was on the murder mystery. I am actually really glad there wasn’t much romance, because can you imagine how rushed it would have been, as the story went over only a couple of days? I like that they just took a fancy to each other and that was all we saw.

I would say the plot was predictable, but it was still fun. The following of the investigation was very thrilling, fun and very full of adventure and I liked it very much. I liked the supernatural element of the book. It made it different and I must say, it made it more enjoyable.

I would personally recommend to any fans of Sherlock, and anyone looking for a good paranormal read.

On a final note, isn’t that cover absolutely gorgeous?

MY RATING: ★★★★☆ (4.5 stars)


The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

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.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.

I received this free from the publishers via NetGalley.

Cassandra Leung is a Reckoner in-training and she’s in charge of her first ship and sea monster – alone. It is a family business, she has helped raise the genetically-engineered beasts for as long as she can remember. And these sea monsters are there to defend against pirates in the Neo-Pacific. Her solo mission doesn’t last too long before trouble arrives in the form of pirate queen Santa Elena and everything goes downhill very fast, and Cassandra has now been charged with another Reckoner to look after to, but it’s for the pirates which threaten to destroy the balance of the whole system. Cas has been ordered to raise and train the Reckoner or it’s her life on the line.

I didn’t request this when I first saw it on NetGalley, but then I saw some really fantastic reviews and ratings so I wanted to know what it was all about. So I went into this with little knowledge about what it was except that it was sci-fi with pirates and sea monsters. But this book was so much more than that, and it exceeded my expectations and it was just endlessly awesome. It sort of had a Pacific Rim vibe, but also really different.

I’m going to ramble a bit about the world building and plot. I thought the world building was top notch. I would have preferred a tad more history to the world, but I thought it was excellent nonetheless. I loved the science fiction setting with sci-fi pirates and sea monsters and cities floating on water. There was a little bit of an info-dump at the beginning and it felt a little rushed, but I wasn’t too put off by it and it really redeemed itself later.

The characters! Cas and Swift and so many other great supporting characters. This books is also full of so many badass ladies with super-duper complex and developed relationships. The romance between Cas and Swift was done so well and it was fantastic. Their lives were intertwined with each other from the start, and it was just developed really well.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a very morally grey book, the line between right and wrong is blurred. It isn’t really as simple as who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. But that’s great because I love those types of books and characters.

Overall, The Abyss Surrounds Us is very unique. A science fiction story that is very engrossing with pirates and sea monsters and badass ladies, who had great and complex relationships and a great romance- a must read.

MY RATING: ★★★★★