The Abyss Surrounds Us

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Abyss Surrounds Us Book Poster Image
Futuristic pirates and sea monsters offer high-seas thrills.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Abyss Surrounds Us imagines a future where rising seas have reshaped the continent. This could prompt discussion and further research about climate change.

Positive Messages

Every conflict has at least two sides. In a war, neither side is totally free from guilt. The story explores themes of revenge, dependence, and loyalty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Compassionate, tough, and dedicated, Cas Leung is a conscientious trainer at the start of the novel, willing to do anything to protect her charge. When she's later forced to train Bao, she's caught between caring for him and wanting to sabotage the training. She's forced to make difficult choices that will have repercussions for people she cares deeply about.


Several violent scenes, the most disturbing of which happens when a supporting character is fed to a sea monster. Cas is treated roughly as a captive aboard the Minnow. Battle scenes result in the deaths of innocents.


Cassandra is attracted to a girl named Swift. They flirt, cuddle while bunking together, and share a kiss.


The language in The Abyss Surrounds Us proves saltier than one might expect. "F--k" is employed five or six times. Variations of "s--t" appear more than a dozen times. "Bitch," "bastard," "hell," "damn," "pissed," and exclamations of "Jesus" are used occasionally.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Abyss Surrounds Us is a futuristic pirate adventure in which giant genetically engineered sea monsters are trained to attack menacing vessels. Violent scenes includes naval battles in which innocents are killed, there's hand-to-hand combat, and a supporting character is fed to a sea monster. The language is saltier than some readers may be prepared for, with semi-frequent uses of "f--k" and "s--t." "Bitch," "bastard," "hell," "damn," "pissed," and exclamations of "Jesus" are used occasionally. Sexual content is limited to some cuddling and a kiss.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Cassandra Leung was raised to train Reckoners, genetically engineered sea monsters that protect travelers on the NeoPacific from marauding pirates. When she's captured by pirate queen Santa Elena, Cas is dismayed to learn that she's expected to train Bao, a Reckoner pup destined to upset the balance of power. As Bao grows bigger and more dangerous, Cas must decided where her true allegiances lie, especially when it comes to Swift, a fellow shipmate who will be killed if Cas tries to sabotage the mission.

Is it any good?

An unusual premise and a distinctive setting distinguish this high-seas adventure full of futuristic pirates and genetically engineered sea monsters. THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US might have an awkward title, but debut novelist Emily Skrutskie is mostly sure-footed as she finds a new wrinkle on the old dragon-training clichés. The characters are edgy without being unbelievable, and Cas's developing relationship with Swift proves intriguingly complex. There's a vicious twist in the tale, though, which will propel fans of sci-fi adventure to the next volume of this promising saga.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about pirates. Why are stories about them so popular? How has the portrayal of pirates changed over the centuries?

  • What do you think about the violence in The Abysss Surrounds Us? Is it necessary to the story?

  • The Abyss Surrounds Us imagines a future where rising seas have reshaped the continents. Do you think climate change will reshape coastlines and disrupt shipping and travel?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction and adventure

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate