I’m betting that YA scifi/fantasy fans will have a hard time not sampling this book out of curiosity. I’m betting more than a few of them will stay for the ride. I certainly couldn’t resist it because I loved the concept of sea monsters trained to defend against pirates, and I loved the complicated internal struggle that the plot creates for the protagonist. While I did enjoy most of the book, I struggled with a few parts, so this is a three star read for me, but will that really stop anyone from picking up a book where sea monsters fight pirates? No. No, it will not.
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.
Cassandra is a well developed and complex character who I genuinely liked for her honest response to her bad situation. She loves and loathes the decisions she has to make, and that makes her feel less like a character and more like a real person. The secondary characters also had some depth that added a nice element of unpredictability to the plot. It was easy to see how Cassandra’s initial resolve began to waiver as she learned more about her enemy. I didn’t particularly care for the romantic relationship for some reason. I thought there was a lot of care taken to give the relationship time and reason to develop, but, in the end, I just didn’t buy it as romantic – friendship, yes, but romantic love, eh. Other readers might not feel the same way, but I wasn’t sold. I wasn’t quite happy with the resolution because I was a little confused about what decision Cassandra was making – was she fooled, did she not care, or was she plotting a stealth revenge? It was a hard twist to take in at the end, but that is something that might bring readers back for a follow up read. Overall, I think this is a pretty cool concept, and I think my high school readers would find it novel and engaging as well. Language and situations are appropriate for high school and beyond.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.