Monday, February 24, 2020

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)
By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: In a future where disease has been eradicated, the only way to die is to be gleaned by a scythe—those officially charged with delivering death. Scythes are supposed to respect the gravity of their role in society and adhere to a set of rules, but as newly selected apprentices Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch quickly learn, not all scythes are honorable. As division grows within the Scythedom, Citra and Rowan find themselves caught up in some deadly politics that test them as much as, if not more than, their training.

Review: I’d wanted to read Scythe ever since I spotted the epic cover, but as usual, it took me forever to get to it. And once again, I was late to the “This book is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G” party.

I’m not sure what I expected from a book that features what are essentially grim reapers—maybe a tone that was mostly gloom and doom and, you know, grim? But Scythe is so, so many layers deeper than that. Yes, death is a major component here, but we also have an extremely thought-provoking dystopian novel sprinkled with wit.

I absolutely loved Neal Shusterman’s world-building. On the surface, the world of Scythe looks like a utopia. There is no disease. In the event of injury, the body’s nanites dull pain until healing is complete. Hunger and war do not exist anymore. The Thunderhead, an evolved, sentient version of the cloud, watches over humanity and administers to its needs. The watching part sounds rather Big Brother-esque, and as Facebook, Google, etc. track everything we do more and more, the idea of technology ruling over all of us doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

And then there’s the Scythedom. Since humans no longer die from disease or injury, scythes are charged with controlling population growth by taking lives, or gleaning. Scythes are supposed to approach their duty with reverence and have ten commandments to follow. As the book unfolds, however, we learn that some scythes interpret those commandments more loosely than others, to the point where they’re almost flouting scythe laws. There’s a growing division between the old guard scythes, who keenly feel the weight of their role in society, and the new order scythes, who think the rules are antiquated and restrictive. A lot of political maneuvering goes on in the Scythedom, and it is this tense climate that main characters Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch find themselves thrown into.

Citra and Rowan are both chosen to be the apprentices of Scythe Faraday, and at first the outcome is simple: only one of them can earn a scythe’s ring. The other will resume his or her life once the selection is made. A cruel twist, however, raises the stakes and puts Citra and Rowan on paths they never envisioned. This book was full of surprises, and I loved how it kept me guessing. I also loved the ending—sometimes I get frustrated when the first book in a series leaves you with nothing but a scream-inducing cliffhanger. Scythe nails the ending, though.

This is a fantastic series opener with a gripping story, deft world-building, and stellar writing. I am officially a Neal Shusterman fan now and can’t wait to see what else he has in store for this series.

All in All: A 5-star read from beginning to end. Just brilliant storytelling.


  1. I loved this book too! And I loved the second book in the series. I still haven’t read the third one.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. This series was amazing! Scythe is my favorite of the trilogy; it's just perfect! Hope you get to read The Toll soon!

  2. This sounds like such a good book.


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