Monday, March 2, 2020

Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Scythe. *

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2)
By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Although they began their journey together as scythe’s apprentices, Citra and Rowan’s lives could not be any more different now. Citra has become Scythe Anastasia, an increasingly rare junior scythe who seems to adhere to the principles of the old guard amidst a growing new order that wants to glean without boundaries. Rowan, meanwhile, is now the notorious Scythe Lucifer, the self-appointed deliverer of justice to dishonorable scythes. As Rowan tries to evade capture by the Scythedom, Citra finds herself targeted by a yet unknown enemy. It seems that conflict within the Scythedom is inevitable, and the Thunderhead, the sentient artificial intelligence that benevolently rules over humanity, is powerless to do anything about it because it cannot intervene in scythe affairs.

Review: After the genius that was Scythe, I couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel, Thunderhead. Scythe was such a thrilling, exhilaratingly unpredictable read with a note perfect ending that I was a bit about nervous how Thunderhead would measure up to its predecessor. It turns out that I need not have worried for a second.

When we catch up with Scythe’s two protagonists, Citra and Rowan, we find them on rather opposite sides of scythe law. As Scythe Anastasia, Citra is following in the footsteps of her mentor, Scythe Curie, and doing her best to perform her duties with honor. This is even as the so-called new order within the Scythedom that wants to loosen restrictions on gleaning continues to gain traction. Citra and her mentor’s adherence to the old ways appears to come at a price when they become the targets of an unknown adversary.

As for Rowan, his path has detoured down a much darker road. He has taken it upon himself to mete out justice to nefarious scythes by gleaning them. Rowan’s vigilantism is not without consequences. In addition to being the Scythedom’s most wanted criminal, AKA “Scythe” Lucifer, his deeds cost him in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

While Citra and Rowan remain central to the series, we gain the perspectives of additional characters in Thunderhead, including the titular . . . entity? The Thunderhead is such a unique character. It’s essentially a highly evolved version of the cloud (as in cloud computing) that governs humanity except for the Scythedom. Not only is the Thunderhead an authority figure, but it also literally takes care of the people it rules. In the case of new character Greyson Tolliver, the Thunderhead has basically parented him.

As we see inside the Thunderhead’s thoughts, its concern over what is happening within the Scythedom grows significantly. A shift in political climate doesn’t affect just scythes; it inevitably ripples to affect every single human being. Although the Thunderhead cannot take direct action to protect its charges, it is more than clever enough to find ways to circumvent the separation between scythe and state. And Greyson Tolliver becomes a key figure in the Thunderhead’s plans.

At the beginning of the novel, Greyson is a nondescript student at the Nimbus Academy, training to become an agent under the Thunderhead’s authority. Having essentially been raised by the Thunderhead, Greyson is quite content with his career path. The Thunderhead, however, has other ideas in store for him, and by the end of the book, Greyson Tolliver has experienced quite the adventure.

One of the things I loved most about Scythe was its seemingly never-ending supply of surprises. Thunderhead ups the twists and turns exponentially. I’m not joking. When I finished the book, I needed a bit to process all that had happened between page one and the final page. It. Is. Insane.

The ending also makes you wonder where the story can go from there. Seriously—this ending changes EVERYTHING. Whatever follows, though, is sure to be just as brilliant as everything about Thunderhead.

All in All: This is no lightweight middle book! I loved reading from the Thunderhead’s POV, and I’m still in awe over how Neal Shusterman pulled off shocker after shocker.