The box set of the Arc of a Scythe series, written by Neal Shusterman.
The box set of the Arc of a Scythe series, written by Neal Shusterman.
Image/Graphics by Braeden Salter

Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe Series Cuts Deep

Neal Shusterman shows why a perfect society may never be possible when human nature takes over in his Arc of a Scythe book series.

I’ve never been a big reader. Books have always put me off because most were quite uninteresting. My perspective switched when I started reading Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe book series. The series contains three different books. Those being Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll. I’ll first be looking into Scythe, our first real look at the world Shusterman spent three books expanding upon. 

The world of Scythe is quite different from our world now, taking place far away in the future, after the establishment of an all-powerful AI known as the Thunderhead. The Thunderhead allowed humanity to defy death. Of course, with nobody dying, overpopulation would set in very quickly. To combat this, humanity created the Scythedom. The Scythedom is a society of trained killers who are tasked with keeping the population at sustainable levels. These killers, or Scythes, are highly respected in society. Most of them are above the law and outside of the jurisdiction of the Thunderhead.

Scythe mainly focuses on two people, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch. These two people become an apprentice of Scythe Faraday, a highly respected Scythe who had been around for many years. Citra and Rowan eventually take different paths in their training, which leads to the two training under two different Scythes with very different ideas on what gleaning (or the act of killing to cull the population) should be. A key point in these books is the politics behind gleaning. 

I adore almost everything about Scythe. The way third person limited perspective is used is impeccable and allows for the reader to be left in the dark outside of whatever the character they are following at that moment is experiencing. Shusterman leaves just enough in the dark to make you think you know what’s going to happen next, then pulls the rug out from underneath you revealing some big twist or major event. The ending manages to satisfy those who only want to read the first book while enticing those interested in continuing the series further. Fellow student Jacob Alexander agrees, saying “The book is great. It is insanely detailed with both characters that were easy to love and easy to hate.”

The second book Thunderhead takes place a year after the events of Scythe. While Scythe focuses more on the Scythedom and the politics within, Thunderhead broadens its horizons. While still centrally focusing on the Scythedom and the power struggles within, it attempts to show more of this dystopian world that Rowan and Citra find themselves in. 

This book introduces a new main character, one who spends much of the book struggling because of one thing or another. Greyson Tolliver is a teenage boy who spends most of his life being raised by the Thunderhead. When a plan is created for Greyson to dive into the unsavory lifestyle, it cuts off his access to direct communication with the Thunderhead. He spends most of this book attempting to protect Citra. Citra and Rowan both start to become very infamous within the Scythedom for very different reasons.

This book is a fantastic continuation of the story in Scythe. The stakes are higher than ever and our characters are facing more dangerous situations. The way Shusterman subtlety increases tension and allows for the danger to shine through truly is astounding. Thunderhead is my favorite book of the trilogy and is a near-perfect sequel in my eyes. 

The Toll is the final book in this trilogy and my opinion is the weakest. I won’t discuss the plot much as it is nearly impossible to mention anything that happens without spoiling the ending of Thunderhead, but I will say I believe it is a great continuation of the story. It focuses more on a character present in Thunderhead and offers thrilling moment after thrilling moment. My only real problem with this book is the ending. While it does offer a finite conclusion, it doesn’t close up many of the plotlines in a satisfying way and leaves much to be desired. Still, I loved The Toll and as a whole is a very good read.

The Arc of a Scythe Series is fantastic overall and is a must-read for anybody who even remotely likes literature. I’d even recommend it to those who don’t like reading as much. The world built in this series is somehow realistic while being filled to the brim with fantasy elements. I love these books to death. I would give Scythe and Thunderhead a perfect 10/10 score and I’d give The Toll a strong 9/10. Please seek out these books if you have any interest in dystopian literature, you won’t regret it.

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