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Scythe (The Arc Of The Scythe Book 1) by Neil Shusterman Review

Hey ForeverBookers, 

I’ve just finished “Scythe” by Neil Shusterman. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it because it’s written by a male author. If you know me then you know that I generally don’t reach for books written by men. It had an exciting plot as well as great characters who were always surprising me. 

5 Stars!!!!!!!!!!!!

Citra and Rowan are our two main characters. They become apprentice Scythes at the beginning of “Scythe”. Michael Faraday (he’s known as Faraday in the novel), their mentor is a mysterious character, who I don’t think we’re ever meant to be sure of until the end. The first part of the plot surrounds these three characters as they get to know each other and Citra and Rowan learn what they’re going to have to do to actually become scythes. 

A scythe is a weapon. Scythes in this world are the people who control the population. “Scythe” is set in the future. “2042. It’s a year that every schoolchild knows.” This is significant because 2042 is only 24 years away from now. Just thinking about how the world could, potentially change in the space of 24 years is scary. In 2042, The Thunderhead was introduced in this world. The Thunderhead is an all knowing, all seeing device used to watch over and control the world. The scythedom (the name for the organisation scythes belong to), and the way it eliminates people is the only thing it doesn’t have control over.

There is an age rating of 12+ for “Scythe” (inside the flap of the dust jacket). This is, I think down to the subject matter of the book more than anything else because death is a main plot point.   

I read “Scythe” for a couple readathons again! They are:

Reading Rivalry - Read a book with a one word title (no explanation needed there!)

For the Facebook Book Democracy Book Bingo for August.  

Better Read Than Dead Readathon - A New To You Author (no explanation needed again!)

Spoilers Below

“But scythes were no more supernatural than tax collectors in the grand scheme of things. They showed up, did their unpleasant business and were gone.”

This is the first time we’re introduced to the term “scythe.” The definition of scythe is:

noun: scythe; plural noun: scythes
a tool used for cutting crops such as grass or corn, with a long curved blade at the end of a long pole attached to one or two short handles.

verb: scythe; 3rd person present: scythes; past tense: scythed; past participle: scythed; gerund or present participle: scything
cut with a scythe.

This clearly shows that a scythe is something intimidating. The characters who are/become scythes in the novel are just as intimidating as the object described above. Their task is to kill/glean whoever they see fit to glean. In the book I don’t think I saw the word “kill” at all. I think this is because in the future year that “Scythe” is set in the characters need to control the population. They therefore don’t see scything as a crime. They see it as gleaning; a necessity. 

Our lead characters, Citra and Rowan are put in competition against each other, as no scythe mentor has taken on two apprentices before. Faraday is the mentor of both Citra and Rowan. He comes across as a fatherly, protective figure. This fight to become Faraday’s apprentice scythe is what most of the story revolves around. 

“I propose,” said Scythe Rand, with the sickness of a death-stalker scorpion, “that upon the confirmation of the winner, the first order of business will be for the winner to glean the loser.” 

Of course, Scythe Faraday disagrees with this, but Scythe Rand is pretty horrible throughout, although she’s not the worst scythe. That’s Scythe Goddard, I’d say. Because of what Scythe Rand proposes, Citra and Rowan are separated and are trained by individual Scythe trainers, Scythe Curie and Scythe Goddard. Curie takes on Citra and Goddard has to train Rowan. I say ‘has to’ because he doesn’t like or relish training Rowan.

“Gleaning is performed not administered,” Scythe Goddard told him. “It is a wilful action. To slip into passivity and allow a poison to do all the work is an embarrassment to who and what we are.”

He thinks it’s a pain having to train new apprentices. He’s the biggest antagonist in this book, I think, as Rand and Volta as well as Chomsky all work under him. They all do what he says until the climax at the end of the book, where one of those characters does something uncommon for scythes. I won’t spoil what it is but it surprised me. The above quote is an example of how Goddard talks down to everyone. He thinks he’s the best and that his example should be followed. We can tell this in the way he calls using poison a passive and embarrassing way to glean. 

The events of “Scythe” get very brutal. This series does have an age warning of ages 12 and above on it. This isn’t because of anything sexual. It’s because the novel deals with death and killing or gleaning of anybody. There’s an airplane scene, which gets very brutish, where Goddard and his group of scythes glean everybody on a plane. A scythe can pinpoint anywhere they’d like to scythe and it’s up to them how they wish to carry out the scything. Whether it’s through poison, weapons, asphyxiation or whatever they want. This was also scary to read.    

Of course, there is a romantic element to “Scythe”. it’s really not big at all but it’s still there and I hope it progresses into book 2 and so on. 

“They were partners; they were adversaries—and Rowan found it increasingly hard to parse his feelings about her. All he knew was that he liked watching her write.”

Rowan likes Citra. Citra also likes Rowan. This happens gradually over the events of the story. It’s illegal in this world for scythes to fall in love. It complicates matters. 

“Were you in love with him?” 

is what Curie tells Citra of her relationship with Faraday. They were a couple but hidden away from the public. 

By the end, I had hope that Citra and Rowan would be together. Are they though? You’ll have to read to see what you think.

What did I like about “Scythe”?

I liked the brutality of the events. It made the story exciting to read, as I was never sure how far each character would go to do what they were meant to. 

I loved how romance was included. There wasn’t a huge amount as I put above but it was enough to have me wanting Citra and Rowan together. I love the forbidden romance trope!

I liked how there were lots of twists and turns. I was never sure of what would happen. When I thought one thing was happening, in fact that was just a ruse and something else was happening instead. I love it when books do this because it keeps the reader engaged and on edge. 

I liked how there was one main villain. Yes, there were a few nasty characters, I guess ALL scythes are nasty because their job is to kill, but one character that I’ve summarised above didn’t care for anything. They were fine gleaning whoever they came across, even when they had reached their amount of killings for that year.  

What didn’t I like about “Scythe”?

I didn’t like the politics so much. Of course there are going to be politics to the Scythdom (how the world works after Thunderhead comes), but I found that they were written in a complex manner. I understood them but I didn’t think they were that easy to understand. This may have been the point of the age rating, as well as the theme of the book being death. I also don’t really care for the politics of our world so that was probably something to do with it as well. 

Overall then, I thought “Scythe” was fantastic! That's why I'm giving it 5 Stars! I can’t wait to pick up Thunderhead, although I’ve heard from friends that it ends on a really big cliffhanger so I probably won’t read it until the 3rd book, which I think will be called “The Toll” at least has a release date.  


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