By Nichole Harwood
With the end of the year fast approaching, I stopped and looked at the many great book series coming to an end. Deciding to take a chance on a series I never read that was coming to an end in 2019 I jumped into the Arc of a Scythe book series by Young Adult Award-winning author Neal Shusterman.
There are few things more satisfying for a reader than being able to read a new series from book one through to the last book without stopping. After picking up “Scythe” the first book in this series, I was hooked. The thrill only continued with the second book “Thunderhead,” and finally, after finishing the last book in the series “The Toll,” I have come to one conclusion. There could never be a better book series to reflect the last decade than this one.
This last decade has been filled with ups and downs, twists, and turns no one could ever have predicted. There have been conclusions to many phenomenons, both politically-related and entertainment-related that have left many feeling the journey was bittersweet.
“Sythe” the first of the series focuses on two main characters Citra and Rowan. Through these characters, we are introduced to a world that is for all intents and purposes a Utopia. Disease, war, and death are a thing of the past, and the world is run by a computer program known as the Thunderhead. Regardless of what other sci-fi books have thought would become of a culture dependent on a computer program, Thunderhead has not turned on humanity but instead runs a functional society that addresses the needs and wants of its people. The only part of society that reflects any darkness whatsoever is the scythes. You see, in a perfect world, the only problem left is overpopulation. In response to this problem, scythes monitor and end lives to keep the population under control. Scythes are not monitored by Thunderhead, and Thunderhead isn’t allowed to interfere in their duties at all. Scythes exist because humans decided that only other humans should be in charge of who lives and who dies. And this is the primary writing point for all conflicts in the series.
Our protagonists Citra and Rowan, are chosen to apprentice to a scythe. Together the two must learn about their society and find a solution to any corruptness within. The first book, “Scythe,” does a beautiful job setting up the world and characters. Both Citra and Rowan are amazing and have incredible layers to them. I found myself invested in both their fates. By the second book, “Thunderhead,” we have a third character added in Greyson, who is a refreshing addition as he is just an ordinary guy within this society that, by this point, we readers have begun worrying about. His personality sharply contrasts with the two protagonists, and his relationship with Thunderhead gives us more insight into the computer system than we ever had before. I found I could not stop reading the second book anymore; then, the first and words could not express my excitement to read the third.
Then I read the third book, “The Toll,” and this was when the comparison between the series and the last decade came to mind. “The Toll” is by no means a bad book. There are many exciting parts to it, and the ending it gave to the character Greyson is by far one of my favorite character endings in literature. But the end it gave for both Rowan and Citra was…well more odd than necessarily bad. Twists in cinema and literature can often sweep us off our feet, making us jump up excited to know more. But in the same regard, a twist can also sweep us off our feet, leaving us lying on the ground, wondering what the heck happened and not wanting to see more because our head still hurts from hitting the ground. Certain twists in “The Toll” had me excited eager to see what happen next, and others made me do something I never had for the previous books in the series.
Put it down.
I came back, of course, because I needed to know the end, but I often found myself so thrown by decisions made by the author I was not in the mood to read more.
I read both “Scythe” and “Thunderhead” in a day. It took me three to read “The Toll.” And that is what is so brilliant about this series. Shusterman created a world and series that I became so invested in that I found myself actively irritated by twists that I felt did not give the series justice.
All in all, I do not regret picking up these books and highly encourage anyone with interest in a well developed and exciting fictional series of books to do the same. This last decade was a mixed bag, and so was this book, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss either of them. It may not have had a satisfactory ending for every character, but covering that is just as important as covering the satisfying endings.
To quote the first page of the series, “We are instructed to write down not just our deeds but our feelings because it must be known that we have feelings. Remorse. Regret. Sorrow to great to bear. Because if we didn’t feel those things, what monsters would we be?” – From the gleaning journal of H.S. Curie.