Science Fiction, Young Adult

Review: SCYTHE by Neal Shusterman



Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.


3 Stars

Young Adult | Science Fiction | Fantasy | Dystopia

I had an extremely difficult time pinpointing a rating for Scythe as I was initially very intrigued with the overall premise of the novel. It was a struggle because I couldn’t decide between the cons outweighing the pros of the basis of my opinion for several basic reasons… in the simplest of statements? The premise alone is freaking amazing, the post-mortality society sounds beyond captivating. Really just creative to explore the possibilities and the characters, oh I really liked Rowan from the start. Unfortunately there is not sn easy way to say this – I was bored. Not oh this is ‘great build’ boring, but this is ‘I am about to look up spoilers to put myself out of my misery’ boring. This is really disheartening because I have heard so many great things about Shusterman writing style, I have Un-Wind on my TBR, but now I am kind of weary about diving in. Plus, so many reviewers and Bookstagrammer nuggets rant and rave about the amazing-ness that is this the Scythe novel.

I say it was so boring because the build just dragged on completely. Normally I can get through a novel (even one of a slow build or drag) in the young adult world within two days, this took me almost an entire week. An entire bleed my eyes dry, painful week-long process.

So what did I actually like? Well I will tell you…

Firstly, set in the future, natural death is no longer a worry, all knowledge has been acquired. A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery; if there is death they can be revived quickly – a true Utopia. However because humanity has conquered death, there is the little issue of over population and to get this under control, Scythes are commanded to keep this in order. Scythe’s kill or perform ‘gleaning’ on random citizens by special means considered true deaths and these citizens cannot be revived. Our story starts with two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, chosen apprentices to become Scythes which neither want; Unfortunately things turn into a twist when mastering the ‘art’ of taking a life might lose their own.

Whoah. Tell me that isn’t a kickass premise? Because I was sold just from it.

From the start, I loved Rowan and Citra. During their apprenticeship under Scythe Faraway (for the most part) even though they developed a slight romantic connection that was somewhat predictable  and a little forced if I am being a little honest, but this more so appeared as platonic chemistry that I preferred towards mi-way through to the end; I just liked the overall chemistry as friends and the mutual respect between the teenagers. It really outshines more towards the end, which I think (fingers crossed) develops more in book two which would be interesting to see the development since it was so underlined in Scythe. I just think Citra and Rowan really played off of one another strengths as characters. So whether they are comrades or adversaries in Thunderhead, I would be curious to see where Shusterman takes this duo.

I also really enjoyed the supporting cast. Scythe Faraway and Curie I think really aided in the build. Actually I have to admit I even liked Scythe Goddard (who was really creepy delicious), though it is a shame you do not get more of their perspective than what is given from particular key moments or journal entries. The journal entries were actually some of my more favored aspects of the world building. It allows you to get different views from the Scythes on their methods and opinions for their profession – really great building to the plot.

So what let me down? Honestly with a badass premise, solid character dynamics (in my opinion) it should have been more yet was so flawed. Even with the character connections of trying to add some semblance of excitement to the plot it just rolled out to be rather tedious. For starters, the apprenticeship went on until the end of the book actually, that is about 450 pages worth of a novel, and in which case Citra and Rowan are mostly learning skills not so much action, so really just Scythe lessons overall. And when the action did happen it was really gripping but then stopped on a cliffhanger I did not quite understand. Hell I was a fan of the ‘gleaning’… I am an evil person at heart. Unfortunately even the ‘gleaning’ has plot flaws. It basically draws down to there is corruption in the Scythe Rule, the evil characters do what they want basically because they can, and on top off that? The Scythe’s are very unorganized with a society that is pointless – why kill who they want to kill? Basically, a ‘good’ Scythe will kill painless death (possible tell them) while a ‘bad’ Scythe will cause as much pain and suffering as possible… I am just not wrapping my mind around it I suppose. I get it, don’t get me wrong, but unfortunately at the same time maybe I am not appreciating it like I should by overthinking the backbone of the plot.

Ultimately Scythe was definitely not among my favorite of books, but not necessarily least. I see potential that I want to explore where it evolves in the future but I am in no rush to pre-order, stalk tracking then drool over the pages as I read post-opening. So truthfully I cannot pinpoint for sure where Thunderhead will land on my TBR after it releases, but I definitely will read it. Here is holing Shusterman impresses me in other series I have on my reading list?

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