Scythe by Neal Shusterman Review

Scythe by Neal Shusterman is the first book in a brand new series. The book is set in a dystopian world where death is non-existent and the world we know today is called the Age of Mortality. Disease, war, and hunger are a thing of the past leaving designated people called scythes to kill in order to manage the population. It is a fairly interesting premise and the book delivers an entertaining ride that does enough to deviate from the standard YA plot.

Scythe follows Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova (very…unique names). After showing compassion and strength, the two teenagers are chosen to become apprentices by a scythe called Scythe Faraday. They reluctantly accept and discover only one of them can be chosen. At first, they simply do as their mentor says hoping one of them will be chosen and the other released back to their normal lives. But after an event occurs, the one who is not chosen will be “gleaned”, as they call it, by the other.

Rowan and Citra are well written characters. Both are compassionate, strong, and develop as the story progresses. They are thrown into something they do not want to do, to do something that goes anything human, and they have to adapt to those circumstances. Shusterman does a fantastic job of creating the two main leads as complex and three-dimensional characters. But I feel some of the best characters are the scythes themselves. Scythe Curie and Scythe Faraday are extremely well done serving as more than just the teens mentors. They both have their own way of gleaning and understand the horrible deed that they were assigned to do. But you don’t ever get the feeling that they lose their humanity after doing it for so long, they know what they are doing is wrong and often make the gleanings for the victim and the aftermath for the families as easy as they could.

While most of the characters in Scythe are well done and develop as the story goes, it is obvious who is evil and who is good. There is no gray area, no moral ambiguity between the characters, mostly. The main villain of the novel, Scythe Goddard does a good job of making you hate him, but that’s all he is. He is exactly the same person from start to finish. Goddard’s junior scythes: Rand, Chomsky, and Volta mostly suffer the same fate. I say mostly because Volta is the outlier. From about halfway through the book to the end, Volta turned into one of my favorite characters. I won’t say more as it gets a bit spoilery (is that even a word?).

Shusterman has a great writing style, simple as that. He does a good job of building the world that the characters inhabit and fleshes out the scythes, establishing their lore. You never get lost, each actions are concise and well written. You can picture each setting and each action. The dialogue between the characters feel real and natural. He asks some interesting questions with this book, mainly the moral right and wrong of killing one another, but it never slows down the story. Overall, I just loved his writing style.

One of the weakest parts of the novel is the romance between Citra and Rowan. While the moments are few and kinda cute, it came out of nowhere. The problem is that the moments are few. In other words, it was under developed. How can I believe they like each other when they have barely known each other and in those times, they seem to not care about one another? While they gradually warmed up to each other, I never interpreted their words and actions as lovers, but good friends. Still by the end, they shared some sweet moments with each other but it was definitely sudden. At times the book can be predictable. You think it’s going to go one way and it goes that way. But Shusterman adds some nice twists and a tantalizing ending that definitely got me excited for the sequel to be released later this year.

In conclusion, I loved Scythe. The characters, the world, and the writing were all absolutely fantastic. While at times, it became predictable and the romance was sudden and under developed, the book was entertaining from start to finish. It asks some interesting questions, but never lets it drag down the story. I will definitely be picking up the sequel later this year. I don’t have a rating system planned out yet so I’ll stick with the traditional stars.




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