Title: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe, #1

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: November 22nd 2016


Four Stars

Two teens are forced to murder – maybe each other – in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and – despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation – they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

– Blurb courtesy of

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Is that why you’re here?” Ben blurted “To glean one of us?”
Scythe Faraday offered an unreadable smile. “I’m here for dinner.”

In a world where death has, for all purposes, become extinct the only way to die is to be randomly gleaned by Scythes, citizens who are feared by the general population but somewhat worshipped as well. The first time Citra meets Scythe Faraday is when he intrudes on one of her family dinners, before gleaning her neighbour. The first time Rowan meets Scythe Faraday is when he gleans one of his classmates. There’s something Citra and Rowan, that Scythe Faraday sees in each of their short interactions, that catches his attention.

Scythe is not a fast-paced, action-packed story. Instead we follow Rowan and Citra on their apprenticeship to Scythe Faraday and the plot builds slowly as they become trapped in the middle of the divide between the old Scythes and the rising ideals of the ‘new order’. Scythe is a multiple POV story, although we mainly follow Rowan and Citra who are new to the Scythedom we also see scenes from the more senior scythes which give a good feel to the politics at play.

“Therin lies the paradox of the profession,” Faraday said. “Those who wish to have the job should not have it…and those who would most refuse to kill are the only ones who should.”

Both Citra and Rowan become apprentices to Scythe Faraday, learning the ways of the Scythe, but only one can be chosen and at the end of their year-long apprenticeship the teen not chosen will simply return to their normal life. But one of the new order Scythes, wanting to make waves in the Scythedom suggests something more interesting. At the end of Citra’s and Rowan’s apprenticeship the one chosen will glean the failed apprentice as their first kill as a Scythe.

Despite the slow-paced plot I was hooked on Scythe from the beginning, I loved the concept of this story and the way Neal Shusterman wrote it. In a world where death is controlled solely by the Scythes it’s interesting to see what society has become, and in this story especially it was really interesting seeing the development of the new order Scythes. The main aspect to this story is the competition between Citra and a Rowan, which all too soon becomes a competition between the old ways and the new order of Scythes.

…The Characters

“Citra ate, even though she didn’t have an appetite. Even though the whole world had slid off its axis. Breakfast was breakfast. How dare it be?”

Citra doesn’t want to become a Scythe but she still gives her all to the apprenticeship with Faraday, eagerly learning what he is teaching. There’s something loyal, honourable and noble about Citra’s character which fits in with the old ways of the Scythedom and which only seems to shine through even more when her apprenticeship moves from Scythe Faraday to Scythe Curie.

“Death makes the whole world kin. Rowan wondered if a world without death would then make everyone stranger.”

Rowan has always seemed to go through life unnoticed, the middle child in a large family the only time he stands out is when he offers to comfort a boy from his school being gleaned. Rowan seems more street smart than Citra, slightly more questioning of the Scythe apprenticeship he has found himself in, but he still respects Faraday’s teachings and the ways of the old order he is learning.

When Citra’s and Rowan’s apprenticeships change hands, Citra now learning from Scythe Curie and Rowan from Scythe Goddard, it was interesting seeing how their characters changed. Although Curie’s methods of choosing subjects for her gleanings differs from Faraday’s she still follows the old ways of the Scythe, whereas Goddard is of the new order, using mass gleanings to reach his quota and revelling in the murder he gets to commit

“We could have been called reapers,” Goddard said, “but our founders saw fit to call us scythes – because we are the weapons in mankind’s immortal hand. You are a fine weapon, Rowan, sharp, and precise. And when you strike, you are glorious to behold.”

The more time Citra and Rowan spend with their new teachers, longer than they spent learning from Scythe Faraday, the more their characters change to reflect their training with both of them becoming the faces of the old and new orders. Rowan becomes more brutal, trained by Goddard to be cruel and revel in the Scythes standing over everyone else.

The relationship between Citra and Rowan is one I would have liked to see developed a little more. At first they are nothing more than unlikely allies, maybe even friends; both training under Scythe Faraday they are the only person the other has who can understand this strange situation they have found themselves in. When their apprenticeships change hands and they are put in direct competition with one another, not just for the position of Scythe but for their lives, their interactions changers well however they still seem to care for one another, ignoring warnings from their teachers and trying to protect instead of win when they are placed head-to-head for their trials.

…The Setting

“I wonder what life will be like a millennium from now, when the average age will be nearer to one thousand. Will we all be renaissance children, skilled at every art and science, because we’ve had time to master them? Or will boredom and slavish routine plague us even more than it does today, giving us less of a reason to live limitless lives? I dream of the former, but I suspect the latter.”

The world building in Scythe was one of my favourite parts of this book. I loved the concept of a world where death has been eradicated because at first glance it made this more of a utopian story than a dystopian one. However there are still cracks beneath the surface and you see these in the ways of the new order which we discover more of when Rowan’s apprenticeship moves over to Scythe Goddard. Scythe is set in the near future and there was a lot of detail in this book as to how the near-utopia state was reached, both in the main part of the story and the journal entries at the start of each chapter, but looking back didn’t take away from the plot or character development moving forwards in Scythe.

Scythe is a very fresh dystopian novel, it takes a lot of the things you expect to find in the dystopian genre and twists them around. On the surface everything seems perfect but there’s so much more under the surface at play than you first realise. I enjoyed this story, despite the slow pace everything was built up really well throughout Scythe to create an explosive ending.

What did you think of Scythe? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

32 thoughts on “Scythe

  1. oh myyy I’m so excited about the slow pace!!!
    because I love when books give u chills bc the atmosphere is SO CREEPY, but it all just builds toward a big conclusion.
    This book just seems so much like it will be a YA classic one day!!???
    and I already love Citra based on your description!!! AND I LOVE HOW ROWAN SLOWLY BECOMES MORE BRUTAL!!!
    such an amazing review, I need to priority tbr this c: c:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In that case this is definitely the book for you. It sets up the world really masterfully and the things you think you know about it and the situation don’t tend to be what you think they are (I hope that makes some kind of sense).
      Possibly, it certainly raises some interesting questions, and oh the development of both Citra and Rowan is incredible. They change so much in the book but they’re each a product of their mentors so it was fun to read.
      Thanks, and yes definitely, it’s a great book. 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful review, Beth! I have heard great things about this book and have it on my TBR for when I’m in the mood for some dystopian books again 😀 I can’t wait to read it. I’m happy you enjoyed it so much, the concept sounds really good – I’m sorry you thought that some relationships were a bit underdeveloped, hopefully that changes in the sequel 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie! 🙂 Scythe was actually on my TBR list for a while as well (likely for the same reason, honestly I don’t think I’ve heard one bad thing about this book). It’s not like any dystopian out there either so I’m sure you’ll love it when you’re in the mood for that genre again as well.
      Yeah it wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t say that was a deal breaker or anything, it didn’t spoil the story or pull me out of it you know. It’s just one small thing I wish had been more developed.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah there aren’t many mixed reviews for Scythe, and after reading it I can definitely see why. I feel like if you haven’t read a dystopian book in a while this is a great one to start off with because the concept is so unique, there’s nothing else like it out there already I’m sure. 🙂


  3. I have heard great things about Scythe and it’s a book I definitely plan on picking up. I have read Unwind by the same author years ago and I adored it, so I’m having high hopes for this book as well. 🙂 We shall see about that, when I actually pick the book up and read it. Great review Beth! ❤ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it’s amazing. Scythe was the first book by Neal Shusterman I actually picked up but after reading it I’m definitely going to check out his others. Hopefully if you liked the Unwind series you’ll love this one too (I thought it was incredible at least). Thanks so much Anna. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it must be you know, I rated Scythe 5/5 and I found Thunderhead better so the only way I could think of rating it was as a 6/5! I liked reading the Thunderhead’s thoughts before each chapter, it was brilliant 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s fair then yeah! The Toll is my most anticipated book of next year I think!
        I’ve not read as many books with AI in them as I’d have thought, so this was a great change. Definitely something I’ll try and read more of in the future 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. THAT ENDING! I wanted to know what happened straight away but we’ve got to wait until next year, hopefully not too late in the year though! Oooo I’ve got the Illuminae Files on my TBR, and was contemplating buying the first book on my Kindle the other day, I’m definitely going to check it out! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The wait seems too long, even if the book is released in January I feel like I need to know what happens now! 🙂
        Definitely do, it’s a great series and the AI is a great character. If you like the Thunderhead I’m sure you’ll love AIDAN. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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