Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe, #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 22nd 2016
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 goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.