Series Details: Arc of a Scythe #1
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Blurb from Goodreads:
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.
Imagine a world where everyone gets to live the kind of life they want. A world where every major problem had been eliminated, where an AI rules with utter fairness, and where immortality is no longer impossible! The problem with everyone being immortal is that the planet will eventually run out of space. Still, people must die. So, the Scythedom was founded. Tasked with “gleaning” people to maintain the balance, the scythes became the one and only face of death in the post mortal world.
Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator.
Scythe definitely delivered what was promised in its premise. The idea is original, interesting, and captivating. There are a lot of things to love in this book, but its strongest asset is the world-building—it is astounding! It’s so complex but is never confusing. Neal Shusterman was able to show us in detail a peaceful world free of pain, poverty, and hunger. At the same time, he is gradually revealing the hidden flaws of this seemingly perfect world. There’s a really nice balance between the details of the society’s perfection and the details of its faults, and they were very well-placed throughout the book.
“Remember that good intentions pave many roads. Not all of them lead to hell.”
The characters are worth rooting for. Citra and Rowan are the kind of characters that I didn’t quite care about at the beginning of the book, but they eventually grow on me. They started on the same plane—both have pure hearts and good intentions which made them scythe material—but Shusterman cleverly took their characters on completely different paths, exploring different corners of the story.
While it’s amazing seeing how brave and clever Citra has become, much of my interest is held by Rowan. He has a good heart but there’s also a touch of corruption in his character which made him a little questionable.
“The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government.”
The short journal entries of different scythes in each chapter is like a perfectly placed breather. It takes the focus off of our main characters for a bit. It let the readers know more about the scythes who aren’t given as much attention as the main characters but are just as important to the story.
“I think all young women are cursed with a streak of unrelenting foolishness, and all young men are cursed with a streak of absolute stupidity.”
The only thing in this book that didn’t stand out is the romance. Citra and Rowan goes from barely friends to totally in love. Like, where did all those feelings came from? Granted there were instances where they did some sacrifices to save the other, but still, it didn’t give me the chemistry I was looking for. The romance just didn’t feel natural. It felt rushed, and forced, and unnecessary. But it’s there so I’ll just hope they’d develop more chemistry on the next installment.
Overall, I think this is a solid start to Arc of a Scythe series. There were a few places where it dragged a bit, but the twists make it all worth the read. This is one of those books where most readers probably won’t be able to guess what’s coming next. I would recommend this, not just to YA readers, but to anyone who loves a book with fresh new ideas.