Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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Overall Score: 6/10

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy

Series: Yes, Book 1

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: November 22, 2016

Source: Library

Book Summary (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.

Review

In the future, humanity has conquered mortality and the world is run peacefully and well by the Thunderhead, a sentient AI. Despite this, there is still a need for death, or “gleaning”, to occur for the purposes of population control. Citra and Rowan are the two new apprentices of Scythe Faraday. After a year of training, one of them will become a scythe and the other will return home to their family. However, during the first of the three meetings, it is decided that the ordained one will have to glean the other.

The premise of this book sounded amazing but it failed to live up to its promise. The story itself was interesting (if at times slow) and I did enjoy it. After reading Scythe, I had a few too many questions left, some of which concern major plot points, for me to give it a higher rating. Additionally, the idea that one apprentice must glean the other seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t really have a lot of reason supporting it (I do understand that it was included to raise the stakes but it just didn’t fit for me).

I also found it difficult to connect with either of the two main characters. By jumping back and forth between the characters, the author nicely contrasted the different training styles and philosophy of the two masters, however it made the story feel piecemeal and somewhat emotionally distant. The two characters didn’t spend enough time together for me to understand the chemistry between them, even though the romance plays an incredibly important role in the story.

My favorite part of the book was the philosophical musings of the elder scythes that the reader saw before each chapter. Those gave me a better idea of the world and the current political structure than the rest of the book. I will probably be continuing the series because I would like to see what happens next (hopefully the next book will more resemble the gleaning journals in style and maturity).

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