Review: Scythe by Neil Schusterman

Title: Scythe
Author: Neil Schusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Pages: 435

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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.


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In a world where death has been conquered and lack of food or water are no longer concerns there needs to be a balance of life and death. It’s no longer survival of the fittest and population growth has become an issue. Enter the Scythedom. Scythes are both feared and worshipped because they are the keepers of death in a deathless world. They are the one and only branch that manage themselves and it’s up to them to decide who has to die. The only way to become a Scythe is to not want to be one.

After demonstrating acts of compassion and moral justice, Citra and Rowen find themselves double apprentices of the honorable Scythe Faraday. They’re to be trained in the skills of death and at the end of the year only one will become a Scythe while the other will return to their previous life. Or at least that’s how things where supposed to go. Thanks to an internal power struggle within the Scythedom though it’s now a fight to the death. Winner will have to glean the loser upon initiation. 

➽ Citra – Not afraid to speak her mind or ask the tough questions; even to a scythe. Which is exactly what happens when Scythe Faraday shows up at her door one day to glean someone in her family. Her sass and compassion land her an apprenticeship she has no desire in accepting, except that her family would then have immunity from being gleaned. She’s smart, quick as a whip and cares deeply even if she has a hard time showing it.

➽ Rowen – The lettuce child aka the middle child. He’s always used the cover of the middle to not draw attention to himself both at home and at school. If you don’t stick out you can’t be gleaned right? Then he runs into Scythe Faraday at school and stays with the victim as he passes on. This act gains him a scythe apprenticeship but will the power and stardom of it go to his head after being invisible for so long?

While you immediately know who the villains and the good guys are, there were quite a few grey areas. I could see where the villains were coming from. Everyone has the own way of gleaning (killing) people and the aftermath that follows. Should you want to enjoy it? No not at all only psychopaths should enjoy killing but I can understand wanting to make each death memorable. His population growth needed to be curbed not just death that really didn’t do anything. There were obvious flaws though and it was hard to see past Scythe Faraday’s initial training because he was just so good of a guy. 

The plot of the story was a bit slow moving but considering what was going on in the plot and that Citra and Rowen were going through an apprenticeship, I think the pacing fit the scenarios they were in perfectly. The plot itself was an interesting concept that kept me engaged. All forms of corrupt government have been disbanded, left to the domain of the Thunderhead (which is just a giant cloud-like system) yet somehow scythes rule themselves and even with blatant corruption nothing could really be done. There were a few things hinted at though and I’m excited at what’s potentially to come. 

The characters were not what I was expecting. I mean everyone wants to be inside the head of killer to see their inner workings, but what about the head of one who kills but doesn’t want to? Both Scythe Faraday and Curie have such unique killing methods aftermath routines but at the end of the day it was about bringing comfort and compassion to those left behind. I can’t imagine killing for years but also can’t imagine giving it up because who could possibly be as compassionate or caring as you can be. 

There was a bit of romance between Citra and Rowen, which is what gets them into trouble in the first place. It felt devoid of any real chemistry though, a basic surface connection better suited to friendship rather than any kind of romance. Maybe it was a connection they felt being trained to kill and watching people die that brought them together. We never really get to see where they clicked and become a we. The story was just missing that moment.

I’ve read in multiple reviews that this series gets even better as it progresses so I’m really excited to read on. I’m not really into sci-fi or futuristic worlds but I was really captivated by this story and could see it being a possible future. I loved Faraday and found Rowen to be a complex character. All the characters were well written, but I wouldn’t mind a prequel of Curie and Faraday. 

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