Neal Shusterman created a world where technological advances brought humanity to the point of immortality. There are no illnesses, no disease or viruses. The human system is equipped with smart nanites that can battle every natural cause of death. They provide the painkillers when necessary, they repair organs in case of damage. And if you happen to be “deadish”, the Thunderhead (the Artificial Intellect) employees will revive you in 3 to 4 days, without any consequences, and even offer the best ice cream you’ve ever had.
In this utopian world, where people can live for thousands of years, marry multiple times, have many children, the population growth has to be controlled. And that’s why the Sythedom was created. Separate from the Thunderhead, Scythedom is responsible for “gleaning” people.
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.
Can I just start by saying that Neal Shusterman is a genius! He created the most perfect, but dark and morally doubtful world. Who wouldn’t want to live forever? Or to never get ill? Or experience any sort of pain? However, this immunity comes with a cost. A great responsibility is bestowed upon the Scythes to choose and glean people.
Scythes are the most honorable members of society, everyone understands the need to glean. There are people who admire and worship Scythes, but most people are afraid of them.
“It begins on day one of apprenticeship – but we do not officially call it “killing”. It’s not socially or morally correct to call it such. It is, and has always been, “gleaning”, named for the way the poor would trail behind farmers in ancient times, taking the stray stalks of grain left behind. It was the earliest form of charity. A scythe’s work is the same. Every child is told from the day he or she is old enough to understand that the scythes provide a crucial service for society. Ours is the closest thing to a scared mission the modern world knows.“
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – The world created by Neal Shusterman is so incredibly interesting! As soon as you start reading, you get the general vibe of what is happening. But Neal Shusterman doesn’t just “tell”, he also “shows” the surrounding world, the elements that make it unique.
The information wasn’t just dumped on the reader. Instead, I learned as the story progressed and various scenes took place. For example, how the schools worked in this world, what Thunderhead was and what it did for the society, how Scythedom Conclave works.
2 – The Scythedom Conclave was probably the element that propelled me into the story. I was fascinated by its inner politics, different Scythes and their gleaning styles. How deeply some of them felt the need to “always remain human”, to hold onto their compassion and empathy, even though most of them had killed thousands of people during their service as Scythe.
This world and this story were created not just for the sake of story-telling. Everything Neal Shusterman talks about, everything he brings up to the light is important
What is it like to constantly glean people? How do you end their lives? And most importantly, how do you continue living with the knowledge of what you’ve done?
As the story progressed, the apprenticeship journey of the main characters (who I’ll talk about in a second) took them through various scythes, which gave us the feel of their gleaning styles and the differences between someone who resented and disliked the job he had to do, and someone who found pleasure in welding this position of power.
4 – I didn’t like the main characters, but I loved the fact that I didn’t like them. This sounds weird, so hear me out!
Citra and Rowan (I know, the name kept reminding me of Throne of Glass as well) were chosen by Scythe Faraday to be his apprentices. Against the rules, he chose two apprentices instead of one. They were the perfect candidates – someone who would never want to become a scythe. They also had the most important traits Faraday looked for – empathy and compassion.
With this begins their “forced” competition.
In the beginning, I was getting slightly annoyed at their apparent one-dimensional descriptions. Citra was this haughty teenager, ready to stand up for herself and her family. While Rowan, coming from a big family, was a mediocre guy who never strove to stand out from the crowd. But who did that by design!
“Rowan had never been an exceptional student – but that was by design.”
To keep it short, this whole trope of “I’m not exceptional, but I could be if I wanted to” was getting on my nerves!
Luckily, after one big event, their character development rocketed upwards in just a couple of chapters. I still didn’t like them, but I could appreciate some of their traits and deeds.
5 – There is nothing I love more in fantasy / dystopian books than political intrigues. And Neal Shusterman definitely delivered. The political power in this world is practically inexistent. Thunderhead, artificial intelligence, is the only “power” the human kind has. It controls everything in this world, except for the scythes, who separated themselves by creating Scythedom. And that’s where the whispers and gossip run true!
This game of power was fascinating to read about, and I’m looking forward to what other evil plots will take place in the second book!
The only thing I should mention is that it took me a while to get into the story – around 100 pages. And it might have been because of my reading slump, or maybe I needed some time to get used to the writing and the story. I’m not sure. All I know is that after struggling with the first 100 pages for a couple of days, I flew through the remaining 350 in one evening!
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOKS OR PLANNING TO?
LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS DOWN BELOW!
OTHER BOOKS BY NEAL SHUSTERMAN: