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Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman Book Review (SPOILERS)


The past few books I've read have been, well, a bit crap, and I was desperately craving a book to get me out of that slump. You know when you've read shite book after shite book and you just feel like perhaps you're on a downward spiral of reading really shite books? Well, THANK GOODNESS that this book broke my very small but equally unfortunate bad luck of reading shite books.

Humans have conquered mortality and are now living in a conflict-free world, overlooked and ran by the Thunderhead (think of it as an invisible government but with a conscience), however, the only thing this seemingly perfect artificial intelligence cannot govern is death. The only way to die on Earth is to be "gleaned", and the only way to be gleaned, is by a scythe, of which are ran and overlooked by the Scythedom - something that the Thunderhead cannot and will not interfere with.

We follow two main characters, Citra and Rowan, who are chosen involuntarily to go head-to-head in a year-long apprenticeship under Honorable Scythe Faraday's tutoring to be a scythe. Only one of them will win. The winner, will have to glean the other, which would have far less complications had they not have fallen in love with one another.

The story is extremely cleverly written, but was done so in a way that was easy to follow along. The writing style was descriptive and kept you entertained with plot twists throughout that you never saw coming, but it never over-complicated things. No one needs a 3 page description of what a town or character looks like, and Shusterman managed to somehow create a very vivid world without babbling on about irrelevant settings and descriptives that held no value to the story.

There are a couple of things that really stood out to me in this book. The first was the contrast between the gleanings of Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie. Faraday likes to mourn his subject, to let them write a letter of goodbye to family members, to talk with them and let them know the reasonings for their gleaning before going through with the act. Curie on the other hand, prefers to glean people instantaneously, without any prior warning to them, just like it would have happened in the Age of Mortality - the time before humans conquered death. Curie's methods almost seem a little brutal at first, probably because we spend the first half of the book learning of Faraday's methods, which appear much gentler and under calmer circumstances than Curie's. It's not until Curie's conversation with Citra that she explains why she gleans people the way she does. It almost makes you realise that there's no right or wrong way about doing something, and it all comes down to personal choice.

Speaking of Curie, I think it's interesting that people view her as "The Great Dame of Death" and she is somewhat of a legend in the Scythedom. People outside of the Scythedom fear her. She is a living, breathing, cold-hearted monster to a lot of people. But it's only when she takes Citra under her wing when her current mentor, Faraday, is supposedly killed by another scythe (sorry, the title did say spoilers), that we see an entirely different side to her. Her gleanings might seem brutal, but it's what she does after her gleanings that takes you by surprise. She invites all of the family of the gleaned victim to her house and cooks them all a meal, and listens, really listens to stories of their lives.

Whilst Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another, this isn't an all-out race to the finish line with cheap thrills along the way. It is a uniquely in-depth look into an incredible world that had its expertly placed twists and turns along the way that kept making me want to read just one more chapter.

Whilst the writing was amazing and the character development was impeccable and the plot twists really did take you by surprise, something I didn't quite get to grasps with was the relationship between Citra and Rowan. The whole book is primarily faced around them going head-to-head with one another, however, there isn't enough development in the first half of the book that justifies them being overly close, except for an odd glance at one another here and there, but other than that, we have very little to work with in terms of being invested in them as a couple - as separate characters I think they are great, but rooting for them to be together is a little difficult as there's no substantial development to warrant doing so

I think the story and the plot twists were unpredictable and very well written, and I'm already diving into it's sequel, Thunderhead, before the third book, The Toll, is realised on 5th November here in the UK.

Verdict: ★★★★★

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