“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy.” // Review of “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)
Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 26/03/20 – 01/04/20


Hmmm…. I don’t actually know where to start with this book. I liked it! Don’t get me wrong. I just… wasn’t entirely convinced by the world it was set in, which meant I struggled to believe why some of the events would take place.

Just a note that this review will probably be kind of spoilery because I’m picking apart a few things. So read on at your own risk.

One of my main qualms with the story was the idea that humanity has given its power over to an all-knowing AI called The Thunderhead, which came into being when the cloud developed self-awareness. The narration kept mentioning how Thunderhead was the sum of all human knowledge and that humanity now “knew all there was to know” and that “there was nothing left to learn” and I just… how did they know that? Did the Thunderhead tell them so and they just accepted it?

And while was acknowledged that perfect lives with no threats to existence lead to lives of complacency and drudgery, no one ever felt like they ought to do anything about it, which I found a bit frustrating.

I never really felt attached to either of the main characters. They had no chemistry and their romance felt like an afterthought… apart form an initial spark of attraction, I never felt like there was much chemistry. To be honest, I spent most of the book wishing I was reading about Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie at the very beginning of the post-mortality age. That would have interested me a lot more. Even Goddard, who was a pretty 2D villain, would have been interesting to see in the early stages of his career as a Scythe.

Sometimes the pacing was odd and what should have been important events, such as Citra’s name being cleared of murder, happened off-screen. I’m not necessarily saying the book should have been longer; it’s already 450 pages. But the focus felt like it was sometimes on the wrong thing.

Phew. Okay. Yes, so far this reads more like a 2 star review than a 3.5… so why the higher rating? Well, I really did love Faraday and Curie, and the more I found about them, the more I liked them. Flouting the Scythe Commandments in the way they did and the ramifications got me quite invested in their story. As I said, that’s what I have would have liked to have read, more so than Citra and Rowan’s… training montage? (Also I will admit I am sucker for a good forbidden romance and I felt there was more to this one than to Citra and Rowan’s).

And regardless of how I felt about the plot, there is no doubt that Neal Shusterman can write. I found this when I read another of his YA dystopias, Unwind, in 2016. There’s a scene in that book that I can still imagine vividly, despite the years and the many books that have passed. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

And Scythe was similar. There’s a visceral quality to the descriptions. You really feel like you’re there. And I was in that strange place I sometimes end up in with books where I wasn’t that interested in the characters but I still wanted to know how everything turned out. The book has a really strong ending. I know this is a trilogy but it almost stands on its own, just as Unwind did, despite being first in a series.

Will I continue with the series? Haven’t decided yet. I have put a reserve on my library’s copy of the audio book, but it’s not available for three months. By then I might not be so worried, but it’s on my list for now. It is possible that now that the first book has set everything up and Citra and Rowan have completed their training, the second and third books will really get going and I will find them more engaging. That’s something I’ll definitely bear in mind.

P. S. Since I mentioned it so much, here’s my review of Unwind from 2016.

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday

Edit: I totally forgot to include this in the post when I was writing it last night, but if anyone would be interested in taking part in my cover reveal for A More Complicated Fairytale, or helping out with any other promo, please send me an email at fuzzyagent999[@]yahoo[dot]com[dot]au. I’m hoping to do the reveal and some promo throughout March, with a release some time in early April. I’ll get in touch with people over the weekend to work out specifics. Now on with the show!

It’s Wednesday! And I have good news on the writing front! Last week I was bemoaning having really had no drive to write for a quite a while. I think part of that was because I was trying to write in order, from beginning to end. And when I got stuck, I didn’t know how to deal with that. Writing linearly has never worked for me, so I don’t know why I was trying this time. So I’ve been writing a bit every week day. And I think I might be getting a bit too attached to some side characters. Usually when this happens, it’s with characters who are supposed to die, so then I get all guilty. At least that isn’t a problem this time. So I’m back to sharing from Worlds Apart.

This week I have six sentences for you. After Princess Adelyn came to see him, Jasper Cortain sent her off with his daughter, Carrie, as a guide, to find a magician who can help her get back the memories that have been wiped. Of course, it’s been noticed that the Princess is missing, and people have bewednesdaybanneren searching. Jasper’s just coming home from work now.

Jasper was fairly sure the figure was a member of the Royal Guard. He wasn’t surprised to see them outside his house. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since he had sent Carrie off with the princess, and they would have been searching for the Princess ever since. Someone would have said they saw her leaving, or perhaps Mary herself had told them she had brought the princess there to protect herself. Either way, there was no point in running. Better they capture Jasper and waste time interrogating him

If you’re unfamiliar with WIPpet Wednesday and are curious, it’s a blog hop we writer types do each week, in which we share snippets from our WIP that somehow relate to the date. I shared six sentences by adding the two and the four of 24 together. You can find our linky by clicking the blue link to the right. If this scene has confused and/or intrigued you, you can click on my Worlds Apart category to read previous snippets that I shared.

Next up is WWW Wednesday, a blog hop in which we answer questions about what we’ve been reading this past week. This is hosted by Sam over at A World of Words. You can join in by commenting on today’s post over on her blog.

  • What are you currently reading?

wwwwednesdayMadly reading Unwind by Neal Schusterman before it’s due back to the library tomorrow. I had it on hold at the library for months, and it finally came in, but I was not paying attention to the fact that it’s a high demand book, therefore I only get it for two weeks, not four. I’m enjoying it in spite of some implausibility, but I have a freakish talent for hand-waving implausibility in YA dystopians. I should finish this tonight or tomorrow morning.

I’m also in the middle of The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, the third in the Shades of London series. I’ve read book reviews before where reviewers have referred to the heroine as TSTL (too stupid to live), and in those cases, I’ve always thought, “Oh, come on now, was she really that bad?” But Rory’s making some decisions in this book which have had me using the term, so… yeah. You’re on the run from everyone, but you’re going to go out by yourself, to a place you’re unfamiliar with, to try to contact a ghost you’ve never spoken to before, without telling anyone and leaving your phone in the safe house where you’ve been left because it’s freaking safe… yeah, I have no sympathy for you when bad things happen.

  • What have you recently finished reading?

Nothing this week. 😦 My weekend reading time was compromised by having my mum visit.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is my next library read (my mum read the first few chapters before bed on the weekend, and was impressed, which is saying something because YA fantasy is way down the list of genres she enjoys, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign), and I also need to get back into Cogling, since that’s a Netgalley copy and I should probably read it soon.

That’s it from me for this week. My partner is hassling me to hurry up so we can go get some take-away for dinner. I’ll catch up with you all soon!

~ Emily