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Scythe (1) (Arc of a Scythe) Paperback – November 28, 2017
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Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.
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.
Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.
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"Shusterman is no stranger to pushing boundaries. Scythe owes an obvious debt to Unwind (2007) and its
sequels, and this succeeds as a sort of shadow companion to Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy: instead
of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, this deals in what happens to men when there are no
monsters. When our reach does not exceed our grasp, when comfort is more easily obtained than struggle,
when our essential humanity doesn’t burn out but becomes slowly irrelevant, what becomes of us?
Readers will find many things in these pages. Answers to such unsettling questions will not be among
them." -- Maggie Reagan ― Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
About the Author
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (November 28, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 144247243X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1442472433
- Reading age : 12 years and up
- Lexile measure : 830L
- Grade level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 13.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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I heard so many people raving about this book and I just had to see what all the fuss was about!
I REALLY enjoyed this book! If you were to explain this book to someone, it might not sound like there cup of tea.
So this book is set in a world where people don’t die, you become deadish, because immediately upon the stopping of your heart, you are taken to a revival center and brought back to life. There are no diseases, no strife. Everyone has a good life, a satisfying life.
To combat with over population, the Scythedom was created. Scythes have one job, and that is to kill. Citra and Rowan are chosen to become scythes because they don’t want to be a scythe, and that makes them perfect.
So much happens in this book, so much growth from the first encounter with Citra and Rowan to the very last page.
The world was beautifully built and wonderfully described. There was a lot of foreshadowing that you don’t understand until after the fact. I love it when books have foreshadowing because there little subtle hints towards the bigger picture.
I fell in love with certain characters and despised others. There were parts were there was some humor to make light of the situation, but not in a way that was out of place.
I love the development between the two main characters, even through the tough times.
“’I love you.’ He said.
‘Same here,’ she responded. ‘now get lost.’”
As for the content in this book, it was relatively mild.
Violence: There is lots of violence. Gun violence, stabbing, poisoning, breaking spines, snapping necks so far as to have the head turn and the lifeless eyes stare back. Burning, decapitation, mass murder, and just about anything you could think of. A scythe whole purpose is to kill.
Romance: mentions of hormones, mentions of attractions, a kiss, multiple occasions of innuendo, talk about how a character tried to “climb into his bed and be with him” but the other character wakes up and thinks she was trying to kill him.
Language: There are several occasions where cuss words are used.
Other: a mention of testicles, mention of a girl in a skimpy bikini, mentions of extremities, a joke about making his robe color invisible, walking up the steps naked. There are two instances where someone insinuates that a character is gay (he is not).
The synopsis describes this book pretty well so I'll mention a few other things:
- The characters are brilliant. Each one of them, including the villains, are deeply established and have some decent layers of complexity. I loved reading how these two main characters grew and changed over time and through their experiences.
- Chilling concepts! We are reading about how a group of designated people are privileged with the task of human population control. They have quotas and are the only ones allowed to/required to murder. Naturally this author dove into the many ways in which this can be achieved. Some Scythes are ruthless, others humbled, all of them haunted.
- Exciting plot twists! This book kept me on the edge of my seat and I was desperate to learn more about the fates of these characters.
- Talented writing. This author is brilliant at what he does! Thank you Shusterman for creating this unique and fresh story, and for telling it with beautifully smooth detail.
I highly recommend this book if you're looking for a thought provoking and exciting new dystopian! Can't wait for the next one!!
Shusterman’s take on a world that has conquered death has many intriguing elements—the cloud that evolved into the Thunderhead, the vanities and diversions of immortal people, and the odd jobs that only the undying will take on (Moving target for killcraft practice, anyone?). But there are also things about this world that seem silly (e.g., Scythes as the solution to overpopulation) or make little sense to me (e.g., most political machinations within the Scythedom). Most of these things you can shrug off, but there are a few that negatively impact the story’s pacing and predictability. The one “big twist” that the book has been building up to was a little too obvious, generating frustration instead of suspense. Fortunately, Scythe tied up a lot of loose ends by the last chapter, ending Citra’s and Rowan’s stories on a relatively satisfying note.
The array of characters offered by Scythe were, regrettably, not memorable. The villains were almost ridiculously cartoonish, and the protagonists were so unremarkable that relating to any of them proved to be a feat. There’s Citra, a typical overachiever who finds something that she didn’t want to succeed in for the first time in her life. Then there’s Rowan, a self-described “lettuce kid”—a child sandwiched in the middle of a large family—whose selfless act suddenly thrusts him into the limelight…and into an unwanted apprenticeship with a scythe. By the story’s conclusion, I could only recall these two as kind of a charmless Hermione Granger and a less likable Peeta Mellark.
As far as the writing goes, the prose in Scythe is generally underwhelming. It’s enough to convey mood, enough to narrate events clearly, but there isn’t a single moment that I’d pinpoint as amazing or breathtaking. The scythes’ journal excerpts are enjoyable to read though, providing excellent food for thought that the narrative fails to impart.
I rate Scythe 4 out of 5 stars. While the concept was good, the story wasn’t as fascinating, the characters weren’t as endearing, and the writing wasn’t as engaging as I thought it would be. It’s not a book that I’d read again, nor is it something that I’d follow until the end. Regardless, I think readers of young adult/dystopian fiction will find some entertainment in this work.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
This is the second book by Schusterman that I had read, the first one being Unwind (and boy, that was just weird!) Schusterman carries on writing about weird and wonderful worlds in Scythe where humanity has conquered death and disease. This was a fantastic book that was written at the perfect pace throughout. It wasn't slow and then went really fast or vice versa, it was a nice pace throughout the whole novel. Let me just get the moan out of the way first and tell you why this wasn't a five star, but a 4.5: the 'romance'. Ok, well it isn't even romance per se... You know the characters like each other but they aren't actually together? So they're both crushing on each other through the entirety of the book and it's not until the very end where they actually acknowledge these feelings. For me, there was no need for a romance element between the two characters to even be suggested because they weren't really by each other for most of the book anyway. So yeah, there was no point. Schusterman could have just left out the insinuation of romance and kept it as a low-level friendship; that would have been much better.
“I think all young women are cursed with a streak of unrelenting foolishness, and all young men are cursed with a streak of absolute stupidity.”
― Neal Shusterman, Scythe
Ok, little moan out of the way. Now onto the complete fangirling. JUST. WOW. I absolutely love this world so much. I wouldn't want to live in it myself because waiting to get 'gleaned' by a scythe would give me so much anxiety. But in a fictional sense, yes this is an absolutely brilliant, well-thought-out world that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I can't wait to read more about this world in the next book, Thunderhead, which is ALREADY OUT BUT I DO NOT OWN IT AND THAT MAKES ME VERY SAD.
I loved all of the characters in this book and even the 'evil' ones, I loved to hate them because they were just sooooo bad. They didn't even have a reason, to be honest for being like that, they just loved killing so much. For Scythe Goddard and his team not to have a good reason for going on killing sprees just makes them that much scarier because they are so irrational. I really did love the character of Citra, Rowan not so much because he annoyed me half the time, but Citra was a hard-working, flawed female character and I loved her for it. She wasn't some 'chosen one' who mastered the art of Scythedom straight away. She worked hard at it - made some stupid decisions along the way - but she worked hard. AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE CHARACTERS OF SCYTHE FARRADY AND SCYTHE CURIE?! I absolutely loved their characters. They were tough teachers yet they were fair, strong and kind and I have nothing but love for them. Especially when we find out their backstory; it made me cry so much.
Overall, this was a fantastic novel that I had the pleasure of reading in a few days (would have been less but I was bedridden with the flu!) Apart from the romance-ish parts, Shusterman has written a near-perfect book that captured my attention and my heart and I cannot wait to read the next book and find out what happens to my beloved characters.
I finished the book and I was literally ‘oh-my-goddin’ my way through. I’m exasperated. Blown away. I was touching my five-head in disbelief, because my mind has been blown to pieces due to this story and how ingenious it was.
I’m pretty sure I became high. And now, I’ve been left exhausted by all the excitement!
Hello to my favourite new author. *bows down endlessly*
Now that my sorta headache has disappeared and my mind is still on the verge of recovering, I'm going to try and review this. Possible verbal diarrhoea ahead.
First of all, this book defines what epic actually means.
Secondly, the story overall was ridiculously clever. I honestly was not expecting to enjoy it, since I haven't been the biggest fan of the dystopian genre since The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. I stupidly assumed that it would be something along those lines. And because I haven't read anything in that genre in a while, I gave it a go.
What I was not expecting was this masterpiece. This intricate story that beautifully analyses our society, where in this plot-line our current world has passed and the population is just reminiscing on, whilst living in a state of utopia. The future.
This book took a fresh and unique spin on the genre and I've fallen in love with it again. More so the author and his craft.
It follows two main characters: Citra and Rowan who have been selected to join the Scythedom as apprentices, led by Scythe Faraday. Their role is to become skilful at 'killing' or 'gleaning' as it is referred to in this world, as the Scythedom do not believe in killing, but ending your life when it is 'supposed' to end according to their order.
I don't want to give too much away of the plot as it is best to go in blind, because the surprises that awaits the reader are darn good! But we follow these characters on a journey that questions their values, morality and their society and I LOVE when an author can subtly inject that into a story.
The world-building is pretty much perfect. We are introduced to it slowly and it is built upon as the story progresses in a way that does not get too overwhelming for the reader, but rather where the reader grasps it perfectly and falls into it.
A lot of that had to do with the writing. It was pretty much mesmerising and told in the form of a narrative (coupled with some insightful journal entries), which created this illusion almost where I believed that the world actually existed. Or that it is not too far off from our world becoming as such. It was ingenious and completely boggled my mind. I was in awe and in love.
As for the characters, Rowan was the most complex. I enjoyed the fact that we had two different characters on two sets of journeys, following individual experiences and it brilliantly overlapping. Their roles were challenging and questioned their moral.
It was an incredibly enjoyable and immersive reading experience. What becomes of humans and its society when others have been given too much power and aren't scrutinised for it? What is the point of existence if one is immortal and/or has the ability to modify their age/youth?
There were so many questionable variables that were explored that are relevant to our current climate. It was absolutely thrilling to read and I cannot recommend this book enough.
What was unique about this read was the need to engage your emotional intelligence. I can only describe my experience of reading as being in an ‘ethical think’tank’. I felt challenged, doubtful, shocked and pondered a lot over the philosophy and corruption of this dystopian world. I absolutely loved the concept of the ‘thunderhead’ even though it was in the background. There were some great thunderhead twists and I am here for a book two with that same title.
SCYTHE was YA dystopia like I have never read before. It was eerie, engaging, morbid and quite frankly, it was very gory. It felt almost a bit too gory for YA, but I am sensitive to graphic description of violence and death. Two teens, Citra and Rowan, were taken on as apprentice scythes – those that end life in this world without natural death. However, these two caused ripples in the scythedom and that was the premise for the whole book.
“And it occurred to her that being a scythe was like being the living dead. In the world, but apart from it. Just a witness to the comings and goings of others.”
There was amazing character development to read in this book and side characters that engaged me hugely such as Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie. The story line was full and detailed with occasional lulls that soon powered into explosions and fast-pacing.
I didn’t really know where the end of the book would take the reader but the ending blew me away, it was that good. Also, I love a book in a series that ties up some ends without leaving you frustrated, this delivered in that way. I am pretty excited now to where the rest of the series will take me and this being a book club read, I get to pick the details apart and I think that’s pretty perfect.
A world where death is concurred, where disease is a thing of the past, no government, no crime, no starvation, all the worlds major problems, completely wiped out. It sounds ideal, who wouldn't want to live in this world, but of course its not that simple. Enter the scythes. Scythes were created to keep the balance, to take life through gleaning and ensure population control is managed correctly. They have their own laws and rules to follow, but they are governed entirely by themselves. Selected and trained as teens to become conscientious killing machines, scythes live in normal society with one task, to kill. It's a great premise, and that alone made the novel interesting, because you can instantly put yourself into everyone shoes. How you'd feel if a scythe lived next door, how you'd feel if you were selected to be one, the world building is great, and you can't ask for much more from Shusterman on that front.
I found the scythes themselves fascinating, the differences in their personalities and methods, and the internal politics were what really kept the novel going. Having said that, its also where one of my major problems lies. I was confused as to why the scythes 'glean' (basically kill) in horrific ways. If society is sophisticated enough to eradicate death, why wouldn't they just painlessly give the people they kill a pill or something, why would they need knives, guns, fire etc etc. It didn't make much sense to me, and it just seemed to be added for dramatic effect. Thankfully those passages did give the book a bit more life and energy outside of the training and the politics, but really I didn't see that it worked in the context of the society its set in.
The protagonists of the novel are Citra and Rowan, chosen to be apprentices and going through their training. To be honest they were both fairly bland and boring characters. The romance between them was lacklustre, and dull. It felt like Shusterman had gone into an editing session and the editor had said 'YA needs romance, they need to kiss.' And then that was that. It was pointless and didn't really add anything to the book. There's not really any passion between them, and when they are separated, neither really pines for the other. I wasn't really drawn to either, there was some depth missing from their characters. I honestly didn't care which of them won the competition, which is a bad sign. I was much more interested in the fully trained scythes and hearing more about them. Particularly Curie, the Grande Dame of Death, who had probably the most complex character.
The big twist was predictable, but there are some real peaks of horror and violence towards the end of the novel that captured my interest enough that the twist didn't matter so much. I'd say this novel does exactly what it says on the tin, its fairly simple and black and white. It's good, because its an original idea, but it's not great. As with its characters, its lacking a certain depth, that would have carried it to a superior level.
From the opening pages, it was clear that the sense of dread that was being conveyed made this far from a typical utopian read. It immediately raised an important hypothetical; in a world where everyone has the potential for immortality yet still being afforded the ability to procreate, how do you maintain the population numbers? The Scythes carry out the task of Gleaning, a true death - and I have to say I found their way of selecting those to be gleaned pretty genius. It ensured that everything was as fair as it could be in the circumstances and the imposition of quota's ensures that there are no more gleanings than necessary, however, there are always those who take their calling too seriously....
Scythe follows the travels of Citra and Rowan, flung into the world of the Scythes as unwilling apprentices. They are strong characters and I loved reading about both of them. Unlikely candidates that they are, their development and the way their dynamics evolve is pretty special, there were a number of twists, many of which I didn't see coming, so engrossed was I in the pages. There is a nifty sci-fi edge to it as well, as you would expect from a Utopian future, the evolution of our current "cloud" to the Thunderhead, an all seeing all encompassing maintainer of all but the Scythe's is actually not as creepy as it first sounds but I liked how it brought a bit of now to the future I was reading.
Scythe brings many questions about morality and dignity in death, it's clearly a tough read at times if you're sensitive to that issue, but I felt that it was extremely well done in its approach. I actually found it quite fascinating to consider the individual ways that the Scythe's ticked and how like in all walks of life there are those who are gracious and those who are all about the show. I did find it to be a very emotional read at times, especially with the more troubling aspects of Rowan's training - I felt I couldn't breath at the intensity of some of the scenes and the depth of the writing skill had me crying with the characters at times.
I enjoyed how each chapter was formed of 2 parts as well, Citra and Rowan's story but also snatches of different Scythe's gleaning journals which show that indeed the thoughts and feelings held by Citra and Rowan are nothing new to the Scythedom and they make for compelling footnotes.
For me Scythe is a book that is pretty underrated but really doesn't deserve to be, I found myself left in deep thought at the end of the pages and it still has me thinking now. It's a great read that I don't hesitate to give 5 stars to.