‘Arc Of A Scythe’ book review



Humanity, throughout the years, has slowly dominated and subdued the many dangers and threats of life. And now, humanity has peaked. There is no pain or strife. No disease or war. No famine or misery. And the greatest of their victories, their conquering over death itself. Now, in this unified Earth, two organizations govern the human race: The Thunderhead, an omniscient artificial intelligence and evolutionary form of the internet, and The Sycthedom, a society of executioners with the self-given authority over taking the lives, or gleaning, the immortal people of this new world and balancing the undying population. But in a world purged of the negatives in life, new problems are bound to arise. 

Two teenagers, Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova, are stripped of their normal lives and placed under the wing of Scythe Faraday, one of the many agents of death, in a duel-apprenticeship. They are trained in the art of taking one’s life, learning the one talent nobody strives for. Neither want the proposed position, but soon find out that not wanting to be a Scythe is the first step in actually becoming one. Along their journey, they are thrown into the world of The Scythedom, where some revel in their means of ending another’s life, while others are internally tortured by their actions. Their lives go off the rails even further when they learn the catch to their challenge, one will emerge victorious and dawn the cloak of a Scythe, while the other will be gleaned by the victor. Their relationship, rocky but tethered by this new life, is tested with every passing day, and advancing corruption slowly reveals itself to them through the cracks in The Sycthedom’s foundation. Met with the many philosophies of a Scythe, the two find their own paths while exploring the ethics of immortality, art of gleaning, and the implications of a ‘perfect society’. 


The ‘Arc of a Scythe’ trilogy, containing Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll, written by young-adult fiction author Neal Shusterman, is a gripping utopian/dystopian story which throws the ever-looming threat of death out the door, distorting our modern understanding in order to tell a story of ethics, beliefs, morality, and the consequences of societal perfection. The series does this in digestible spoonfuls, slowly unfolding the plot and fleshing out the world quite efficiently, allowing readers to truly indulge themselves in the world of The Thunderhead and The Sycthedom. The characters are enthralling, all feeling unique and rich with their own view on life, some blending well and other bashing against each other. Adjusting to the rules and nature of this deathless world is easy, allowing readers to take in the choices our characters make, the thought processes they have, and how the world reacts to their choices, giving us plenty of moments of suspense, wonder and emotion. There is this ever-present sense of distant connection, everything seemingly strung together, slowly pulling into each other, but with enough room to leave readers with an inch of mystery regarding how and why. There’s not much to say without getting into spoiler territory, but once you start, it’s hard to put the book down. With a film-adaptation in the works, it’s definitely a book to binge on and a world to get lost in right now.