An Elegy of Scythes || Scythe Review

Initial Thoughts:

If I was ordained a scythe I’d be H.S. Hypatia. Just saying. Not that I’d want to be a scythe in Citra and Rowan’s day and age. The entire order is NUTS.

My brain is still trying to process what just happened in the end. Orrrrr maybe I just need to read the next book right after. Yep.


by Neal Shusterman
Simon Schuster, November 2017
YA science fiction, dystopia
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

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 actually not my first Shusterman book, but it’s certainly the one that made me pick up the next book in the series. (That said, I adored Unwind and I probably would have grabbed the next book…had I known there was a sequel until recently!)

It took me a while to finish Scythe, but I absolutely loved it from beginning to end. Mostly I had to put the book down because I felt every sort of way for the characters and the events happening in the novel. Like, seriously, I was invested from the first death and thensome.

And oh, boy, this book kills people right, left, and center. Oh, excuse me, gleans people. Nobody really dies anymore, not unless a scythe is involved in your timely demise.

The premise puts the reader in a world that has rid itself of disease, and mortality is a thing of the past. Everyone can “take a turn” once they’ve hit a certain elderly age and they can be young again. War and crime is all but gone, now that the Thunderhead–an AI intelligence–runs things indiscriminately. Talk about Big Brother always watching, right?

Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.

There is also this macabre sense of humor at the fact that being dead is now just being rendered “deadish” and there are thrill-seekers who even go far as to “splat” themselves by diving off a tall building. I mean, what’s the harm? Even the bio-nanites can heal that shit right quick.

Still, the world seems to work, and the only problem really is the threat of running out of resources because of overpopulation.

Thou shalt kill.

Thou shalt kill with no bias, bigotry, or malice aforethought.

Thou shalt be beholden to no laws beyond these.

The Scythe Commandments

Which is solved by the creation of the Scythedom. And this is where shit gets really interesting, because you get thrown into so many morality clauses that as I read the book, so many questions about how society works started to come to the surface.

My initial questions went along the lines of this:

  1. Who can become a scythe?
  2. What happens when a scythe enjoys his/her job too much?
  3. What gives these scythes the damn right to play god?
  4. Why is there even law enforcement if there’s no longer any crime?
  5. How is there no longer any crime?

Honestly, those were just the starters. Eventually, my questions got answered as the plot thickened, and eventually I stopped asking them because I was too anxious to figure out how Citra and Rowan were going to get themselves out of the mess they were in.

“Rightmindedness is overrated,” Goddard said. “I’d rather have a mind that’s clear than one that’s right.”

And when Scythe Goddard showed up? Lord almighty, that got me tingles, because as I continued reading his journals, I kept almost agreeing with him. Which means he’s the type of person who people would follow because of how manipulative he is. He kind of reminded me of villains like Zaheer from Legend of Korra who gained support because he’s not entirely wrong about the unfairness of the world…

Ugh, Shusterman, you’re gleaning me here.

Rowan had never been an exceptional student—but that was by design. To be either too good or too bad drew attention. As much as he hated being the lettuce, it was his comfort zone.

“If you apply yourself, I have no doubt you could be at the top of your class,” his science teacher had told him after getting the highest grade on his midterm last year. He had done it just to see if he could. Now that he knew, he saw no great need to do it again.

But let’s talk about how friggin’ awesome Citra and Rowan are. Because honestly, there’s a reason why Scythe Faraday found them promising apprentices: both of them really didn’t want to be scythes to begin with, and both of them eventually grew to be formidable characters. When the stipulation about their double-apprenticeship came up, I quietly died inside. I wasn’t worried so much about Citra than I was Rowan (because honestly, she was totally getting her ring), who ends up getting real effed over later on, and lawd almighty, the last few chapters worked me up like a crazy person.

Overall, I loved how the initial problem with Citra and Rowan got resolved. I loved the journal entries, they really illuminated a lot of the thoughts of certain characters. I loved the worldbuilding of this utopia-dystopia. I dove straight into reading Thunderhead after this book, because OMG I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

5 out of 5 cookies!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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