SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com):
Thou shalt kill.
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.
Goodreads Rating: 4.29/5 Stars
My Rating: 2/5 Stars
Once more, this novel is an example of my falling into the trap of over-hyped books. Well, it’s not that this book was over-hyped, per say, but it was greatly promoted on the internet (specifically, BookTube), which helped to cultivate my interest in the novel. However, I fall into the minority of being someone who didn’t find enjoyment in this novel. It had a neat premise and an exciting plot promoted within the synopsis – so what went wrong?
Foremost, the characterization was something that greatly bothered me. Neither of the main characters were particularly interesting in my opinion and I didn’t connect with either of them. They felt like your typical run-of-the-mill young adult characters that were thrown together by circumstance. Also, none of the character development was either enticing or truly believable. We had Citra, who never truly changed at all across the pages, and we had Rowan, who was the more moralistic of the two and ended up falling to more questionable morals by the end of the novel. (In the end, I was more interested in the backstory about Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie, who were the minor characters of the novel.)
In correlation to the weak characterization, Shusterman also wielded the young adult trope that I hate with a burning passion: insta-love. As many of you have probably seen in previous reviews, I have a burning hatred for that trope. It doesn’t develop the characters in any way and it is typically used as a generic plot point that doesn’t generate any excitement for the readers in general. In the case of Citra and Rowan, their “love” was both unnecessary and had no real foundation built into the story. If anything, it helped to garner my annoyance at the already poorly written novel.
Another important aspect to novels comes down to imagery and description – both of which the novel was very much lacking. With a premise as neat as the utopian society Shusterman has created (which is also not easy to write, as there aren’t many plots author’s can use in a society like that), I was disappointed that the description was so lacking. Sure, there were a few areas here and there in which we got a quick snapshot of the character or location appearance, but it wasn’t consistent throughout the novel. When it comes to description, an author has to be consistent if they want the reader to truly have an immersive experience, which I didn’t.
I believe that lack of immersive nature also falls along the lines of the poor world building that occurred. Considering how rare it is to have an utopian based young adult novel, I was excited to see what sort of world Shusterman had in store for the readers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much, since we barely got any information about it. We have the Thunderhead (the Cloud that somehow developed itself into an AI?), no governments world-wide, and Scythedom (literally we couldn’t come up with a better name?) that is its own mini-governing faction that handles the gleaning of the population. Outside of that, there were many times in which Shusterman broke his own fragile world rules in order to create new plot points and further the action of the novel.
For myself, the plot also was a point of weakness, which is one of the worst things a writer can say about any novel. It felt like there was too much happening with the simultaneous feeling that nothing was happening at all. There were too many plot points that either 1) didn’t pique my interest or 2) were predictable in their outcomes. Not only that, but the pacing also reflected this movement. The novel spanned a period of one year, and that one year felt like it spanned on forever.
As you can see, I found very little enjoyment in this novel. Honestly, I don’t even know if there was an aspect that I truly came to like, which is sad and disappointing when it comes down to it. This also explains why it took me a week to read this novel – I struggled to find the desire to read and to continue reading once I did start. When I’m experiencing something like that, you know there’s some type of problem with the novel in general. Overall, I know that I am one of the few who did not enjoy this book, so perhaps some of you will find the good aspects to it that I missed.
Arc of Scythe (Duology)
- Thunderhead (2018)
“Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator.”
― Neal Shusterman,