Book Review: SCYTHE by Neal Shusterman

Rating: 5/5 stars

I’m writing this almost immediately after finishing my first five-star read of the year, and this book blew me away so much that I have a lot of thoughts to get down. (Note: this review is spoiler-free!)

First, I fell in love with the basic premise of SCYTHE—a world where death can only be administered by Scythes, grim-reaper figures who control the world’s population—but until I started reading, I didn’t realise how much of a dystopian novel it was. I’ll admit, it’s a genre I sometimes avoid, simply because it can be a little too trope-y for my liking. But I can safely say I’m glad I chose to read this book. Don’t get me wrong, it has all of the usual components of a dystopian novel: a seemingly utopian future, corruption lurking in the ruling forces, and a pair of boy and girl protagonists who seem doomed to fall in love with each other. This is the part where I would normally lose interest, but there was something different about SCYTHE. The execution of these tropes felt unique, unpredictable, exciting.

The stakes were high throughout the novel, and that’s what stopped it from becoming slow-paced at any point. It was the stakes that caught my eye when reading the blurb, specifically the knowledge that one of our protagonists would eventually have to glean (AKA kill) the other. You can probably tell why this book boasts being a true successor to THE HUNGER GAMES. And I felt it was executed brilliantly—the book left it until the very last moment to reveal the fate of our protagonists. I was so invested in Citra (a mentally and emotionally strong female character) and Rowan (the overlooked kid whose morality experiences some major changes) that I just couldn’t stop reading. But the characters we start the book with feel like entirely different people to the characters we end the book with—this is a perfect example of character development done right.

Another aspect of SCYTHE I absolutely loved was the ethical side to the Scythes’ job. In a world where people live forever, how does one choose who must die? One Scythe works out the statistics of morality from the Mortal Age (when people died naturally) and bases his gleanings on those. Some scythes will glean anyone and everyone. The ethics really make you think, especially during the epistolary interludes between chapters (which are presented as pages from the journals of our Scythe characters).

Add all of this to the writing style—a somewhat distant third-person point-of-view that felt clever, mature, and unique—and this really did feel like the perfect book for me. Now I’m itching to get my hands on the sequel.

Have you read SCYTHE? What were your thoughts? Did you like or dislike it? As always, let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

-AWM

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