Review: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) – Neal Shusterman

I haven’t read a YA dystopian since my disappointing read of Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth way back in 2012.

And yet, there is no dystopian series that I have heard more about in the past six months than Neal Shusterman’s ‘Arc of a Scythe’ duology.

With so much hype, did Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) make me want to jump head first back into the figurative pool of dystopian fiction? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

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28954189Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman 

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 22, 2016)

Print Length: 435 pages

Audiobook Length: 10 hrs and 32 mins

Narrator: Greg Tremblay 

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.

The Review

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) is a unique addition to the YA dystopian genre, exploring what it would mean if no one could die and what we would have to do to keep the population under control.

Taking place in a world free of hunger, disease, and death, Scythe follows the characters of Citra and Rowan, two teenagers reluctant to apprentice to be a scythe – citizens tasked with the ability to gleam (kill) others in order to maintain a manageable population size.

The premise of this novel is a rather unique one. As technology has advanced, humanity has found a way to halt the aging process, granting all immortality. However, with no one dying from natural causes, ordinary people are transformed into scythes, who are bestowed the extraordinary ability of gleaming – the power to end someone’s life, forever. While slow in certain areas, Shusterman follows through with this concept, even going so far as to present how people are chosen to be gleamed, what happens to the family left behind, and what happens when scythes abuse their power.

The story follows two characters, Citra and Rowan, as they are plucked from relative obscurity in order to apprentice for Scythe Faraday. Both characters offer unique perspectives to the narrative, with Citra doing anything she can to win the immunity for her family, and Rowan being a self-labeled piece of lettuce. While a romance between the two is briefly explored, it is not the main focus of the story. Instead, Shusterman favours the exploration of platonic relationships between the scythes and their apprentices, and the scythes and the general population. Out of all the characters, however, my favourite to read about was Scythe Curie. She is a former ‘grande dame of death’ who went from a cold-blooded angel to someone just trying to bestow wisdom of how to get through the job.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman. Have any YA dystopian recommendations you’d like to share? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.



  1. maggietiede

    This looks really interesting! The premise is a take on dystopia that I don’t think I’ve seen before (which is saying something, considering how many dystopian novels there are).

    I’m also curious–what was so disappointing about INSURGENT? I ask because I loathed the third book in that trilogy but actually liked DIVERGENT and INSURGENT quite a bit. I’m wondering which warning signs you picked up on that I should have seen too, haha!


    1. Thepbkpilgrim

      It was unlike any other dystopian novel I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

      There were a few things that left something to be desired. First, I found Divergent to be full of action with just a hint of romance. On the flip side Insurgent was very romance heavy . It was almost like Roth regressed the charcters to bring in lovers of Twilight rather than lovers of The Hunger Games. Also, I didn’t quite understand why Tris was so smart in Divergent only to not think logicially in Insurgent. No spoilers, but it’s the part where she chooses Erudite even though she knows they want her for a specific reason. Plus, the ending. Why create a villain that seems like they are going to drive it home, only for them to die in the second book.

      If that wasn’t enough, I was spoiled for Allegiant, even though I fully accepted the fact that because I had read the previous two that I had to read it. All in all, I think I just have a sour taste in my mouth because of the series as a whole. Not so much warning signs, I guess just personal preference 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. maggietiede

        Ah, that all makes perfect sense! I think what I loved about the first two was that (to me) they were incredibly fun to read even when they didn’t make any sense; the third book was a drag in every way AND it didn’t make any sense, so it was a lose-lose situation.


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