Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


ScytheTitle: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published:  November 22, 2016
Series: The Arc of a Scythe #1
Genre:  Dystopian
Format:  Hardcover
Source:  Purchased

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.

In a world where everyone can have everything they want, living forever sounds great, right?

At least, it sounds great until you’re faced with the realities of unchecked population growth and the stagnation of eternal life.

When humans first conquered mortality, they opted to resolve the former by appointing “scythes,” who would be responsible for “gleaning” just enough people each year to keep population growth in check. Unlike people who are rendered “deadish” through all sorts of means, those gleaned by scythes are not revived.

But scythes aren’t just responsible for killing people; they are tasked with doing so without bias, bigotry, or malice and they are intended to show compassion to those they glean. It’s a difficult balance, but it separates scythes from cold-blooded killers.

When Citra and Rowan have encounters with a scythe on a mission to glean someone, they both hope it will be their last. Instead, they are both offered an apprenticeship with the Honorable Scythe Faraday, and the first condition is that they must not want it, because no good scythe should be eager to kill.

Their families are offered one year of immunity during their apprenticeships, and they have Scythe Faraday’s promise that the apprentice that loses can return to their normal life.

But can anyone return to a normal life after training to kill for 365 days?

Shusterman builds an eerie world. The prospect of living forever is certainly appealing, but Scythe addresses a lot of the weird realities of eternity. Once they reach a certain age, people can “turn the corner” and be reset back to young adulthood.

My sole issue with this book was the lack of character development of “the bad guy.”


In a world where scythes are supposed to be morally perfect, the existence of a someone who enjoyed killing within their ranks shouldn’t happen. I suppose that’s the point; scythes are human, and they have all the same flaws as other humans. But I would have liked to see more development on just how and why Scythe Goddard became what he was.

Scythe details some of the dangers of immortal life and the moral paradox of killing with morality. It poses some chilling ethical questions that I had never thought to answer. It was full of plot twists, right down to the last chapter. I highly recommend this book!

4 Stars

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