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

January 10, 2018
Scythe, Arc of a Scythe #1, Neal Shusterman, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 22, 2016
Format Read:  Hardcover Edition (435 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Dystopia/ Sci-fi
Series: Book one of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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.



The concept of immortality being policed by grim reapers who can devise all kind of ways to kill enticed me to pick this up. The immortality is used by people in the future in selfish and vain ways. When everyone is immortal how do we still instill the fear of death on the few who experience? This book aims to answer that question. The characters compliment each other well and neither of them take the role of Scythe lightly. There was the normal amount of teen agnst to be expected in a young adult book. But the writing made it flow well. The randomness of death inflicted on the population seemed more unfair because someone was in control of it.
“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.”
I did expect more to happen, but this was a character driven story, more so then in other books by Neal Shusterman, including the Unwind Series. My interest in the philosophical musings and appreciation of the diary entries by a historic Scythe interspersed between chapters kept me engaged. Despite the slow pace I really enjoyed learning about this futuristic world was created.  It is maintained and controlled by a all knowing Thunderhead(advanced AI). The intrigue around how the power to kill could corrupt and destroy the killer, was something I haven't read about before.

The ending was great but a cliff hanger. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy philosophical science fiction that is slow paced. This was also clearly written for younger audiences so don't expect too many drawn out gory descriptions of violence. The fear described of the characters was palpable. I look forward to reading more in this world of immortality and look forward to the sequel.


Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. After spending his junior and senior years of high school at the American School of Mexico City, Neal went on to UC Irvine, where he made his mark on the UCI swim team, and wrote a successful humor column. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal, and was hired to write a movie script

In the years since, Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. Neal's talents range from film directing (two short films he directed won him the coveted CINE Golden Eagle Awards) to writing music and stage plays – including book and lyrical contributions to “American Twistory,” which is currently playing in Boston. He has even tried his hand at creating Games, having developed three successful "How to Host a Mystery" game for teens, as well as seven "How to Host a Murder" games.

As a screen and TV writer, Neal has written for the "Goosebumps" and “Animorphs” TV series, and wrote the Disney Channel Original Movie “Pixel Perfect”. Currently Neal is adapting his novel Everlost as a feature film for Universal Studios.

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