Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 22nd , 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
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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.
Imagine a world with technology so advanced, that its rid the world of disease and mortality. A world where people don’t know war, or disease, or happiness, or celebration. Government has disbanded, with governance that is left to a higher being called the Thunderhead. This world has become dull and lifeless, because no one can ever die.
That is the world constructed in Scythe, a fascinating dystopian exploration into death caused by highly trained assassins. This is the only method which people can truly die, if by any other means they will be resurrected in a facility, ready to live on again. Each scythe has their own method of reaping (called gleaning in this world), and their job is highly revered due to its importance. Only scythes can bring about death and control the population, and they’re above the law.
Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy.
Although the world building is heavy, I never thought it overtook the plot because of the way it was told through diary entries from different scythes. I loved how these diary entries served to character build different scythe figures, to advance the plot, to flesh out the world but also to demonstrate the differences in morality and scythehood.
Citra and Rowan have been chosen as scythe apprentices, and they learn the art of death, the philosophy behind their method of gleaning, and the politics of scythehood. Throughout the whole book, they’re pitted against each other, prompted to treat each other as competition for the winning title. However, they find one way or another to look out for each other as well, as they’ve both been chosen for their pure morality and compassion. I loved their complex relationship throughout the book, as it was largely built by other people’s influence but despite all, they trusted their own instincts.
I can’t even begin to describe the depth which Scythe goes into when it explores gleaning and scythehood, as well as the difference in scythes and their killing philosophies. It was incredibly fascinating seeing how each and every scythe chose their own method of gleaning, and how they believed they were executing a higher plane. One scythe enjoys killing with extravagance, surrounding themselves with celebrity excess and the riches. Another scythe believes they should be detached from materialism and kills based on statistics, after giving their targets time to process the last moments of their life. This was such a fascinating part of the book, because it explores intent, morality and complex, flawed characters.
Being a book about death, the book definitely contains violence and gore, which can be excessive at times. However, it felt somehow necessary to the plot, to demonstrate the differences in scythes and how this affected Rowan and Citra on the whole.
I’ve read a lot of dystopians, which are often about war and upheaval, but I haven’t read one as deep and complex as Scythe. With such an intricate world built upon advanced technology and human mortality, I loved how it explored morality, life and death and its importance through higher beings called the scythes. This is definitely one of the best books that I’ve read this year, if not one of the best dystopians I’ve ever read. A thought-provoking read, that is so relevant in today’s climate.
Rating: 5 out of 5
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