Thunderhead Review: Smart, Complex Dystopian with an A.I. Ruler

May 31, 2018 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

Thunderhead Review: Smart, Complex Dystopian with an A.I. RulerThunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #2
Published by Walker Books Australia on January 9th 2018
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
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Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

This review contains minor reviews for Scythe (the first book in the series). Check out my review for Scythe here, if you haven’t read it.

I didn’t realise how much I had missed this world under I picked up Thunderhead, which definitely doesn’t disappoint as a sequel to Scythe, one of my favourite books of 2017.

Thunderhead delves deeper into this futuristic, dystopian world where population control is executed by scythes who glean (or kill) and operate above the law. We hear more from the perfect ruler that has been constructed to be impartial, trustworthy and completely just – the Thunderhead, an omnipresent A.I. who oversees the world that they live in. It also follows Citra and Rowan now that they’re fully fledged scythes and following different paths – one as the honourable Scythe Anastasia, and the other as hunted Scythe Lucifer.

The dynamic between Citra and Rowan is highly complex, as they’re constantly pitted each other by circumstances outside of their control. They are both bonded with one another, the other never straying far from their minds. I loved seeing Scythe Anastasia carve out a name for herself amongst her fellow scythes, showing compassion, intellect and loyalty to her teacher, Scythe Currie. She operates under some very dangerous circumstances as they’re being hunted in Thunderhead by an unknown being. Scythe Lucifer, or Rowan, is of course completely fascinating as he executes a path of righteousness by assassinating corrupt scythes.

There’s some new perspectives that are explored, including the one from Greyson Tolliver, who the Thunderhead contacts to execute a higher purpose. He becomes an undercover agent who is marked as unsavoury – humans shunned from society due to their wild, thrill-seeker nature. There’s also the Thunderhead in the chapter breaks, whose perspective muses on their responsibility as an omnipresent being, the obvious safety that they are pressured to provide and how they manipulate situations while technically abiding to its own laws. In a world ruled by technology, it was fascinating seeing the Thunderhead tap into human emotions and control their surroundings through advanced surveillance and technology.

I adored the philosophical discussions explored, from the different methods of killing, to worshipping an omnipresent being (and how close this was to religion) and the flaws of humans. There’s something so vivid and imaginative about this world and I just love the complexity – it’s not just a mindless series about killing (which is kind of ironic when you think about it). While the first book introduced us to the concept of scythes and population control, this one delves deeper into the world and it’s completely bloody, brutal and fascinating.

I am protector and pacifier, authority and helpmate. I am the sum of all human knowledge, wisdom, experimentation, triumph, defeat, hope and history.

While the book operates at a slow pace, it offers so much in terms of the different perspectives. From Greyson’s undercover operation to Citra’s mysterious harrasser and Rowan’s flight from his foes, there’s always something going on. Not to mention that massive cliffhanger – it gets SO good towards the final few chapters and I wish I had the sequel in my hands.

Thunderhead was a brilliant follow up to Scythe, further exploring this imaginative, futuristic dystopian setting with an A.I. ruler. With higher stakes between Rowan and Citra, the scythe council threatening to be torn apart and an undercover agent with a mysterious purpose, there were so many complex and fascinating plotlines within the book – with no single perspective outshining the other. If you’re looking for a smart, thoughtful dystopian, look no further as the Arc of the Scythe series offers exactly that and more.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy, in exchange for an honest review.

Thunderhead is available from Amazon, Book Depository and Barnes and Noble

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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6 responses to “Thunderhead Review: Smart, Complex Dystopian with an A.I. Ruler

  1. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Gosh, it is so rare to find a sequel this satisfying, right!? And I seriously thought that the social/political commentary was even more on point than in the first. I mean, there was some definite references to some ummm less than desirable happenings in my crappy country since Scythe, and I was SO glad when I read them! Is it time for the next book yet because I NEEEED it! Great review!
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  2. I neeeed to read this! (Says me who literally has it on my tBR pile and somehow still hasn’t picked it up.I’m SO behind right now aghials.) I really loved the first book, although not quite as much as everyone else, I think?!? But like the writing is so good and I love Citra and Rowan a LOT. And I also like that the romance is subtle and sweet…can’t let it get in the way of all the MURDER after all. Priorities. :’)

    • Oh my gosh I feel like people either love it or hate it, but this one was sooo good! I loved how it delved into the Thunderhead plus seeing Citra and Rowan in this one <3 WE KNOW WHAT YOUR PRIORITIES ARE CAIT