- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Lexile Measure: 830 (What's this?)
- Series: Arc of a Scythe (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 22, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1442472421
- ISBN-13: 978-1442472426
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Scythe (Arc of a Scythe) Hardcover – November 22, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today's cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world "gleaning" people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.—Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal
"Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman's dark tale thrusts realistic, likeable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions. A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Shusterman is no stranger to pushing boundaries. Scythe owes an obvious debt to Unwind (2007) and its
sequels, and this succeeds as a sort of shadow companion to Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy: instead
of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, this deals in what happens to men when there are no
monsters. When our reach does not exceed our grasp, when comfort is more easily obtained than struggle,
when our essential humanity doesn’t burn out but becomes slowly irrelevant, what becomes of us?
Readers will find many things in these pages. Answers to such unsettling questions will not be among
them." (Maggie Reagan Booklist, STARRED REVIEW) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
What if cancer and all the worlds diseases were healed and our understanding of how to heal everybody was so great that you could pretty much save anyone from practically anything that would have killed them.
What if you could totally turn back the clock so that even though you are fifty-two or seventy-five you could look like you were in your twenties.
What if there was nothing like war, poverty or hunger because artificial intelligence wasn’t a bad thing and it was better at running the world than the politicians and warmongers.
**** The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government. Back in the days when the world’s digital network was called “the cloud,” people thought giving too much power to an artificial intelligence would be a very bad idea. Cautionary tales abounded in every form of media. The machines were always the enemy. But then the cloud evolved into the Thunderhead, sparking with consciousness, or at least a remarkable facsimile. In stark contrast to people’s fears, the Thunderhead did not seize power. Instead, it was people who came to realize that it was far better suited to run things than politicians. ****
What if selected humans were now charged with culling the population and causing the deaths of those chosen. That they themselves had to choose who to kill and perform the execution becoming walking death.
What if you were chosen to be apprenticed to one of these people and learn how to kill.
What if…… well you get the gist.
I used to read a lot of YA but after a while so much of it seemed the same. After the fifteenth time in the book someone released a breath they didn’t know they were holding or dollface’s eyes became darker (cuz that is what happens when you lust after someone) and she threw away everything special about herself for Jerkwad A I was over it. But then I found Neal Shusterman (NS). I think that NS is the king of what if…. He takes something from our society today and tweaks it extremely to the best/worst case scenario and TaH-DaH magic.
Neal Shusterman has been on my autobuy list since I read his Unwind series which is my favorite completely YA and Dystopian series to date. While this is completely different in the world and the characters one thing remains the same. This book is for people who like to ponder the “what ifs” of the world and society. Like….
*** To date, the oldest living human being is somewhere around three hundred, but only because we are still so close to the Age of Mortality. I wonder what life will be like a millennium from now, when the average age will be nearer to one thousand. Will we all be renaissance children, skilled at every art and science, because we’ve had the time to master them? Or will boredom and slavish routine plague us even more than it does today, giving us less of a reason to live limitless lives? I dream of the former, but suspect the latter. ****
This story follows Rowan and Cirta as they start their internship of a year with Sythe Faraday learning everything there is to know about what it takes to be a killer of men. Which is less about learning how to kill, although there is some of that, and more about finding a path they can live with. Watching people die isn’t as easy as one would think. There are moral quandaries and it seems that not all the Scythes believe in the same things. Could it be in this society where a fraction of the people die compared to the Age of Mortality that there are things going on in the politics of death that might lead to disaster???
As the story delves into the deeper politics of death and how the world might be changing I liked seeing how a few of the different Scythes treated the responsibility of killing and how each seemed to have a different process and a different way to deal with families and after affects. People are people and it seems that if you give some of them enough power corruption is bound to bleed through.
There is a very small aspect of romance between a few characters but nothing overdone and it is definitely not the focal point of the story. The focal point is the society and how Citra and Rowan are trying to find a way to change it in their own way or else one might have to kill the other at the end of the apprenticeship.
There is a little bit of time needed for the set up to the story but there was also enough going on that I never lost interest. I became emotionally connected to Rowan and Citra in their very different struggles and I really enjoyed all the world details that made be question if you could live forever would you really want to?
This will be a duology or I prefer the term duet and I was extremely shocked but some of the happenings going into the final quarter of the book. But I adore where the book let off for the next installment and I am really excited to see what Shusterman has planned since there seemed to be some beginnings to a few things and with NS anything can happen and you will probably find your jaw on the floor when it does.
This is probably closer to a 4.25 read but I kept thinking about it days later because I love the What If of the story and I know what NS is capable of so it is a 5 star read for me.
This was my first Shusterman novel, and I was not disappointed, not at all. In the future, death no longer happens due to advanced technology. Neither does abject poverty or war or starvation or diseases. All of that is solved—and even if you’re in an accident that should kill you, you are revived. But overpopulation needs to be controlled. This is where Scythes come in. They are people, just like anyone else, until they are hired to deal out death to those they choose to die—however which way they feel necessary. They only have ten rules to abide by, and they are famous wherever they go. (So famous, there are even trading cards.) After two frightening encounters, Citra and Rowan are taken in as Scythe Faraday’s apprentices. I would tell you more about the plot, but I don’t want to spoil the read for anyone.
This book is brilliant, morbid, hilarious, and emotional. There are so many ethical discussions and miniature stories threaded throughout a larger, much more complicated work that I could barely put it down. The only tiff I would talk about is the “romance” between the Rowan and Citra. It felt a little forced; they could’ve easily gone through the same motions of the book with just a powerful friendship. But their relationship also didn’t take center stage, which I appreciated. This book had the perfect ending.
I cannot WAIT for book 2.
Recommend to: YA fantasy readers interested in scythes/grim reaper/discussions about death and life.
Favorite Quote: "Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator." (8)
Favorite Word: Metallurgy: the branch of science and technology concerned with the properties of metals and their production and purification: There was metallurgy as if applies to weapons, the philosophy of mortality, the psychology of immortality, and the literature of the Scythedom, from poetry to the wisdom found in famous scythes’ journals. (120)
What I find really interesting here is that no mention whatsoever is made of the obvious solution to the problem: restricting the birth rate. Instead, Scythes choose people, presumably at random but in actuality using an algorithm that is developed by each Scythe for his or her own use. As an example, since historically a certain percentage of drunk drivers are killed in accidents, a Scythe might choose at random to glean someone who drinks and also drives...not necessarily at the same time, but it's up to the Scythe to choose.
Scythes are supposed to be people of conscience who hate this job but do it because it is necessary (and with an unrestricted birthrate, it IS necessary) but of course there are some Scythes who start to enjoy it too much. That is the premise here, a world in which the Scythe organization is troubled by rot from inside, Scythes who abuse their power to glean at random and not be counted as murderers.
The two young protagonists are chosen as assistants by a single Scythe and who must learn to survive in this world.
Mr Schusterman is a mastermind at world-building, and this one is no different. The questions raised here are haunting and I look forward to reading this series through however many books it gets.