Whatever you may be thinking about Scythe, I would recommend you leave your preconceived notions here. There is very little that is typical or expected in this story. Not sure if that’s good or bad? Read my review to find out.
Set in a futuristic world where disease, aging, and death have been eliminated, mankind has attained perfection. The ability to live forever has been unlocked. That is, unless you’re gleaned. The scythes are untouchable, working as the natural process of death. When Citra and Rowan are chosen for the positions of a scythe’s apprentice, neither of them wants the task.
I will begin by saying that the plot of Scythe is an interesting one. There are several directions Shusterman could have taken it, but I am so glad that he went where he did. When I first began the book, I was uncertain. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect and the story didn’t grip me from page one. I wasn’t initially engaged in the elements of the story. The opening scenes introduce readers to our main protagonists, Citra and Rowan, and gradually set the stage. Although the characters do no initially know what is going to happen, you as the reader already do, to a certain extent. As they are eventually offered the chance to become apprentices with Scythe Faraday, it comes as no surprise. The next few chapters seem as though they will carry on, uneventfully, to the end. However, much to my delight, the author did not stick to the expected path, allowing for a satisfying plot twist. Once I overcame that hurdle, the further I went the more I wanted to find out what would happen next.
Forget what you think you know about scythes. Leave behind your preconceived notions. Your education begins today.
(Scythe, p. 48)
Scythe is so unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Rather than the scythes being dark, mythical creatures, they are actually portrayed as something superior and are associated with light. If you have any knowledge of mythology pertaining to scythes, you can pretty much throw it out the window for this story. While I initially thought this to be a negative thing, I came to enjoy the twist to an old fable. By presenting scythes in a more human, positive way, many of the characters were enjoyable to read about, making it that much easier to invest in their lives and their stories.
As the plot progresses, readers quickly realize that not all scythes are unified in their methods of gleaning. While some still cling to the old traditions, some scythes have chosen a more vicious path, becoming murderers instead of scythes. As the protagonists find themselves stretched between the two sides, they are forced to make decisions that could affect both themselves and others.
Although you may get a little disenchanted with the first portion of the story, I encourage you to keep reading. It wasn’t until almost the halfway point that I really began enjoying Scythe. The shift in direction helped the story to feel more interesting. But it was the ending that made me want to share this review with you today. The climax stunned me and really gave the needed punch to the finale.
Citra: As the female protagonist, Citra plays the part well. She is the strong, independent female who can take care of herself and doesn’t always know when to stop talking. Originally, I thought maybe she would play into the stereotypical female role. Yet, much to my delight, as the book reaches a turning point in the plot and Citra begins working with Scythe Curie, Citra’s true character begins to shine through. She is still bold and courageous, yet she is also thoughtful and compassionate. She learns what it truly means to be a scythe. It was this gradual change that made me love Citra as a protagonist. Her commitment to do right and attempt to change the bad in the world makes for a great story.
The visitor’s tone of voice gave him away. Resonant and inevitable, like the dull toll of an iron bell, confident in the ability of its peal to reach all those who needed reaching. Citra knew before she even saw him that it was a scythe.
(Scythe, p. 5)
Rowan: There is so much that could be said about Rowan, yet I don’t want to give away too much for those of you who haven’t read Scythe. While Citra was a dynamic character, Rowan was even more so. Long before readers see a change in Citra, they see it in Rowan. To see him develop from a novice apprentice to a hardened fighter was engaging. By the end, readers are not sure whether Rowan is the still the same character they knew or if he has been corrupted by his master. Kincaid’s portrayal of Rowan’s struggles and trials was masterfully done, easily making him my favorite between the two protagonists. My only complaint is that much more of the book seemed to focus on Citra rather than Rowan. Of course, this was done intentionally to keep readers in the dark about Rowan and only reveal needed updates when necessary. However, I would have enjoyed delving deeper into Rowan’s story.
Rowan felt the shock of the punch, the jagged bolt of pain, and waited for the telltale warmth of his nanites releasing pain-killing opiates into his bloodstream. But relief didn’t come. Instead the pain swelled.
(Scythe, p. 214)
For my content rating, I have no complaints.
Language: minimal. Sensuality: none.
Violence: Well, this is a book about death and scythes and killing (aka gleaning in the book) so I suppose you could say that there is a decent amount of violence in Scythe. I will say that it was handled very well. Nothing seemed to be gruesome or overly dark, still feeling very teen-appropriate. To be safe, I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone below 15 or so, merely due to the violence.
So that’s my review of Scythe. If you haven’t read this book, don’t be turned away by the title. I do acknowledge that the plot may sound strange and the title maybe even more so, but I believe this book is worth the read. It was exciting and even heartwarming at times. Don’t pass this one up! If you have read it, let me know what your thoughts were in the comments below.