Toll Chimes Out with a Terrific Ending

tollHello all devoted banaholics! Today, in what could very well be the last sermon review of the year, I’m gonna be sharing my thoughts on the last in this dystopic YA trilogy. Many of you might be familiar with the cutting-edge concept of Scythe and the resounding success of its sequel Thunderhead: humans have achieved immortality has been reached, so a select group of people are in charge of population control aka killing people off. Now it’s safe to say, the Toll was largely a booming triumph, but I can’t say this will entirely be a ringing endorsement, so maybe cover your ears if you’re not here for any negativity.

First of all, I found it a bit slow to get going. The opening felt largely like it was reminding the reader what had happened in the last book and setting up new characters, which was fine… I just felt like I was waiting for it to really get going.

However, once the story hit its stride, it was tense, gripping and the toll on our main characters was immense. Highlight for minor spoiler: I have to say I was really grateful when our heroes returned to the fold- the story just wasn’t the same without them! And the romance was one of the best things about this book! I just loved the way this series forged connections between characters.

The world was still one of the books strengths… though some parts were so far left of field they went a little off the deep end for me (alas, I’m not into new age zealotry, but whatever floats your boat I guess). That said, there were things I appreciated even more in this finally instalment. Especially the names of all the Scythes- from the more on the nose ones like Curie, to the clever twists on Goddard, but mostly the one I liked all the more was Rand after having read her work this year.

Now to get into more *spoilers*. There were a few other issues that left me pondering. While I think the Thunderhead had an interesting role as a god-like figure, as Krysta @Pages Unbound points out, presenting the AI in a questionable way, I still felt like it was too positive an outlook. Though the characters overcome their human overlords, this doesn’t exactly fulfil that typical dystopic YA trope of undoing all the authority. We’re still left with this benevolent dictator, which they fly off into the sunset/space with. I wasn’t quite decided on whether I liked this outcome- especially since I ended up questioning why the main villain was even still the main villain (I just didn’t feel like he had a strong enough motive other than “MWHAHAHA I WANT TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!”). Personally, I just think the Thunderhead could’ve taken over the role of villain in book two and been done with it.

Anyway, back to non-spoilery section, that was just my personal take. Despite all this, I found the book very compelling. The plot launched into some high stakes drama and really had lift off as we got into the last part of the book. Thus, I still recommend this series and give you these commands:

Thou shalt take my gripes with a grain of salt 😉

Thou shalt read this series

Thou shalt enjoy this series

Thou shalt find it hard to put these books down

Thou shalt continue to think about this series long after you have turned the last page

So sayeth the Great Ape 😉 Now I shall award it the honorific bananas:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Thunderhead was a resounding success!

thunderheadA lot of you guys might remember how much I loved reading Scythe earlier in the year- well Thunderhead came along and blasted the previous book out of the water. From the dramatic opening, the reader was re-submerged in Shusterman’s EPIC world building, and led through a tempestuous plot. The stakes are higher and more keenly felt, the storyline clapped back at any criticism I had of the first one, all of which leading up to a truly *explosive* finale. Even if I’d had the power of the Thunderhead itself, I could never have seen that ending coming.

In terms of the characterisation, I was happy to see the characters stay true to form. I was also loving the new Scythe names: Lucifer and Anastasia. My only teeny tiny gripe was that I could have done with a little bit more focus on the characters. It was great that this didn’t sacrifice pacing like the first book, but  one of the things I loved there was the evolution of their personalities-and, while I really felt for them here, that growth kind of fell by the wayside.

That said, all credit has to be given for the sensational world building. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- it is absolutely marvellous how this series characterises the setting. What Thunderhead did was take the best parts of Scythe– its originality and scope- and really ran with it. I especially liked the Unsavouries element to this one. Obviously though, I would be remiss not to discuss the uproarious inclusion of the Thunderhead.

Whereas in the first book there were diary entries from Scythes, this sequel upped the game considerably by including the Thunderhead’s musings. That was a stroke of genius. As one might expect from an all-knowing AI, the Thunderhead came across as MAJORLY CREEPY. Slight spoilers: I suspected from book one that it might go in the direction of this AI being a benevolent dictator, playing god with his subjects, and I wasn’t disappointed. I appreciated how the Thunderhead toyed with humanity- especially when it came to the Scythdom- both recognising its corruption and letting it cleanse itself. I loved the minor manipulations as much as the big ones. There was an element of control in everything it did and a sense of a grand plan for humanity… which created a sense of foreboding for this book and the rest of the series. And after this, I really can’t wait to see where this all goes in the next instalment!

Overall, this was a sensational sequel with no hint of middle book syndrome. The writing, as always, was top-notch and the story was even sharper than the first book. This series holds so much promise and I for one have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to like how this all wraps up!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? What do you think of this lethal series? Let me know in the comments!

Scythe was cutting edge!

scytheWell, start with an amazing concept, add some awesome characters and an intriguing plot, and you’ll have yourself an interesting read. Scythe certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me. What was truly remarkable about it was how unique the premise felt: in a world where no one can die, the unpleasant job of population control falls to the Scythes.

I feel like this is one of those rare books where the world building lends itself directly to the premise- and boy was that aspect well done. Everything felt so well thought out, from the fact that the years are named after animals (I was happy to see the Year of the Ocelot in one diary entry!), the euphemism “gleaning” for killing was a sharp idea and the fact that a group of scythes was called an elegy (like a murder of crows, an unkindness of ravens etc- get it? Anyway, I thought it was cool). I also really liked the way the Commandments for Scythes were worked out, starting with Thou Shalt Kill.

It was also cool how the book turns its blade on our own society, indicting the fact that no one reads, they just watching cat holograms (or in our case videos). And of course there was a great deal of logic to the idea that immortality would make humanity inhuman. I did like a lot of the philosophy overall. There were a few things that I thought were more questionable, such as the fact that if the Thunderhead is basically a God, and is entirely good, is this an argument for a benevolent dictator? That sort of idea makes my rebellious spirit squirm- but I guess for an answer to that, I’ll have to wait for the next book.

The characterisation was effective and done quickly. I found Citra had more hard edges, but I softened to her as the story went on. Rowan appealed to me more, especially his cleverness, and I found myself empathising with him more as he got deeper and deeper into trouble (no spoilers). The other characters were quite interesting- but the one that struck me the most was Goddard- who made an excellent villain.

I did spend a lot of time wondering where on earth the plot was going- but that’s not a bad thing, because I really didn’t see a lot of it coming. I did think that some ideas were presented and then taken away too quickly, which meant the pacing could be all over the place. And that was one of the main sticking points I had with this novel. And then of course there was the unavoidable issue with the whole premise: sometimes it feels like the stakes are very low because everyone is basically immortal. It’s a bit of a catch 22- because I really do like the concept- but I can’t deny the issue I had with it. This was offset a little by highlight for spoiler having the threat of their having to glean each other hanging over them- but for some reason I never quite felt like they were fighting to the death.

Overall though, I thought it was a great book:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!