Wailing that the sky is falling does nothing to stop it.Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
⚠️This review contains spoilers for the first book of the trilogy Arc of a Scythe ⚠️
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?
One of the most amazing things about sequels is the fact that there isn’t much stalling (at least in general). I’m talking about general descriptions of worlds and events and even characters that happens right in the beginning of the series, that although extremely important can sometimes be a little bit slow. Don’t get me wrong! I love those descriptions because it is the time that I get to be immersed in the story and understand what is the context and everything but at times it can get a little bit tiring and you just want the intrigues to start and the plot twists to hit you. And with Thunderhead we get action right from the very beginning.
In Scythe we get to see the challenges both Citra and Rowan have to face during their apprenticeship. Now, in Thunderhead Rowan has become Scythe Lucifer–an avenging angel in black robes who hunts down corrupt and power-hungry Scythes, burning them and scattering their ashes so that they cannot be revived. Citra has also grown in power and ability, becoming fully ordained as Scythe Anastasia and companion to the Grand Dame of Death herself, Scythe Curie. Though they are apart and leading completely different lives, Rowan and Citra are both in grave danger, especially when it becomes clear that someone is attempting to glean Citra and Scythe Curie and frame “Scythe Lucifer” for the job. In this installment there is also a new character named Greyson, who has loved the Thunderhead his entire life and was pretty much raised by it, and who now has to go through things he could never imagine in order to help it.
I absolutely loved Scythe. The world, the characters, the plot itself. Most of all, what got me hooked to this story was the premise concerning human mortality, seeing what immortality does to humans and how much that change their lives to a point of absolute comfort and no desire to grow or any passions. The thing that really stuck to me is the thought that mortality is what gives life meaning. And I am so glad to say that this sequel manages to keep the tone of this story and explore these matters with even more depth.
That development is extended to the characters too as we get to see Citra and Rowan grow and do what is right according to their beliefs. It is as clear as always the impact that Scythe Faraday’s teachings had in both of them, and also how scarred Rowan is from his time apprenticing under Goddard which just makes the differences between him and Citra that much more evident because of the time she apprenticed under Scythe Curie, and how all of these experiences from book one help them shape the fight for what is right with their own different methods. They have extremely distinct voices but there is no doubt that both have the greatest of intentions and are well aware of the heavy burden that is, and should always be, a Scythe’s duty to carry. Considering the fact that they are both now separated the romance becomes more of a background situation but that worked so well in this book because the plot thickens so much and it is necessary to have the attention in these new developments. The focal point of the plot revolves much more around the fate of The Scythedom and the effect that Citra and Rowan will have upon it.
In this sequel it becomes clear how corrupt The Scythedom has become and just how deeply divided it is. Even in death, Goddard is still celebrated and his vision and plans for the future are supported by a significant portion of The Scythedom. All the while there are still Scythes who are willing to fight for what is right maintaining the commandments in which they have always relied upon.
What I also found really interesting in this book is that we finally get the point of view of the Thunderhead. That offers us readers a much more in-depth look into how the Thunderhead works and how it benevolently serves humanity. For example, from the perspective of the Thunderhead, we learn that there are some people who feel the need to rebel and so it provides a way for them to do so safely. It showcases the idea that there are some things that, while frowned upon, are fundamental parts of human nature. It’s the development of such ideas that got me hooked in this sequel. I personally loved the path Neal decided to create for the A.I. It really cares about human beings and keeping them safe and for me that was a nice break from the whole “let’s end human race” thing. It was a nice new perspective for things.
The pacing of the story also felt just right, the balance between moments of action and the moments of stillness is spot on. And it is refreshing to get multiple points of views instead of having the series completely focus on the main characters for its entirety. Here, the spotlight is given to several other characters in several points throughout the story giving a fresh vantage point each time and a more throughout look of all events.
I also made the BIG ASS mistake of thinking, for some reason, that after all those plot twists in Scythe this sequel would be a bit slow paced and a more in-between kind of sequel but Shusterman proved to me that I can still be dumb. This was still filled with plot twists and those fantastic and bloodcurdling moments that never failed to drive me crazy. That was one freaking plus for me in this because it kept the same feeling of the first book. And after being proven wrong I began to expect something big to happen in the end of the book but I did NOT see that coming (as always, tbh) and it shattered me.
All in all this is a fantastic sequel and after finishing it I jumped straight into the last book “The Toll” and have a feeling that I’m still not prepared for what Neal is going to throw at me.