I’ve seen this book around for such a long time I finally bought it on #indiebookstoreday, and of course dove right in.
Citra and Rowan are two teens who live in a utopian world. Death and disease have been conquered, and to stem the tides of population, people called scythes ‘glean’ other people. After proving they are of high moral character, Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to Scythe Faraday, but their apprenticeship gets that much more dangerous when it’s decreed that the winner will become a scythe, but must also glean the loser.
There was a lot I liked about this book, which surprised me because, especially recently, I’ve disliked books by men in the past. There are still few that come out of the woodwork, though. First things first: what I didn’t like.
There was subtle romance in this book, which I’m not complaining about. Within the YA sphere, there’s a ton of books that are fantasy, sci-fi, or horror BUT ALSO romance, and it can get old pretty quick especially when it’s done poorly. Between Curie and Faraday, it wasn’t particularly well done. The characters themselves I’ll get into later, but the fact that Curie just dumps a ton of information on Citra in one part… There are better ways. Stolen glances, dropped tidbits, that kind of thing. Instead, we’re subjected to some impartial exposition on Curie’s part, and that’s it. Based on what you’ve told me about these characters up to this point, it irks me that Curie plays this off so nonchalantly. It was convenient to the plot, and was a nice foil to Citra and Rowan, but I thought it was entirely unnecessary.
The pace of this book was achingly slow in some parts. I enjoyed it, a lot, but there were some points where the plot slogged, and that’s one of the pitfalls of a first novel in a series. There’s a lot of worldbuilding, character building, and exposition, but I thought that it could’ve gone a little faster in places. I didn’t need to hear about every single party Goddard threw. We didn’t need to get all the mundane little details, as much of a joy as they can be. Strung together in long lines, the mundane drags the plot, and slows everything down. It’s not something that bothered me a ton, it was just something I get to complain about on my blog.
Phew, I feel like this is the shortest “what I didn’t like” section I’ve written in a LONG time. It’s nice. :) Onto what I did like!
Citra and Rowan were very fun characters. They each have their distinct personalities, and I liked that Citra is her own person. Too many times have I had male authors write their female characters as weak, or whatever, and she wasn’t. Color me pleasantly surprised. I like how subtle and short their romance was. He notices she’s beautiful like twice, and she clearly cares for him, but this book is absolutely not about horny teenagers. It’s about the horny teenager’s society and their different upbringings into scythedom, and their different takes on changing the way the scythes do things (Citra from inside and Rowan from outside). Also, I do not care what Citra says, she’s Scythe Romanov, not Anastasia. No one else is just one name in this entire world, so she doesn’t get to be “quirky.” No manic pixie dream girls in my dystopian novel, dammit!
Curie and Faraday are also amazing and I love them. They’re like divorced parents who are still friends when it comes to Citra and her training. I still don’t like their romance, but I friendship them so hard. I worry about what his appearance at the end of the book means for him and his retirement, because he and Curie deserve to walk barefoot down the painted beach together and not have to worry about how they got there. As besties, totally platonically.
I liked the last little journal entry we got at the end. I’m very excited to get my hands on the next book, because I need Rowan to go all Scythe Lucifer on the High Blade, because that guy gives me the big ick. I went from being super sad about Volta (SHAWN DESERVED BETTER) to cheering with Rowan vs. Goddard, Rand, and Chomsky. Cue the Cell Block Tango, please, maestro!
Speaking of Shawn, I will mourn for that one and that one only. It’s heartbreaking, what Goddard did, and I wish Shawn would be around to see the changes that Citra and Rowan will inevitably bring. He deserved to have a redemption arc (I’m tired of seeing it go to lesser characters) and I hope he’s not just forgotten about in the future books. A small mention, I’m begging you.
I love the world that Shusterman has built. It’s a fun moral quandary, and I look forward to reading the other books in the trilogy, because I will get them as soon as I happen upon them.
Trigger warnings: emotional abuse, fire/fire injury, gore, blood, gun violence, injury/injury detail, suicide, child death, death, death of parent, murder, physical abuse, body horror, grief, violence, sexual harassment, adult/minor relationship