Neal Shusterman, Scythe, Walker Books Australia, 1 Feb 2018,  448pp.,  $16.99 (pbk),  ISBN: 9781406379242

What if death was the only thing left to control?

In a perfect world, the only way to die is to be “gleaned” by a professional Scythe.  When Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentice scythes, they know they have no option but to learn the art of killing.  However, the terrifying responsibility of choosing their victims is just the start…

Scythe introduces us to an interesting twist on modern “dystopian” fiction – the world Shusterman creates is actually, on the surface of things, a perfect utopia.  Age, infirmity, disease and death – all are things of the past. Forgotten relics of the “Age of Mortality”.  The world is run to perfection by the Thunderhead – an AI of incredible power and intuition.  But, you may ask, if no-one dies, how is the population kept under control?  Ah, that is where the Scythes come in – of course people still need to die, and so the Scythes are an elite society, operating outside the Thunderhead’s jurisdiction, that choose who will die, and who will have temporary immunity from being gleaned.

As a concept, the premise of Scythe  is fascinating and refreshing… whereas so many of its contemporaries depict a society in collapse and decay, the world of MidMerica is prosperous, peaceful and happy.

Our two lead characters – Citra and Rowan – are rebels through and through, refusing to bow to the one “authority” that exists in their world. This is a theme we can all relate to, after all this is the very essence of teenage rebellion.  The difference here is that the young heroes become a part of the very system they are rebelling against, a development that both frightens and exhilarates them as they grow in strength and knowledge.

Shusterman’s writing is fresh and engaging, he writes action extremely well and the characters are well-drawn and likeable.  The story keeps us in suspense the whole way through, wondering how the dramatic storyline will ultimately play out!

As you might imagine, in a book that deals with bringers of death, the level of violence is quite higher.  Recommended for young adult readers in their late teens.

I understand that this is the beginning of a new series, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he brings us in the next volume!

Reviewed by Christian Price

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