A big fat happy publication day to the final installment of one of my favorite series, Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman! I’m forever going to stan Shusterman and forever trying to dig myself out of my blogging slump. So, what better way to kill two birds with one stone than to come back to the game with a review of The Toll provided to me directly from Simon & Shuster. So first and foremost, thank you a million times to Simon & Shuster for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
I know it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been on here but I’ve got a ton of back logged reviews and while I’m going to try to take it a bit slow I’m ready to dive back into reviewing and blogging. As it turns out, moving 700 miles and adopting a new puppy is a lot to adjust to! So without further ado, on to the review!
So, you know, to be *polite* I should start this off by saying there will be no spoilers for this installment. However, if you haven’t read the first two books then some implied spoilers from the first two books will be present in this review.
The Toll starts us off three years after the cliff hanger to end all cliff hangers that was the conclusion of Thunderhead. For centuries the Thunderhead has been silent to the Scythes. It’s a world they know well, a world they’ve been trained in and honed to master. For everyone else, the Thunderhead’s silence following the explosive conclusion of the second installment is the ultimate punishment. The Thunderhead still runs the world, keeping everyone and everything alive and running smoothly. But the benevolent and compassionate friend, confidant and omnipresent force has marked all humans as “unsavories” meaning they can no longer contact or interact with the Thunderhead. Everyone, that is, except for Greyson Tollivar.
“If you started speaking to people again, maybe they wouldn’t behave so desperately,” Greyson dared to suggest….
“More than that, Greyson. Humankind must be pushed out of the nest if it is ever to grow beyond its current state.”
In the vacuum of space that the Thunderheads absence has created, both formidable and sinister games are afoot among our key players. The Scythes, reeling from the loss of the Grandslayers and the death of many of the old-guard quickly fall into line with Goddard. Goddard, back with a vengeance, seems to have his mind set on world domination and as he schemes and manipulates the Scythedom, his opponents are few and far between. As the world mourns the loss of the rising star Scythe Anastasia and the Scythedom breathes a sigh of relief that the infamous Scythe Lucifer are both lost to the depths of the sea, a salvage captain named Jerico brings up more than just the wreckage of Endura. With his discovery, the world is set on a path that will change humankind forever.
“…But the truth is, power for power’s sake is a consuming addiction. He would devour the world whole, and still be unsatisfied.”
How does one put into words a book so inventive, so unique and so absolutely fantastic!? So first, I will say, for honesty’s sake that this was not my favorite installment. Shusterman did a fantastic job of closing what I had previously thought were plot holes but now realize was part of the over arching story. He tied up all the loose ends with our characters and in the end, created a conclusion to a story that I feel satisfied with. However, that being said I do feel the ending was just a tad bit rushed and given the enormity of the closing of this series I would’ve liked to see a little less time wasted in certain areas and more time given to the lofty conclusion he created. The feeling of being rushed would be my only complaint in this entire series. Ending a story, to me, has always seemed the more difficult task than starting one and I think most readers will leave this series feeling satisfied.
Most people, however, didn’t take a position either way. They just wanted to disappear into the pleasantries of their lives. As long as when bad things happened, they happened somewhere else, to someone they didn’t know, it was not their problem.
While there are definitely political undertones to the first two installments of this series, Shusterman came in with a heavy hand in the conclusion. The parallels drawn between the United States current political climate with what’s happening in the world he’s created were handled deftly and poignantly. I love a good story, with great characters and stunning world building but what Shusterman delivers here is a story that requires its reader to think. Shusterman unravels organized religion, political fodder, propaganda, fear mongering and political demagogues all in one fell swoop. I found myself not only racing to the conclusion with a deep need to understand how the story would end, but pondering larger more important questions along the way. I was challenged not only as a reader, but as a citizen of the world.
Lastly, I love me some diversity in my characters and to continue to heap praise on Shusterman, it was expertly executed in this novel. With the introduction of new characters, such as our sea fairing Captain, Jerico whose gender is meteorologically influenced to newly introduced Scythes from the far reaches of the world all facing the bigotry that Goddard is slinging like there’s no tomorrow. I was so deeply impressed with the development into these new characters and the vibrancy and dimension they added to the story. Shusterman consistently delivers pointed stories that have very little wasted information or time. Every line, every word has a reason and an intention behind it that drive the reader to both dread the ending of his stories while simultaneously creating a propulsive need within the reader to have every last scrap Shusterman is willing to deliver.
“People are vessels,” Jeri had said to her. “They hold whatever’s poured into them.”
So, in conclusion to this conclusion, I loved this series and I loved this book. Each of the novels grew in terms of being character driven while not sacrificing the plot and I feel a deep connection to the characters Shusterman created in this series. It’s always bittersweet to reach the conclusion of a story. You’ve found yourself within the characters and you’ve found companions among them. I enjoyed going on the journey that Shusterman created here and was left consistently impressed with his unique vision and writing.
Suggested For: Honestly, everyone who likes a good story. However, especially fans of fantasy, dystopian-adjacent novels, anyone looking for a great (now complete) new series with beautiful character and world building.
Music Mood: Sleeping on the Blacktop by Colter Wall
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a bunch of back logged reviews and there’s some fun memes I plan on participating in soon! I’m trying not to take on too much too soon as I get back into the swing of things but thanks for sticking with me!
[BONUS] Since I talked about it in my intro, here’s a picture of my new puppy Winston:
Have you read the Arc of a Scythe series? If so, what do you hope to see in the final installment? What is important to you, as a reader in the conclusion of a series? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!