Thou shalt kill.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
Like all Shusterman, the writing is incredible. The layout is masterfully done, slowly introducing us into the rules and lives of Scythes, while not forcing our characters to resort to info dumps to educate us. The world is original, but evokes the trademark dystopian feel Shusterman created in his Unwind series.
Our two protagonists are very different from each other, but share the same core beliefs, making their competition and bonding very interesting to watch. The fact that they are separated from each other for most of the novel, but still have such faith in each other was also very refreshing. They had a teamwork that didn’t devolve into only romantic feelings – though they did feel for each other – and focused more on their joint desire to become compassionate scythes.
The secondary characters were all very nuanced and added interesting points of view when it came to the corruption and the radicalism within the scythedom. The entity of the Thunderhead, and its interaction – or lack of – with the Scythes is also something unique to the story that I think will expand with the rest of the series. The storyline did feel pretty wrapped up at the end of this so I will be interested to see if we are coming back to the same characters in the following book(s).