Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman (2018)
YA Fiction | Sci-Fi | Dystopia
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?
Book One: SCYTHE
pooled ink Review:
I screamed, I raged, and yet I beg for more. Thunderhead was just as twisty, complex, emotional, and addicting as the first book.
This book, nay this series, is the type of story that makes me simultaneously scream in frustrated outrage and beg for more. Some people have found these books to be a bit slow, or at least slow to get into, but I clicked pretty much right away and it doesn’t take long for the villains to fill me with such rage that I am forced to take several breaks before being able to continue reading. These books are not a binge read for me, not because I struggle to remain interested, but because I get so full of emotions that I have to walk away for a day or two then resume reading. I know I sound crazy haha but UGHHHHHHHHHHH THOSE VILLAINS ARE THE FREAKING WORST.
In the first book we meet Citra and Rowan who become Scythe apprentices, nothing goes right, they end up split up to separate mentors, things get worse, the book becomes almost unbearable to endure, then finally victory! …And then a cliff-hanger with Rowan on the run.
Now in book two I thought I could at least rest knowing that with the vile villains in Scythe out of the way, it would allow me to take whatever comes next in stride. I was wrong. I was so very wrong.
Things start out okay though Rowan remains hunted though now he’s managed to turn the tables and has a hunt of his own under the name Scythe Lucifer. Citra is a Junior Scythe and goes about forging her own way in such a life. We also get to know some new characters and revisit some old ones. Things are okay, but they are okay in the way one waits for the storm to strike, the hammer to fall, the shoe to drop. Things are okay, but you know very well that at any moment it will shatter. And oh it does. At first things start going wrong, very wrong, but even with such infuriating challenges I could handle it, I could. Until a major plot twist rose up and knocked the breath from my lungs. Actually no it didn’t leave me breathless, it had me screaming. I was so upset I had to set the book down and couldn’t even look at it for three days. Then, grasping it gingerly with my fingertips, I finally resumed this story that was reigniting my hatred from book one.
The story goes along, getting worse, getting better, twisting and writhing and toying with both plot and character until you’re left with another ending that has you both swearing to refuse to read another book in the series and knowing full well that you’ve already requested it from the library because it’s just too good not to.
Am I confusing you? I hope not, but I probably am. When I mention my overwhelming negative reactions and feelings towards these books I don’t mean the books overall. Arc of a Scythe is a well-written series that is utterly intriguing and addicting. It has fast-paced action, it has devious clever schemes, it has a contemplative theme of humanity and death, and it’s full of incredibly written characters set in a frightening yet alluring world. These books are fantastic (in my opinion). What I LOATHE are the villains, which if you think about it is a great complement. I can’t stand the villains to the point of needing lengthy reading breaks, but how many books can cause such a visceral reaction?? These books are fantastic and I highly recommend them to any dystopian fiction fan.
I really don’t want to discuss any plot specifics in here because I don’t want to ruin anything for you. If you haven’t read the series then definitely go grab the first book (and what are you doing reading a review for book two??) and if you’ve been unsure about reading the sequel then the answer is YES definitely read it! Come be emotional with me haha. Just know that you will be deceived, manipulated, tricked, and afraid to trust anyone. You will feel such keen frustration at knowing so much more than the heroes you root for and being able to do nothing to help them, just like the Thunderhead itself.
Some people prefer either Citra or Rowan over the other, but I really like them both for different reasons (and it’s interesting because they both represent opposing, or at least differing, philosophies despite holding the same goal). I think they make a good team actually. There are other Scythes and characters I really enjoy reading about as well, but my favorite bits are the short passages written by the Thunderhead. The concept of the Thunderhead freaks me the hell out despite understanding and even appreciating its many many benefits and I think it is the personality of the Thunderhead that makes me feel even okay with the idea (as it isn’t a being it isn’t supposed to technically have a personality but it somehow still does and I vibe with it). But yeah, you find a surprising amount of depth in these books not just from the story itself but from the Thunderhead’s two cents and it’s a philosophical depth that applies even to philosophy today and will have one pausing and wondering. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who skim or flat out skip these passages, but I happen to really enjoy them.
Well…this review has been awfully vague besides an explosive confession of how emotional it managed to make me haha. It’s such a good dystopian series and though I know how upset these books can make me (I know things going wrong is supposed to be what makes for an interesting story but ooooh I hate it haha), I will be on the lookout for the final book in the trilogy. It is a trilogy right? Only one more book to endure, yes?? I’m almost afraid to go look haha.
Thunderhead is a stellar sequel to the Arc of a Scythe series that will have you gripping the book tightly, pressing your face against its pages, reading almost faster than you can think, devouring the story start to finish. That is, you will be doing so eagerly except for the moments when the villains strike and have you raging and threatening to toss the whole book into the fire and be done with it. Brilliantly crafted, twisted and philosophical, you will find yourself more passionate for this play of players than you thought you could be.