Book Reviews

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman | Book Review


Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman.

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?

Note: the review below contains major spoilers.

HOLY SHIT Y’ALL. This past week has been GRUELLING, because the only opportunities I had to read this were on the train to and from work. WHICH ARE VERY SHORT PERIODS OF TIME. Which made it so hard to only be able to read this in small, gruelling sections. Especially once you get to the end. So it took me ages to read Scythe because I’m an unreliable library user and forgot to renew it, thus letting it slip into the hands of the next person on the request list. Which meant I could not read Thunderhead nearly as quickly as I would have liked. ANYWAYS, I can’t believe how much better Thunderhead is than Scythe. Like, it’s as if Scythe was just a wee little introductory chapter into a giant, way better and way more riveting story. Don’t get me wrong, Scythe was good. But Thunderhead was AMAZING. I especially loved that instead of scythe journal entries between chapters, we got little snippets of Thunderhead entries instead, which 100% add to the story and make it so much more intense. Thunderhead functions as its own character this time, which is so interesting by itself alone. Yet it still has that mysterious enigma surrounding it, like you don’t quite know what it is capable of doing. Because it is capable of doing ANYTHING. Which means there are no limits. Which is terrifying. Whenever I read an ebook, I always make notes. Usually I start off making a lot, and if the book is going well, they dwindle as the story progresses, because I am so invested into what I am reading I cannot possibly be distracted by something as trivial as forming coherent thoughts. I had no notes whatsoever for Thunderhead. Which means not once could I pull myself from what I was reading to make any.

Nearing the end of Scythe, I really had no idea whether it would be Rowan or Citra that would win the scythehood. When it was revealed that it was Citra, thus becoming Scythe Anastasia, I was thrilled. I was especially more thrilled that Rowan was on the run. Because I love a good character on the run from the government plot. I especially loved Scythe Curie way more in this book, and would definitely choose her over Scythe Faraday as a mentor any day. I loved (as much as one can love) the way Citra chose to glean people, and I’d like to think that if I were a scythe, I would do something similar. While I didn’t necessarily understand at first why some of the new characters were being introduced (more specifically, their respective chapters), I was intrigued as to what kind of role they were going to play in the grand scheme of things because you just knew that they were going to. I didn’t find either Greyson Tolliver or Tyger particularly riveting, but their purpose was so mind-blowing (especially Tyger) that I don’t even care. Texas sounds terrifying. Even more so than it does today.

Let’s talk about some of the plot twists though. I was blown away when Scythe Rand made a reappearance. You can imagine what kind of explosions went off inside my head when later, Goddard was also shown to be still alive, and even more terrifyingly, was out for revenge and control of the world (probably, eventually). At one point, I wondered if I thought that bringing characters back to life was a lazy plot device, especially since there was such emphasis on their deaths, but they functioned way more than a mere plot device. I did think the relationship between Rand and Tyger was a little odd, but as it plays into her (semi-) character development later on, it was a minor concession. The concept of using Tyger’s body as a host for the soul/brain/whatever of Goddard was a simple yet gruesome reminder of how dark this series really is. It took me a while to get used to the concept of gleaning during Scythe, but by Thunderhead it was becoming just a natural thought for me even though it’s a terrible concept. But then every once in awhile, the author throws something like that in there that makes you restart all over again and reminds you that yeah, this is murder. I couldn’t believe that Goddard and Curie had to face off for High Blade, and I am ever so grateful that Citra stepped in with her inquest. At that moment, it really makes it obvious that she is not just any old character, she is not an ordinary scythe, and she is going to put a stone into the mechanics of the scythedom. It really proves how clever and smart of a human being she is.

I loved the idea of Endura and its function as a sort of paradise for scythes. I didn’t really understand the Land of Nod, but I can tell that it’s going to be a huge part of the next book (there’s gonna be a next book, right?!) so I’m not worried. The entire time we were in Endura, I had absolutely no idea what might possibly happen. Not even an inkling. This just proves how good the author is at keeping you on your toes, and especially proves that any normal ol’ detail (such as how Endura breaks down a lot because it doesn’t have the support of the Thunderhead) can have significant impact on the later plot so you better pay attention and take note. I also had zero idea how Citra and Rowan were going to get off the island, so it felt like I was completely in the dark in a completely fantastic way. I am however sad that it appears Scythe Curie has died along with the rest of the scythes on Endura. I really am interested to see how long it takes Citra and Rowan to be released from the chamber, and what state the world will be in at that point. I hope that maybe Curie will be another character that arises from the dead? Fingers crossed. Also, the fact that the fall of Endura was the Great Resonance blew my freaking mind. I wouldn’t have seen that coming from a mile away (another example of PAY ATTENTION TO ALL THE DETAILS, PEOPLE).

One of my favorite parts of this series in general is all the scythe patron names that are thrown in. I will admit I had a good chuckle at Scythe Beyonce. I also really liked how throughout the book, we can see Citra transform from being Citra Terranova to Scythe Anastasia, and how it’s both noticeable and not noticeable, especially after she’s been Anastasia for awhile and Rowan comes in and calls her Citra again. I would be interested in what scythe name Rowan would call himself (other than Scythe Lucifer), but I don’t think his character will be going to a place where he will become a proper scythe. I think that part of the plot has come to an end with no returning.

This wasn’t so much of a review as it was just a giant list of all the things I loved about this book – and I do love this book a lot. It’s incredibly different than any plot I’ve ever read, and a really interesting perspective on the concept of society and its obsession with perfection. One thing I would really like to see perhaps in a future book (I feel like this is gonna turn out to be a trilogy, but I guess we’ll see) is a map of what the world looks like with the new borders. We are given an idea with the place names of where things are located but just a general one. I have so many questions for the author that I want to shout them to the sky – but I expect I’ll have to wait for the next book to get some answers, and frankly, that sounds terrible. Even if you are on the fence about Scythe (and even I was a little), please read Thunderhead – I haven’t read a sequel this good since Catching Fire and it is so totally worth your time and readership.

Final Rating: ★★★★★

Neal Shusterman

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I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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