Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

thunderhead -neal shustermanRowan 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, author of the Unwind dystology.

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?


4 Drink Me Potions


Explore this new facet of yourself with my blessing, he would imagine the Thunderhead telling him. It’s fine as long as you remember who you truly are and don’t lose yourself.
But what if this is who I truly am?


Thunderhead leaves me oddly impressed with the progression of the series. With unexpected twists and new characters thrown into the story, the problems Citra and Rowan now face are crazier than before as they each embark on a journey of self-identity in the new circumstances they now face.

While its predecessor, Scythe, made me think more as I wrapped my head around the different concepts of the futuristic world Shusterman has created here, this sequel was more about the intensity of what’s happening with our favourite characters as the worldbuilding seamlessly continues and fits like a second skin as I re-immerse myself into it.

This book was split more into individual storylines as each character faced a different challenge that occasionally merged together with another, but rarely as each could hold its own. It’s tricky with these kinds of stories as some plotlines I find are more intense whereas the others lack behind and feel so very bothersome to read in between, like filler for the exciting scenes. However, I never found myself feeling that, which is a very strong compliment for Shusterman’s writing skills as he can so easily craft separate stories that can (and eventually will) tie into each other that makes each part of the whole more understandable in the grand scheme of things.

Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, is in mortal danger. I know, that’s weird, right? She’s a scythe, for goodness sakes! Yet someone, or some GROUP, is out trying to kill her and Scythe Curie for good for who knows what reasons. The ramifications of how she chose to glean and her secret popularity among young scythes makes her a possible target for numerous enemies. Meanwhile, Rowan’s off hunting bad scythes, hiding from the rest of the scythedom only to appear to Citra occasionally (aww, how romantic! which means a lot because you know there’s really not much “romance” in this book). Although his storyline sounds less structured, a great amount of action and surprises were through his POV that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t tell you what, but I liked these new developments as it made the story juicier.

There’s also a new guy who’s been added to the roster of main POVs. Greyson Tolliver. He’s your average guy who had a conscience and wanted to do the right thing. When his life crossed with Citra’s, nothing stays the same. Out of the 3 teens we get to follow, I felt the most for him. Life took unfair turns (for interesting reasons that you’ll find out!) and he was left to deal with all its messes. But he also had the most amount of growth/re-growth/change. His character really spiced up the story and I think there’s more potential in where his role comes in with regards to the scythedom as the series continues.

As for the ending, we don’t exactly get truly ridiculous cliffhanger moment, but all 3 characters find themselves in some dire or strange circumstances. Neal Shusterman really knows how to amp up his game as this makes me so much more excited for the next book to come out! His worldbuilding is superb and it’s like you could live in this world after reading 2 books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scythe walking down the street in MidMerica. We get more layered understanding of how the scythedom works and its hierarchy of authority.

But most importantly of all, we get more of the Thunderhead. As the title may suggest. Where Scythe provided snippets from certain scythes’ journals, we get to see how the Thunderhead thinks. What it sees. What it wishes it could do. What it feels – if a system could express true feelings. I liked the change-up, but it is also a timely move that I think prepares us for how things may be different in book 3. Does anyone else feel like the Thunderhead may be benevolent towards humans, but it could go all bad AI at any moment if it could justify its actions? Hmm? Anyone?

So. Having read all that, you probably realized that I didn’t really say much of anything about the book. That’s ’cause there’s just so much beauty in how it was laid out and the surprises that came along the way that I think it’s best to leave most of it unsaid here. It was well-balanced between action, suspense, and continual worldbuilding. The only thing missing was a tad bit more romance between Rowan and Citra. Hey, I know it’s technically “wrong” for scythes to be together, but they could try being a bit rebellious, right? Here’s to hoping there’s more of those 2 together next time. Then maybe it’ll move to 5 stars.

Overall Recommendation:
Thunderhead continued seamlessly from where Scythe left off after months since the dramatic events of book 1 has passed. With individual storylines that are still full of action and surprises, Rowan and Citra – along with a new guy named Greyson – are faced with tough circumstances that make them question their actions, decisions, and just who they truly are after everything’s said and done. Although there’s still a lack of romance in this book (why, Shusterman??), the little teases of romantic chemistry whenever Citra and Rowan are together suffice as unexpected events take up precedent. With crazy things happening one after another towards the cliffhanger ending, I’d say this book wonderfully connected our introduction to scythes in book 1 to the ultimate conclusion to these characters’ fates in book 3, which marks it a true sequel.

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