REVIEW: Thunderhead ~ Neal Shusterman


Neal Shusterman ups his game with his second novel in the Arc of Scythe series!

Thunderhead exceeded my expectations, after Scythe left me wanting.

The blurb:

Professional scythes control death. The Thunderhead controls everything else. It’s a perfect system. Until it isn’t.

It’s been a year since Rowan went off-grid. Hunted by the Scythedom, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante sniffing out corrupt scythes. Citra, meanwhile, is forging her path as Scythe Anastasia, gleaning with compassion. However, conflict amongst the scythes is growing, and when Citra’s life is threatened, it becomes clear that there is a truly terrifying plot afoot.

The Thunderhead observes everything, and it does not like what it sees. Will it intervene? Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

I remember coming out of Scythe, the first novel in the ‘Arc of Scythe’ series, a little disappointed. I loved the concept, and the story was grabbing – but I felt there were some cliched tropes that could have been left out. However, Thunderhead completely exceeded Scythe. Not only was it more grabbing, it went in unexpected directions, and left me wanting more…more. 

But before I praise the novel, there were a couple of elements that, in my opinion, didn’t quite make the cut. For instance, at times I felt there was a little too much exposition. Some paragraphs could have done without an extra sentence – the events already being clear to the reader.
Another thing was that I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Scythe Lucifer in action. His scenes didn’t feel as dramatic as perhaps they could have been. The danger of him didn’t feel that imminent from my outsider’s perspective.

Everything else, however, I thoroughly enjoyed. I found the different perspectives to be well-written and fascinating. Each character was very clearly different – their thoughts sounding different, as well as their outlook on the events occurring around them. Not once did I mix one perspective up with another. And each was well-rounded, with their own fears, motivations, frustrations, and morals. I was incredibly impressed.

The inclusion of the Thunderhead’s perspective was perhaps my favourite thing about this novel. It’s thoughts were interesting and at times incredibly insightful. Shusterman clearly has a keen observation of human life, and this came across brilliantly. I also enjoyed that the typical AI route wasn’t followed – we see a benevolent artificial force, something severely lacking in the genre.

I found the plot to be extremely frustrating at times – when characters did something silly, or surprises kept appearing – but this only added to its power. I wonder if this was done purposefully, as I felt much like the Thunderhead myself: always watching, but unable to do anything. It was certainly captivating, and made it very hard for me to put it down.

The story the author is telling has me completely within its power. It feels new and refreshing, and helps to bring a little bit of sci-fi into the young adult scene. I think this is desperately needed, as too often do I find very similar stories within the YA genre. If you are on the look out for something new, I urge you to pick up this series.

Finally, Shusterman was not shy with his twists and turns. The conclusion was thrilling, and has left me aching for the next book – a year’s wait, I’m afraid! I think there was a lot of bravery on the author’s part, and I have been left a little stunned. I can’t wait for The Toll, and I am sure there are lots of people seconding that opinion!


Shusterman ups his game in this one.


I am trying to not automatically give things that have excited me five-stars, as I want to review fairly. However, it was pretty obvious to me that the theme deserved this rating, because I have not read something like this before! Both the characters and the plot were excellent, however I felt they could have been even better with minor tweaks. But then, I am being incredibly picky. Finally, the writing was beautiful – but I have only given four stars because of the exposition. Some things were so clear that I thought they didn’t need to be explicitly pointed out.

Eleanor is an English graduate and Medieval Studies student looking to use her skills to help save the planet. She adores reading and knows books will always be at the heart of her life, no matter where her career takes her.

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