REVIEW: ‘The Toll’ by Neal Shusterman brilliantly concludes this refreshing series


‘The Toll’ leaves no stone left unturned in its race to an explosive end.

I loved the ‘Arc of Scythe’ series right from the beginning, and I felt no different reading The Toll.

The blurb:

I do not speak with the voice of the thunder.

But the thunder does speak through me.

Everything has changed in the world of the scythes. Citra and Rowan have disappeared. The floating city of Endura is gone. It looks like nothing else stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute power. Now that the Thunderhead is silent, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him?

The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll and the Thunder.

The Toll begins ambiguously. Time has clearly passed between the previous novel, Thunderhead, and current events, yet it is difficult to discern how much. This is an element that, I felt, let the novel down a little. Although deliberate, the confusion of the timeline left me disoriented. And the calendar system of the series doesn’t help. Years are named after animals, but I found it difficult to work out which year came first: the Cobra, the Ibex, the Raptor?

The confusion hindered my entry to the novel somewhat. But once I accepted it, I found myself completely enraptured. It’s a novel that is difficult to stop reading. I would tell myself just one more chapter in the hopes that I could squeeze one in before I had to get off my bus. I devoured this novel.

One of the reasons for this is the excellent characters. The Toll is told from multiple points of view, and I loved every single one. The way the characters develop throughout is believable and realistic. Changes of heart or mind don’t happen quickly, but gradually, so as to let both the reader and the character adjust to new information.

I particularly enjoyed watching Scythe Rand. Hers is a layered character. She has morals — to some extent — as well as very human emotions that she keeps hidden from Goddard. I couldn’t help but wish for a redemption arc. For someone that has done such bad things as Ayn Rand, the ability to make me want to see her redeemed shows the skill of Shusterman’s writing.

The Thunderhead is one of my favourite characters. I love its wit and its extreme cleverness. It finds loopholes in its own programming to achieve the ends it desires, and to look after those it cares for. For it does care, deeply and passionately.

All our favourites are present: Faraday, Citra, Rowan, Greyson, as well as some minor characters that are given the spotlight. They all play incredible parts in the story, and each one is undeniably unique and rounded. Note Jeri, especially. I think there are many readers who will love this character, as I did.

In my opinion, The Toll is a worthy conclusion to the trilogy. It does not end the series perfectly — it is not all sunshine and rainbows. But this only serves to make a much more realistic story. Life doesn’t always go to plan. The heroes don’t always survive, and the innocents don’t always get the peace they deserve.

I was happy with the ending. I marvelled at the miracles the characters, the Thunderhead, and Shusterman pulled off; and I left the novel feeling satisfied and just a little blown away.

The Toll is a must read. And if you have not read the rest of the ‘Arc of Scythe’, don’t hesitate in getting your hands on it! It’s an incredible series that breathes new life into YA. I will be forever happy that I chose to read it.

Dystopia or Utopia? You decide


There are both good and bad things happening in the ‘Arc of Scythe’ world. It is fluid and ambiguous, but that is what makes it real.

I adored this series and will no doubt read it again in the future. The Toll brought it to a brilliant, explosive and fascinating end.

Yes, the writing wasn’t always fantastic, but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the story!

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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