Release date: 5th November 2019
Publisher: Walker Books
Series: Arc of a Scythe #3
Blurb: From New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman comes the thrilling conclusion to the Printz Honor–winning series Arc of a Scythe.
It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.
In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested, and old friends are brought back from the dead.
Thankyou so much to Walker for putting this novel into my grabby little hands prior to its release. I was so ridiculously excited that I kind of just stared at it for a while before finally cracking the cover and diving in.
So, this is a review of the third book in the Arc of a Scythe series, the long awaited conclusion to this action packed series. I have waited forever to read it but here is where I warn you that if you haven’t read the previous two, Scythe and Thunderhead, you’re about to be in for a bad time because there may be spoilers here and I don’t want to ruin them for anyone.
Once again, this is a review for the final book in the series. You can check out my reviews for the first 2 here if you really want to read something about them but don’t want to know key plot points.
If you’re still here and haven’t read them, then I am sorry, but you have brought the spoils on yourself. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Also, before anyone comments, heads up, this book made me super mad about its treatment of a certain character.
Ok, The Toll starts off where Thunderhead finished, Endura has sunk, the Grandslayers are forever chilling in the stomachs of various sharks and Citra and Rowan have accepted their fate and are just waiting out their inevitable demise of either freezing to death or suffocating. So of course, they got naked because freezing is apparently relatively painless. Goddard has proclaimed himself the Grand Poohbah of scythedom and my favourite character sacrificed herself to save others from succumbing to hungry, genetically modified fishies (yes, I had to reread the last 50 pages because I don’t have a photographic memory and there’s been like 60 books in between). But then it adds on 3 years because time waits for no man.
Going in (and for the past however many months) I had been questioning whether title meant it was Grayson Tolliver’s story or something else. But its kind of about both because every has their story to tell in this one. Tolliver has been made even more of an idol within the Tonist community and now he is worshipped as a god because Thunderhead got angry and made everyone unsavoury except Grayson to whom he now frequently speaks. It’s a cool premise being the only one and while it was mostly great, the conversations were a little meh in parts. Except now Thunderhead also talks to itself AIDAN style and it took a while for me to realise what was happening.
Now as I said its set 3 years in the future. But also, not 3 years in the future because there’s things that happened after Endura’s fall that change the course of everyones future. This would have been one of the major issues I had with The Toll – while I get time hopping (Queen V does it spectacularly), it took me a fair chunk to wrap my head around it. Also, a lot of confusion and flipping backwards and forwards. Time within The Toll is kind of disjointed for the first half but definitely starts to resolve itself around halfway through Part 3. Yes, there is 5 parts in this 630 page novel, and I was a tad confused as to why. But moving on!
What’s the lowdown on Citra and Rowan? you ask. Well that would be spoilery and we all know I don’t do that but, what I will talk about is Goddard. During the previous books, Goddard was a little bit of a tool but not so bad. During Thunderhead he got himself a new youthful body and started to cause havoc on the awaiting world. In The Toll he really comes into his own as the villain and I absolutely positively loved his snark (insert Calcifer gif here). In a novel that unfortunately took a little bit of a downward turn, this guy really upped his game. Whether its exacting mass vengeance or showing off his power by making people into crispy human bacon, he does it with a flair and panache that is only rivalled by Snape’s hatred for Harry in the first 5 books. And his minions are just such snivelling little trolls that I loved the entire dynamic *chefs kiss*.
You may have noticed before that I commented about how the quality took a downward turn. It wasn’t a massive change that made me want to throw it at a wall in anger, simply a feeling of slight disappointment by the end. It’s predecessors were mind blowingly good. They were punchy and fresh while this was a tad monotone, never reaching the soaring heights of action I was expecting. The ending wasn’t what I thought it would be either. For a novel with so many possibilities, it gave me that feeling I got at the end of Muse of Nightmares – I flailed and groaned and thought of 5000 other ways it could have gone but silently placed the novel in the back of the shelves so as it could think about what it had done. Am I saying I could write it better? Um no, definitely not. Could I think of other directions it could have taken and word vomited them at a friend on Instagram? Maybe…
I also want to point out here the feeling that a certain character was very ‘token’ in the narrative. They take on the role of salvager but felt a little like they had been included simply to tick the box of ‘non-heterosexual’. I understand the need for diverse characters, and I can think of some amazingly well written ones (looking at you Corey J White and Linsey Miller). Alas in The Toll, this was not the case and their role felt like it was first for them to be the diversity card and second to have an important place in the evolution of the narrative. Basically, what I’m saying is people’s gender is not a plot point to be used to tick off certain expectations in todays publishing climate. Its demeaning and unnecessary. Rant over.
So, here is where I do that summing up thing that people tend to like. The characters mostly played their same roles with the exception of Goddard who turned on evil villain mode and owned it. The pacing was significantly slower and less punchy than previous instalments, but it was still a good narrative. Time hopping makes up a major part of the first half(ish) so prepare yourselves to be taking mental notes. The insertion of the NB character felt forced and simply there to tick the boxes. The ending made me a little disappointed because there were so many possibilities, and also it doesn’t tie up so many loose ends. So, it was a good book, just not mind-blowingly great like the previous ones in the series.
Until next time lovelies xo