As a fan of the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, I was anxious to read this new collection of short stories set in the dystopian universe that Neal Shusterman created. He pens most of the stories, but a few of the stories are co-authored by six others. The stories will reintroduce us to some characters found in the preceding novels, but we meet new memorable characters too. The stories are not chronological, as the stories dip in and out of the timeline during different eras. This book could be viewed as a stand-alone but makes so much more sense if you read Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll.
The First Swing by Joelle Shusterman
An evocative poem about being a Scythe.
We go back to the past when Scythe Marie Curie was young and wants to make a name for herself. The former American president and his cabinet are still trying to hang onto power, but Scythe Curie puts an end to the sham government to great acclaim.
Never Work with Animals co-authored with Micahel H. Payne
The bombastic Scythe Fields loves dogs, but his newest acquisition is more than he ever bargained for!
A Death of Many Colors
A bougie family throwing a Halloween party, who believes that Scythes are a myth, finds out that they do in fact exist when a very unusual Scythe gleans their teen son in an unexpected way.
For a book series that centers around death, many character relationships seem bloodless and cold, with no deep family or love connections. But in this story, a sister is so distraught after her older brother’s gleaning that she rebels and goes unsavory.
A Martian Minute
The best story by far! Carson is an ambitious Mars colonist, who will do anything to escape back to Earth. When Scythe Xenocrates visits the planet, Carson takes a suggestion of his and the event that he orchestrates is even bigger than he imagined. But he gets what he wanted, so any collateral damage is of no concern to him. The reveal at the end of who he later became was perfect.
The Mortal Canvas co-authored with David Yoon
Only thirty years after the AI Thunderhead takes over, there are still people who were born mortal, including an elderly art teacher. This art teacher is trying to inspire her last four students when Scythe gets involved and challenges the students to a contest. A poignant story about creativity and passion.
The shortest story, yet one of the most powerful. Forty ships are sent by the Thunderhead to look for hospitable planets, and one shares the journey thus far. Not all of the sister ships will make it, as the ship’s inhabitants make each journey unique, and some of them will not make it for a multitude of reasons. You will be rooting for this new AI steward to help ferry her ship to safety.
We only met Anastasia’s brother Ben very briefly in the novels, but he is fleshed out in this short story when Skythe Constantine tries to turn him into Scythe when Anastasia is presumed dead. A surprisingly tender story with a happy-ish ending.
The Persistence of Memory co-authored with Jarrod Shusterman and Sofia Lapuente
Scythe Dali and his rival Scythe Gaudi play cat and mouse in Barcelona, along with a willful girl whose intentions are suspect.
Meet Cute and Die
A very British Scythe is a tyrant to her meek niece until a new relationship emboldens the niece to stand up to her aunt.
Perchance to Glean co-authored with Michelle Knowlden
I did not finish this story- it was about Scyths able to kill in dreams, but since I didn’t finish it, perhaps it changed course.
A Dark Curtain Rises
We revisit Scythe Curie years later, and she gets a new chance at life in an unlikely location after her ignoble death in the series. It was a hopeful way to end the collection.
As a whole, I was very pleased with this short story collection as Shusterman has created a unique and layered world. I’m sure all readers will think about who they would pick to be their patron historic if they were a Scythe. As it has been a few years since I read the series, I had forgotten some information about certain characters, so I got to go down a rabbit hole of looking up information on a Scythe Wiki page. I would definitely revisit this series if more novels are added!