Graphic Novelty²




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.

Unsavory Row

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.

Anastasia’s Shadow

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!

Thunderhead & The Toll

These two books in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy bring it to a close in a very satisfying manner. Neal Shusterman is a master at world-building!


Volume two really requires that you read Scythe first to understand the dynamics between the two main characters, Citra now going by Scythe Anastasia and Rowan who is known as Scythe Lucifer. The two teens have survived their apprenticeship and now are bound by duty to kill or glean some of the human population. Although society is now ruled by the Thunderhead, an all-knowing computer entity, the scythes live beyond its control. Politics and extreme factions have developed within the Scythdom and intrigue abounds. This morality tale has Citra and Rowan, plus a new teen Greyson, battling the old corrupt scythes for control. While they are killers, they are also at risk themselves and don’t know who to trust. Who will prevail?

Neal Shusterman is a popular dystopian series writer, as he comes up with very intriguing ideas (such as the Unwind series) that appeal to young readers. He sets a feverish pace in his books, with non-stop action, plus showcases teens as wiser than their elders. This is a winning combination for the YA set but doesn’t translate as well for adult readers. I’m really torn if I will continue with the series as I thought highly of the first book, but this second book was just too busy for my taste. If this series is kept to three books, I will finish it as I’m curious as to Citra and Rowan’s fates but I will pass if it continues longer than that. (Aside- I read these books awhile back, so this is my review from back then)

The Toll

The Toll is the last book in the trilogy Arc of a Scythe and was better than I expected, with my audio edition being voiced expertly. In the previous book, Citra and Rowan now called Scythe Anastasia and Scythe Lucifer, are saved from death in a sealed capsule when evil Scythe Goddard destroys Endura and unjustly blames Rowan for its destruction and the death of many of the Scythes. During the three years they are entombed Goddard rises to become the leader of most of the world’s scythedoms. Upon their discovery, they are revived but ripped from one another and the book has them on different journeys, along with Greyson who has now become the Thunderhead’s mouthpiece. There is a jumbled chronology, with other characters added such as Scythe Farraday, gender-fluid ship captain Jeri, and island Nimbus agent Loriana whose stories weave in and out of the narrative. Slowly, all the threads begin to come together for a showdown between Goddard and Citra, Rowan and Greyson.

The story was smart and didn’t dumb down any of the political or religious analogies. As Goddard rose to power, a reader could definitely make connections between the narrative and recent US politics. Greyson’s transformation as a religious figurehead and the Tonists who follow him will make some think about faith that sometimes can morph into fanaticism if unchecked. Some characters were irredeemable and even some good characters make selfish and shortsighted decisions. The relationship between Citra and Rowan was always lukewarm and I never saw why either of them was held up as saviors. The late romance between Greyson and Jeri rang more true than an entire trilogy about Citra and Rowen, but frankly, all the family and romantic relationships seemed bloodless. I enjoyed this series as a whole and while the narrative could have been trimmed a bit, I applaud Shusterman for writing such a thought-provoking story.

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