Photo courtesy of Emily Myers.

Interested in reading about a dystopian world where death is no longer natural? More specifically, if the ending of life instead comes in the form of humans called “scythes” that murder, or glean, people seemingly at random and in various ways? If yes, then The Arc of a Scythe trilogy, written by Neal Shusterman, would be perfect for you. 

The first book, titled Scythe, introduces the reader to an Earth set far into the future in which humanity has conquered natural death. Humans are essentially immortal, which inevitably raises issues concerning population control. Due to this, there are people called scythes that are trained in the art of ending life. These scythes, humans chosen to be trained as teenagers, are meant to kill people at random (with no prejudice) and in whatever form they wish. 

The beginning of the trilogy focuses mainly on two characters, Citra and Rowan, as they are chosen to be apprentices of a scythe and learn how to become one. As these characters discover this separate world, corruption within the scythedom is revealed. They attempt to fight back against the inner workings, but are limited to what they are able to accomplish as apprentices. I won’t spoil too much, but it’s safe to say that their plans to combat such corruption don’t always go their way.

Continuing in the second book, called The Thunderhead, the story grows even wider. In this post-mortality world, an entity named The Thunderhead exists as a kind of artificial intelligence that is God-like– knowing all and assisting everyone however possible but not being able to interfere in scythe matters. Readers are introduced to even more characters, on top of the original ones, and even more complex and corrupt systems in place. Villains are revived and heroes are sacrificed, and the ending can only be described as intensely shocking. 

The last book in the trilogy, named The Toll, follows efforts to save humanity as a whole. There’s many characters of vastly different backgrounds involved in separate plans that seemingly don’t fit together until all is revealed at the end. Plans fall apart, trust is made and betrayed, people die, romance perseveres, and the reader is on the edge of their seat for the entire book. The ending of the trilogy gives a satisfying glimpse into the future for many of the characters throughout the books. 

The series overall can be described as chaotic, messy, intriguing, emotional, thought-provoking, and one that I highly recommend to those interested in this type of story. You will be totally immersed in the world throughout the series, and will care deeply for the characters by the end. 

All in all, The Arc of a Scythe is the perfect trilogy for lovers of dystopian fiction stories with huge plot twists and puzzle-piece storylines that drive the series.

Freshman Emily Myers is a Staff Writer. Her email is