Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Review: THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman

Rating: 5/5 stars

Wow, what a RIDE! This has quickly become one of my favorite series. I’m honestly surprised at the quality of the final two books because while Scythe was good, it wasn’t stellar. But Thunderhead and The Toll were outstanding! The twists and reveals and the direction the plot went! I thought I could see the destination but the train was derailed so many times that I completely lost track of where we were going until we got there.

Okay, enough with the metaphors.

The Toll is the concluding novel in the Arc of a Scythe series. After reading Thunderhead a few months ago and it becoming one of the best books of the year, I was worried that The Toll couldn’t live up to the hype. I mean, come on, the ending of Thunderhead was absolutely bonkers! But The Toll delivered. At least I thought it did; I know lots of people are unsatisfied with the ending, but I appreciate where the story ended. 

We follow a lot of characters in this installment, and it can get tricky to keep them all straight, but I did enjoy each person’s POV. There are so many people doing so many things at different points in time that I absolutely see why we needed so many new perspectives in this book, and I loved all of them. (Though, of course, Citra has been my favorite since the beginning of book one.) 

One thing I really wanted to learn about—and I so hope we get a prequel novella about it—is the origin of the Thunderhead. Clearly, the Thunderhead was developed by humans, and we discover throughout the books that it had to learn and grow as an entity and didn’t just start out knowing everything, so I think it would be super interesting to have a story that begins when the Thunderhead first gains consciousness and is about it figuring out the world and helping to shape it into the world we see in this series two hundred years after its origin. Any POV chapters from the Thunderhead had me absolutely enraptured because I think the idea of the world essentially being run by an AI who can think and feel for itself is so fascinating. AIs are the best characters. So I’d really love to learn more about that. 

There’s not much I can say without spoilers as this is the grand finale, but I will highly recommend this series. It’s unlike any utopian/dystopian I’ve read before, and it has so much commentary about the value of life and the human condition—it’s very philosophical for a young adult series, and I loved that! If you, like me, read the first book and were like, “It’s decent but I’m not sold yet,” then I encourage you to give book two a shot because the stakes are raised, the characters are fleshed out and developed so much more, and the plot goes in directions you’d never expect.

This is definitely a series I’ll be coming back to in the future; I loved it so much. I’m very keen on picking up Neal Shusterman’s other works now as I know he has a lot of books out and this series is the only thing I’ve read by him. He’s a very talented author and I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next, because if Arc of a Scythe was any indication, Shusterman is a mastermind at work. 

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