Title: The Toll (Arc of a Scythe #3)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: 2nd May 2019
The Toll, the final part in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, is currently running as my ‘Most Disappointing Read of the Year’ purely because I was SO EXCITED for it and SO LET DOWN by the direction it took. The thing is though, it’s brilliant. It’s very well written, refuses to conform to the ‘Chosen One’ trope, expertly creates a dystopian atmosphere and weaves in a strong stance on modern-American politics.
That said, it just wasn’t for me. But please, for the sake of me avoiding feeling like The Grinch who stole Christmas, take note of my opinions and critiques. I’m not saying this was a terrible book. I’m saying it wasn’t what I wanted for the end of this series. There will quite likely be A LOT of readers who adore this book.
The Toll began where Thunderhead left off – with a rise in support for Scythe Goddard’s followers and cracks in the foundation of the respected, ethically-bound Scythedom that had reigned for so long. In its stead rose the new wave of Sycthes – blood-hungry, arrogant and bejewelled in respect to their ostentatious nature. The rise of the ‘modern scythes’ seemed apt to me with the glimpses of human fallibility that had been slowly portrayed to us throughout the previous book, Thunderhead. Scythe had painted the picture of a perfectly organised and constructed world that was immune to the failures of its past – such as unemployment, debt and death. The gradual progression toward a failed society, despite the extreme advancements in modern medicine, seemed like a fitting arc for the end of this trilogy. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all I enjoyed from this book.
My original enjoyment in this series came from the expert creation of the Scythe dystopian world but also the two main characters: Citra and Rowan. I adored them. They were real, they had flaws. While I connected to Rowan easily throughout this book Citra, or rather Anastasia to be more specific, was very hard to connect to. It felt as if her initial naivete had not only disappeared but she had also become cold and hard. Yes, she was essentially a killer and that would have an effect on anybody’s personality but she felt too emotionally removed as a character to be able to connect with as a reader.
Additionally, the lack of interaction between most of the characters in this book really got me down. I understand, and usually quite enjoy, the concept of splitting characters up in anticipation of their reunion, however it felt like almost the entire book had passed before we saw any interaction. The only exception to this was the interaction between Jerico (my new fav) and Anastasia but her attitude stole some of the lustre from this.
The prominence of The Toll in the story’s arc also let me down. Yes, I know it’s the title of the book and I should have been expecting it. However, I don’t think that should have been at the expense of reading about the other characters. The original cast of characters felt very neglected in this and as they had been there from the start it seemed an odd choice to me. I eventually grew fond of The Toll however not enough to make up for the lost story-time with the other characters I had come to expect.
In concern to the structure of the book, the disconnect between all of the characters bled in to my reading experience and made the middle portion of the book feel very long winded and at times unnecessary. The political themes, that I generally enjoy in books, now became cumbersome to the story. It felt like a ramble and quite honestly it took a lot of motivation to finish this book. If the first two books hadn’t been so enjoyable for me I’m sure I’d have DNFd this one. The ending was a nice surprise but did not make up for the marathon that was the middle.
A sad 2.5 stars from me.