Book Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman (Walker Books Ltd.)

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The Toll by Neal Shusterman, published by Walker Books Ltd., is the third and last book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, a young adult science fiction series. If you haven’t read the first two books, it would not be wise to read this review! This book takes off after the sinking of Endura at the end of Thunderhead. In the years that follow, Goddard becomes Overblade of the Merican Scythedom, Faraday and Munira discover the Land of Nod, and Greyson becomes a religious figure known as ‘The Toll’ as the Thunderhead only speaks to him. Soon these characters, and many more, will find their paths cross in what could be described as destiny.

While this series has some obvious themes of what death means in a postmortal age and the influence of technology, The Toll has major religious themes. It appeared to me as if the Thunderhead was a god of sorts, always trying to figure out how to be more in touch of humanity. Greyson, playing the role of The Toll, and humanity’s connection to the Thunderhead, would be a Jesus-figure, but not altogether blameless. Though Greyson lies and makes mistakes, he still wants to make the world better and even has his own resurrections story. The religious group call upon “The Tone, the Toll, and the Thunder,” thus making a holy trinity. Though their faith is sometimes misguided, especially when zealots get involved, it proves not to be altogether unfounded. With notes from the future of how people interpret The Tonists’ beliefs also show how many religious beliefs can be misinterpreted and mistranslated through time.

This book, ultimately, was kind of crazy, but in a good way. Shusterman is such a brilliant storyteller, how he’s able to weave many characters’ lives together and incorporate even the smallest details from book one to the final book with such importance. We were introduced to some new characters in this book which made me wary at first but one turned out to be a favorite of mine: Jericho ‘Jeri’ Sobranis, a gender fluid person who feels feminine under the sun and masculine under the clouds. I thought Jeri was a great representation of gender fluidity, and though Jeri did have to constantly remind characters of preferred pronouns, Jeri’s whole identity wasn’t in that. Jeri actually had some really important parts within the story, tagging along to see the wonder of characters crossing paths. I want to give this book five stars for it’s absolute brilliance. However, there are some reasons I have to knock a star out….

The first reason is for the slow pace in the beginning. It took about a hundred pages to find out what happened to Citra and Rowan. The first hundred pages seemed to focus on Faraday, who is one of my favorite characters but I needed to know about the others due to the last cliffhanger! I also felt that this book had just too much to fit in. I think the storyline would have fit better over a longer series. The first two books span about a year, and then around four years take place in the third book, sometimes wavering back and forth so the timeline became confusing to me. Perhaps this is how some of the brilliance of seeing how characters will interact comes from, but there were times it just seemed too complicated. I’m also a bit creeped out by the Thunderhead’s attraction to Greyson and not wholly satisfied with the ending, though near the ending made me yell and cry as I felt a shift in my heart.

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Though it does have its flaws, I still recommend this series to those who love young adult dystopians/science fiction stories and don’t mind longer books (the last installment being over six hundred pages).

Neal Shusterman’s Twitter here.

Neal Shusterman’s Instagram here.

Book Trailer for Scythe here.

By myadventure2017

Writer, Reader, Bookstagrammer, Booktoker, Blogger

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