Book Review: Gleanings by Neal Schusterman

Title: Gleanings

Author: Neal Schusterman

Series: Arc of the Scythe #3.5

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control. Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between. -Goodreads

The Review:

As someone who generally doesn’t care for short stories (they don’t usually provide me enough time to get invested), I liked Gleanings a lot more than I thought I would.

To boot, it was nothing like I expected. I figured we’d get some familiar perspectives in a timeline shortly after climax events in the Toll. Not the case. Instead it was a collection of individual gleaning stories (hence the title) with a compelling array of circumstances that evoked good food for thought throughout. I was honestly expecting to be bored during the book, forcing myself to finish it for the sake of completionism. But instead I found it compulsively listenable and only struggled with one of the stories. I like it when books make me think, and the exploration of morality in this creative world remains my favorite aspect of the series.

There were one or two backstory segments for familiar characters that I quite enjoyed. Since a few of them took place before the Scythes’ had chosen their new names (which is how I remember them from the trilogy), it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out who’s story I was reading. The payoff when I DID realize what was going on was particularly satisfying in part because of that delay/build-up though. Sometimes being an idiot works in my favor.

Recommendations: if you liked the concept of the Arc of the Scythe and want more interesting segments dealing with the morality of the Scythedom, this is a great collection. If you want more closure from series-ending events in the Toll, this will not fit the bill. Overall I found it a great supplemental read.

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by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: The Toll by Neal Schusterman

Title: The Toll

Author: Neal Schusterman

Series: Arc of the Scythe

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver. (Shortest Summary Ever) -Goodreads



The Review:

The Toll was a decent ending to one of the better YA series I’ve read.

The series had a consistent and solid writing voice. It reminded me strongly of James S.A. Corey’s writing style in the popular adult sci-fi series, The Expanse. It’s a way of combining character introspection and broad implications in a way that’s kind of telly vs showy but somehow you don’t care because it’s so fluidly done. It made for a story that was easy to breeze through.

I’ve mentioned this at length in my reviews of the first two books, but I love the concept for this series. Particularly the moral debate each Scythe has to have with themselves when deciding who to “glean” (kill) and why. It was fascinating. Events in the Toll broadened the ideas even more by focusing on the power, corruption, and the mentality of “do I conform even though it’s against my moral compass and maybe survive another day, or do I stand my ground and perish as if my sacrifice has no real meaning in the grand scheme of things?”

Good food for thought.

It’s worth noting that my rating probably would’ve been slightly higher had I started this book sooner, as time and distance from the second book had me forgetting some of the minor characters. When I wait too long, I lose a bit of context and depth, and therefore my connection to the story. And my ratings pay the price. It didn’t suffer much, but it was still a factor.

Overall, I’m glad I read this series and I’m looking forward to the new collection of stories that came out in November (Gleanings).

Recommendations: one of the better YA series I’ve read. Pick this one up for cool concepts, a great writing style, and a distinct lack of the usual YA tropes. This series is worth a looksie.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes