Saturday, May 5, 2018

Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2
Pages: 504
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Publication Date: January 2018

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

This review is for the second book in a series. I tried really hard to avoid spoilers, but you should probably check out my review of Scythe.

Do we have a release date for the next book in this series? I need it right now. I am not okay, guys! I’m deadish. A book shouldn’t just end like that! What happens next?

 Neal Shusterman is still my favorite writer of dystopias. This novel is a brick, but that didn’t stop me from pretty much inhaling it. I love Thunderhead’s messed-up world so much that I wasn’t ready to leave it when I turned the last page.

In this book, the main characters, Rowan and Citra, are separated. Rowan has rebranded himself “Scythe Lucifer” and is punishing Scythes who abuse their power. Meanwhile, Citra is a Junior Scythe with a unique way of doing her job. Both of them are making waves within the Scythedom. Some of the older Scythes feel like their corrupt way of life is being threatened, and they’re not going to keep quiet about it.

The biggest difference between this novel and Scythe is the addition of chapters narrated by the Thunderhead, a supercomputer that basically runs the world. If you’ve read The Illuminae Files, then Thunderhead is the opposite of AIDAN. Thunderhead is programed to love humans and constantly find better ways to care for them. The chapters add a lot to the worldbuilding and bring up some intriguing ethical questions. How much of our lives should be controlled by computers? Would you let an ultra-compassionate computer heal your body? Or drive your car? Or babysit your kids?

Actually, this whole book is thought-provoking. That’s one of the reasons why I love Neal Shusterman’s writing so much. His worlds are far-fetched and sometimes silly, but there are a lot of parallels between his fictional worlds and the real world.

There is a fine line between freedom and permission. The former is necessary.The latter is dangerous . . . While freedom gives rise to growth and enlightenment, permission allows evil to flourish in a light of day that would otherwise destroy it. A self-important dictator gives permission for his subjects to blame the world’s ills on those least able to defend themselves. A haughty queen gives permission to slaughter in the name of God. An arrogant head of state gives permission to all nature of hate as long as it feeds his ambition. And the unfortunate truth is, people devour it. Society gorges itself, and rots. Permission is the bloated corpse of freedom. - Thunderhead

Just like Scythe, Thunderhead is full of gallows humor. Since death in this world isn’t permanent, the author can casually kill your favorite character a dozen times. Instead of being sad, I laughed when my favorites died. Death is just a minor inconvenience to them.

I think Thunderhead suffers a little from Middle Book Syndrome. It’s slow to start, and it spends a lot of time setting up conflicts that will (probably) play out in the next book. It’s frustrating to sit through all that set-up. Especially because I have to wait so long for the next book to be released. But, I can forgive Thunderhead because of the ending. That was nuts! I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next book, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be intense.

Finding easy scapegoats for complicated problems had been a human pastime since the first mob of cavemen struck someone down with a rock. - Thunderhead

If you haven’t read a Neal Shusterman book, you need to get your hands on one soon. You probably won’t regret it.

TL;DR: A little slow, but I don’t care. Bring on the next book.

Thank you to Wendy @ Falconer’s Library for gifting me this book. I loved it.


  1. Eeep I NEED THIS ONE SO BAD. I loved Scythe and it was so weird and kind of creepy!? And I'm really keen to actually read chapters from the AI's perspective too. I really love books with not-human characters. :D Also kind of need Rowan and Citra to be okay omg poor children. 😭😭

    1. Rowan and Citra are VERY NOT OKAY at the end of this book, and I couldn’t handle it. I need the next book now.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I thought Scythe was slow too (in a good way for me though), would you say Thunderhead is slower that that?

    1. Thunderhead is slower. I read a pretty big chunk of the book before I felt like things were happening and I was invested in the story.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. Oh good! I have the first book in my queue on audiobook and I'm looking forward to listening to it.

  4. *Waves* I'm so glad you loved it!