Thunderhead, Neal Shusterman – Book Review

Hello humans! A little-known fact about me, I love the idea of the grim reaper. I have a feeling this stems back to a combination of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and the Blue Oyster Cult song Don’t Fear the Reaper. I just find the image of a robed figure with a scythe who’s responsible for transporting the dead fascinating. One day I’ll get around to writing a blog post on the Grim Reaper through history and through fiction – that would be cool! So, earlier in the year when I read Scythe I was a little disappointed by the romance, though I still loved the plot. You can read my review here. I was feeling somewhat dubious about how the sequel Thunderhead would turn out, but I was well and truly lured in by that gorgeous cover and decided to give it a chance. I am so glad I did.


Goodreads Summary:

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

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?

Find Thunderhead on Goodreads | Amazon UK (Affiliate)

This is the perfect example, at least in my opinion, of a sequel building on the successes of the first book and dropping everything that was holding the story back. In this case, it’s the romance. Rowan and Citra are still there and yes there is still a romantic connection between them (it would be a little weird to just pretend that never happened) but because the characters are kept apart for most of the book it takes much more of a background role. This is far more tolerable than it was in Scythe there is so much going on in this book that, had there been a strong romance plot as well, I think I would have just given up.

What I like about this sequel is that is a great example of the way the paths of characters can start to branch apart as a series develops. I’m reminded of the way the Game of Thrones books did the same thing, threads of the story going out in all kinds of different directions. This is, thankfully, far less complex than GOT but there’s that sense of something spreading out, of development and of detail. So not only do we see more of these two characters, see them change and progress and better understand their motivations and aspirations, but we also see a bit more of the setting.

The setting is one of the most interesting things about these books. This is a world in which, unless they are gleaned, people don’t die, and people don’t have to hold jobs for the most part as things are run by the AI known as The Thunderhead. While there aren’t oodles of details in terms of geography or similar, the way this book explores what humanity would do and what it would need in a world like this is incredibly interesting. For instance, from the perspective of the Thunderhead, we learn that there are some people who feel the need to rebel and so the Thunderhead finds a way for them to do so safely. The idea that there are some things that, while they may be unsavoury, are fundamental parts of human nature. It’s ideas such as these that made me want to keep reading, and that gave you an idea of the principles and thoughts that underpin this story.

I thought that the plot of this sequel was more to my tastes than the first book. I think that Scythe was a necessary book to write to set up the different factions that are in conflict in Thunderhead but it was a little bit rooted in a cliché (the girl and the boy who must compete for the prize is not exactly new), whereas – free from that competition – Thunderhead really starts to get into the conflict and the ethics and the infighting that was hinted at in Scythe. There are some truly dark moments within this story, it’s not a happy book by any means. The pacing also felt just right, the balance between moments of action and the moments of stillness (which I think are some of the best parts of this book) is spot on, making this one of those books that pulls you in and keeps you turning pages until it’s suddenly been four hours.

I didn’t want this to end, but I am very excited to read the next book in the series (listed on Goodreads as The Toll and apparently coming in 2019). If the trajectory of these books continues in the way it’s going then it promises to be epic.

My rating: 4/5 stars

All opinions are my own.

What say you? Which sequels are some of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!



3 thoughts on “Thunderhead, Neal Shusterman – Book Review

Add yours

  1. This is very interesting! It sounds like Thunderhead solves a lot of my problems with the first book, which were namely Citra and Rowan’s romance and the fact that they had no personality. I’m looking forward to reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

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