As much as I enjoyed my Harry Potter reread, it’s been kind of nice getting back to reading ‘new-to-me’ books. Both of the books I’ve read since finishing Harry Potter have been on my TBR for a while, one for a few months, the other for literally years, but thankfully they both lived up to my expectations!
Check out my reviews below for more information!
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
‘My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.’
In a world where humanity has conquered death and most people will live forever, Scythes exist to control population, dealing out death randomly and without bias. When Rowan and Citra are selected to be Scythe apprentices, they reluctantly begin to learn the art of killing. However, the stakes soon rise when they discover that to complete their training, one will have to kill the other…
I’d heard a lot about this book before I read it, and so I was a little wary about it not living up to the hype, especially as I wasn’t immediately sucked into it. The first few chapters were a little slow, and mostly seemed to be setting the scene and introducing the characters, but this wasn’t too bad, as it turns out Neal Shusterman has invented an incredibly interesting futuristic world.
There was something quite creepy about seeing a future world where all diseases have been eradicated, ageing can be stopped and reset, and natural death is no longer a thing. Whilst death is kind of a terrifying prospect, I’ve personally always thought that the idea of living forever is even scarier…I mean, how boring would it all get eventually? And that’s kind of what you see in Scythe: life has begun to lose it’s meaning and its’ intensity for people, because everyone believes they have infinite time to do all the things they want to do.
I also thought that the idea of the Scythedom was really interesting, especially how they operate outside normal laws, and are greatly revered in society, despite being widely feared. It seemed inevitable though, that human beings – even advanced, futuristic human beings – wouldn’t be able to operate as the Scythes are meant to do, without bias, and with great humanity. The flaw in this idea is at the heart of this book, and I love how Shusterman explores it through the principle characters, Citra and Rowan.
As characters themselves, I wasn’t super invested in them, although I perhaps liked Rowan a little more than Citra. His character seemed a lot more complex, especially later in the book when he becomes exposed to some of the corrupt Scythes, and must try to accept the darker side of himself, whilst sticking to his own moral compass.
I think that having one of them have to kill the other in the end was also a great device for creating tension, and it definitely kept me turning the pages, as I was desperate to find out which of them would prevail, and the toll it would take on the other.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, and the ending managed to surprise me with its twists and turns. Whilst I liked Citra and Rowan well enough, I think the thing I loved more than anything about this book was the concept, and the way it makes you think about where our world might be heading, and the fresh problems that could arise from that. I’m really looking forward to reading Thunderhead soon anyway, and finding out what happens next!
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
‘In the fairy tales, the poor girl smiles when she becomes a princess. Right now, I don’t know if I’ll ever smile again.’
In a world where society is divided by the colour of blood – Silvers, with their god-like powers are the elite, whilst Reds live in poverty and strife – Mare Barrow finds herself in a precarious position. Whilst working at the palace of the infamous Silver king, she discovers that she has a deadly power of her own – something no other Red has ever possessed as far as she knows. Fearful of her potential, the Royal family tell everyone she’s a long lost Silver noble, and plan to marry her off to the youngest prince, but Mare will not abandon her own people. She joins a militant group of Reds, fighting for justice, and decides to bring down the Silvers from the inside…
How has it taken me so long to read this book? I’ve seen Red Queen around the blogosphere for years, and have even had it on my Kindle for months, but have somehow only just got round to reading it. And I’m so glad I finally did, because I really enjoyed it!
I really liked the world of the story from the beginning, and I think Victoria Aveyard did a great job of gradually setting up the parameters of the society, with the superpower-ed Silvers presiding over the Reds. Life seems terribly hard for the Reds, due to poverty, and the fact that those without a trade are forced to go and fight in a war that has been raging for over a century. You really sense the injustice of it all, as you learn about Mare’s family and her daily life.
Like Scythe, it was a little slow starting though, but I wasn’t bored, as I quickly came to like the main character Mare, and admired her determination to save her friend Kilorn from conscription, by increasingly risky means. Things definitely got more interesting though after she goes to work at the palace, and she’s plunged into a world of political unrest and backstabbing. I loved how incredibly loathsome a lot of the characters there were (ahem…the Queen and Evangeline), and you get a sense that however resourceful Mare is, she’s completely out of her depth.
I also really liked the characters of Cal and Maven, as they both came off as incredibly complex, and at different points you weren’t sure which, if either of them to trust. On a certain level I expected what happened at the end to happen, but I still really felt for Mare when it all went down, and she discovered the truth. However, I wasn’t overly keen on the whole love triangle (or square?) thing that seemed to be going on, with Cal, Maven and Kilorn all vying for Mare’s attention. It seemed like she had enough on her plate without worrying about which guy she wanted to date!
Overall though, I really enjoyed this book, and pretty much as soon as I finished it I went onto Amazon and bought the next book, Glass Sword. After the explosive ending, I’m interested to see where it goes next, although I’m kind of worried things will get a little boring now they’ve left behind the political intrigue of the Royal Court.
So have you read either of these? What did you think?