The Toll is the eagerly awaited third and final instalment in the Arc of a Scythe series by best-selling author Neal Shusterman. If you’re new to this fantasy series, you can read our review of Scythe here. Scythe is the first book in the series that introduces us to scythe’s in training, Rowan and Citra followed by Thunderhead where we learn more about the force that controls all aspects of Shusterman’s perfect future world. Now we have The Toll that brings both of these together in a conclusion that will have you on the edge of your seat.
It’s been three years since Rowan (Scythe Lucifer) and Citra (Scythe Anastasia) disappeared, Scythe Goddard took power and the Thunderhead stopped talking to everyone except Grayson Toliver – now known as The Toll.
The corruption that Rowan was trying to stem throughout the Scythe world in Thunderhead continues with Goddard in power – a power that he is hungry to grow. He has relaxed gleaning quotas for scythes and has taken it upon himself to glean (kill) hundreds if not thousands of people creating a realm of fear.
Meanwhile after the tragedy of Endura, Greyson Toliver has discovered that he is the only person the Thunderhead is still communicating with. All others have been deemed unsavoury and left to their own devices. While the Thunderhead continues to control things most people are lost without this line of communication. But why has the Thunderhead chosen Greyson?
Given shelter by a spiritual group the Tonists, Greyson quickly becomes a celebrated figure and christened The Toll.
When challengers to Goddard’s power unexpectedly return, his plans to wipe out much of the population escalate but does the Thunderhead have big plans of its own? You’ll have to read it for yourself…
Shusterman has created a rich and multilayered world that will make readers question politics, religion, life, death and what the role of AI will be in our future. The Thunderhead although AI is not dissimilar to a God figure or Big Brother, but it is always caring and bound by a strong system of ethics that stop it from taking and desiring power in the way that Goddard does.
We spoke to Neal Shusterman earlier this year when he visited Australia for the Sydney Writers Festival and the Scribblers Festival about the Arc of Scythe series and his stand-alone book Dry about environmental disasters of a kind closer to home. You can read our interview with him here.
If you are looking for a way to get your teen reading then this series has it all, along with looking at issues that will get them thinking beyond the story and about the wider world. It’s certainly a series that parents will also enjoy and I would highly recommend reading them at the same time as your teen – they are great conversation starters.
Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author whose books include the Arc of a Scythe series (Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll), the New York Timesbestselling Unwind series and Challenger Deep, which won a National Book Award. He also writes screenplays for film and television, for shows such as Goosebumpsand Animorphs. He lives in Southern California with his four children. Follow him on Twitter: @NealShusterman