Title: The Toll
Author: Neal Shusterman
Cover illustrator: Kevin Tong
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Science fiction, Dystopian
Book format: Paperback
Description: I do not speak with the voice of the Thunder. But the Thunder does speak through me.
Everything has changed in the world of scythes. Citra and Rowan have disappeared. The floating city of Endura is gone. It looks like nothing else stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute power. Now that the Thunderhead is silent, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him?
The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll and the Thunder.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: Wow, I’m left almost speechless after reading this! It’s the perfect ending to the series and has left such a smile on my face! ‘The Toll’ is the final installment in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy with ‘Scythe’ and ‘Thunderhead’ being the first two books. This one continues the story onwards although a lot has happened since the events that ended the previous book.
The ending of Thunderhead was a very dramatic one so this book begins slowly and introduces several new characters who we haven’t heard of before as well as some who took a more minor role in the previous books. I don’t want to give away spoilers to this or the first two books, but I will say that the majority of the story takes place three years after the events that took place in ‘Thunderhead’ although we get to see some chapters that give a build up to how these events unfolded. Just like with the first two books I felt gripped right from the start, and although the book does jump around between different characters perhaps a little more than it did i nthe other books (although always written in third person perspective) I didn’t mind as there are so many things going on with not only the main characters we know from the last books but also new ones who seem to be minor characters at first but later show up to be more important to the main story than first appears.
The book is seperated into different parts and each chapter has it’s own title. There are also many chapters that have added parts at the end such as journal entries, letters and what seem like random conversations or thoughts of the Thunderhead which at first may not seem to make much sense, but these are all well placed and timed and have a brilliant way trickling information to you slow enough that you get to see what is happening, but not giving away too much too soon. It becomes clear as you read on what these extra conversations actually mean and for a lot of the journal entries they have a lot to do with the story in the following chapter.
Unlike the previous books I think this one tries to pack in much more information (it’s over 600 pages long!) and an even wider story than before, which is why Citra and Rowan’s story takes a bit of a backseat for a good majority of the beginning on the novel. Throughout, though, Greyson’s chracter becomes much more important and I like how he develops both with his responsibilities and as a person, he really matures and becomes a good leading character, compared to what he was like when we first met him. I also really enjoyed Jeri’s character although I’ve seen some negative reviews have criticised Jeri for for being added to the story just because the author felt it was necessary to have such a character.(SPOILER: Jeri is gender fluid).
But Jeri’s character I didn’t have a problem with as this wasn’t a big issue in the story itself and never goes futher than speculation and Jeri is also well explained and developed and has their own story and history too and I liked how Jeri gave a unique and different perspective on each situation everyone was in. In fact on more than one occassion I had guessed something wrong about what was going to happen with Jeri’s character which shows how brilliant the plot was at twisting and keeping you guessing!
The ending of the story has a dramatic build up and I really enjoyed how things happened. I didn’t think it would end in the way it did, and I expected a little more of a dramatic battle with a specific bad scythe, but in the end I think the whole story worked out really well and I like how all the main characters ended up, even that bad scythe’s ending which was very unexpected! I even enjoyed what happened with Astrid and how all the previous testament entries throughout the book finally made sense to that story with her. And despite the fact that Citra and Rowan’s characters had less of a lead in this book I think in many ways this made the ending that much more realistic as this wasn’t just the teenager’s own battle but that of many people. I didn’t dislike any part of the book and I like how the whole story finishes, it was a very satisfying ending for me and one which was very interesting too as it can lead to a wider discussion on all sorts of issues and how it spookily mirrors our own past (although it’s also just a very good story at the end of the day too if you don’t want to think that deeply!).
There are so few instances of bad language, but very few with only one use of the f and two uses of the s swear words. There is some violence in this book however and although it doesn’t go into too much detail, it does contain killing and death by scythes as well as some darker moments of mass death so I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone too sensitive or the youngest of teens unless they are more used to this sort of stuff in stories.
I would definitely recommend this book and indeed the whole tirlogy to anyone who is a sci-fi fan or fan of maybe dystopian novels too. You do need to read all three books in order as ‘The Toll’ won’t make sense without the first two books, however it really is a brilliant read and definitely makes you feel like you are watching a movie with all the switching around between characters and events. The only people I probably wouldn’t recommend this to is the highly sensitive (who don’t like anything violent at all) or those who might get easily offended at any commentary on religions even made-up ones. Although there is a religion that is completely made up in the book (Tonist), it does have a few parallells with today’s religions and for those that don’t get easily offended, it does an interesting job of making you think about religions in general and the interpretation of them (if you choose tho think that much about this book like I tend do 😀 !), but this isn’t the main point of the book and it is very much a sci-fi novel and a really brilliant one too! It’s so good I already want to re-read the whole series and I can’t wait to see the movie that’s being made!
Have you read any of the Arc of a Scythe trilogy yet? Do you like science fiction or dystopian novels? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂