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The Toll By Neal Shusterman

The only person who can talk to the Thunderhead and a kid whose gender is determined by the weather.

A Girl and her Dark Knight still on the run.

A Scythe and a Librarian trying to find an answer to a long lost question.

Welcome to The Toll

Dear Readers, if you have not read Scythe or Thunderhead, consider reading those novels before reading on.  If not, be warned, there are a few spoilers.

The epic conclusion we’ve all been waiting for is here! The dystopian world author Neal Shusterman has created, was powerful, ferocious, and heart-breaking! Leaving no room for pause, The Toll was all consuming. I was swept away from the very first page into the bright burning flame that is this novel.

Once I dove deep into the novel I began to get a sense that The Toll was a representation of our current troubled times.  With leaders who have no ethical or moral compass, their greed for power is their sole objective. After book two, the Scythedom of North America is left in the hands of a madman—Scythe Robert Goddard—crazed by his lust for bloodshed and tyrannical power.  And Shusterman does not hold back.  His sardonic yet humorous prose shrewdly dissects the corrupt political leaders and organized religion.

Coupled with the absence of the Thunderhead— the artificial intelligence that runs the world and guides the general populace — people are no longer held to a higher standard of ethical principles. Shusterman shows the systemic dilemma of unequivocal impartiality that can’t exist in a world bereft with injustices.  Citizens are not accountable for their abhorrent actions and certain sects of the Tonist faith—the prevailing religion within the novel—begin to take matters into their own hands, without consequence, in drastic measures. Basically using religion as a banner to spread terror. 

Equally as compelling as unsnarling the fanatical sects of organized religion, Shusterman takes an equally vicious stab at the politically corrupt who foment prejudices to gain ultimate power.

The Story

After the sinking of Endura, the Scythedom is in tatters, gleaming protocol gone, and leadership is basically up for grabs.  The Thunderhead is becoming more and more concerned with the current Scythe philosophy. Even though it must remain impartial when it comes to the Scythedom’s domain, it still can see and understand what’s going on is wrong. 

As the manic Scythe Goddard, the self-appointed Over Blade of North America, reigns with terror and fear, there is reason for the Thunderhead’s ever growing concern for humanity. Over the course of the novel we see Godard’s desire for power grow into an appetite that cannot be filled, where his sanity swiftly unravels, and draws closer and closer to world domination.

Meanwhile, the Thunderhead has gone silent.  Labeling everyone “unsavory” — where citizens are unable to communicate with the Thunderhead—except for Greyson Tolliver.  Having sought asylum at the end of the second book, the Tonists have been keeping him safe.  Now that he is the only person able to speak with the Thunderhead, he is strategically placed as the prophet of the Tonists’ religion and helps guide their followers.

Let’s not forget about our main characters.  Citra— Scythe Anastasia — and Rowen— Scythe Lucifer— are on the run from Scythe Goddard. We hold our breath and root them on as they try desperately to stay one step ahead of being captured. After being reunited in the second book, Citra and Rowen’s paths are quickly divided after they are saved from the bottomless deep, but both refuse to give up hope and try to stay alive.

Final Thoughts

In short, The Toll is packed with sharp teeth and a fierceness that will have you forget the length of the novel and possibly leave you in tears. The novel reaches beyond the heavens and delivers a satisfying ending.

With new characters that give representation to the LGBTQIA community, original characters that you’ve invested in from the very beginning—hoping they survive to the end—and plot twists that have you gasping for breath, this is an ending you don’t want to miss.

Happy Reading  ̴  Cece

RATING: ink blotink blotink blotink blot – Exceptionally Inked

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: November, 2019

Pages: 640

ISBN-10:   1481497065

ISBN-13:  9781481497060

Audience: Young Adult; ages 12 and up

Jacket Illustration: Kevin Tong

Jacket Design: Chloë Foglia

Similar Books Recommended by Sheaf and Ink

Scythe, Neal Shusterman

Thunderhead, Neal Shusterman

Supernova, Marissa Meyer

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Brittany Baird

    I enjoyed Scythe and Thunderhead quite a bit but The Toll was a bit of a let down for me. I gave the first two 5 stars and the last book 3 stars.

    1. Cece Beckman

      I understand why you would give that rating. I think the one complaint I’ve heard most was the length of the novel (and I would have to agree).

  2. Liz

    I LOVED this series. One of my favorites I’ve read. I definitely intend on rereading at some point.

    1. Cece Beckman

      It was! The first book just hooks you in and the ending of the last book had me in tears. I’ve heard the audiobook is just as good.

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