Water has been scarce for a while in California. Precautions have been put into place, fines for watering your lawn, pools outlawed and a number of other things; but it is not enough. When the pipes go dry, the world gets a glimpse at true human nature. Alyssa’s parents go missing. She and her brother go looking for them but can they survive this new world?
“…if there’s one thing I know about the news, it’s that it decides for most people – including the federal government – what is and what isn’t important.Alyssa, pg. 23
I am always up for a good dystopian story. I don’t know why but the idea of watching the way humanity reacts and behaves when the rules are gone is fascinating to me. I love human psychology. As a species we think we have everything in order. We think that because we are on top of the food chain that we can manage anything that comes at us. But within days of a crisis we see the real side of human nature. In the end we see that we are all animals and our primary instinct is to survive. Humans are just like animals, we want our species to make it to the next year and we will do whatever is necessary to make that happen.
I enjoyed this premise. I have read a number of dystopian novels and seen a number of shows but I haven’t see one that surrounds running out of water. Usually water is part of the survival series but it is never the thing that is missing. (Note: My timing of reading this book was very ironic because we have had rain every other day for about 2 months now where I live).
I thought the details about how this crisis would take place was well done. I found myself feeling the desperation and the thirst the characters felt. I am not an expert on what happens when you are dying of thirst but I felt like the progression of everything made sense and worked.
(Spoilers for the end, skip to the next “What I thought was okay” section if you want to avoid ending spoilers).
The end of this book was my favorite part. In these dystopian novels it is always about how the world finds itself broken and about the rebuilding process. They tend to end with the characters beginning to find a new normal. The world they knew is gone and not coming back. The government is gone, law and order idea is gone and they are literally starting by farming and beginning life again.
This book was different. It actually ended with the Tap Out being solved and civilization being restored. People are back to living in their homes, normal way of life is back. Things go back to the way we know them. School is back in session and law and order is the same as we have always known it.
There is hope here. Hope that even after a disaster like this one there is the possibility that we can have our lives back. We don’t have to see the end of all humanity in an event like this one. I liked that because it was nice to see that the world doesn’t always have to implode after something like a water shortage.
There is also commentary on the way people live their lives now. They have to live with the decisions they made to survive. They have to confront the darker sides of themselves and now live in civilization with a that knowledge.
“The question is, can you forgive them for being human anyway?”Kelton, pg. 150
I have to say that much of this book as predictable. I think that is mostly because I have read so many of these stories. There is a formula to this whole idea. The crisis happens, people begin to break down and then things enter into chaos. Our characters then have to fight to survive that chaos and this new version of humanity.
I felt like I knew where this was going the whole time. I wasn’t surprised by anything but the ending. There were some interesting twists, such as having Kelton be from a doomsday prepper family but there wasn’t too much more. I wasn’t captured by the story as much as I wanted to be.
“Sometimes it’s the monsters who survive.”Alyssa, pg. 351
I did not connect to any of the characters as much as I would have liked to. Alyssa was alright but I didn’t find myself loving her. Kelton teetered on the edge of interesting. He was supposed to be this tough guy who is broken down and rebuilt but there was just something missing from him. I didn’t love him or hate him. I just was indifferent to him.
I think all the characters would have been more interesting if we had gotten a deeper look at their changing personalities. We start to see them decide to do things in order to survive. But we never dive deep into that thought process or have time where they are contemplating what they are doing. In the end we see people reflecting on their choices but I wanted to see our core group be truly affected by having to do what they did to survive. Instead it gets a bit glossed over instead.
I gave this book 3 stars. While I enjoyed it I think I would have been more captured by it if the characters had more depth to them.
(Since this is a review for a second book in a series there will be spoilers for the previous book. )
Citra has been given the role as Scythe, taking the name Anastasia. She is determined to be merciful and respectful to the lives she chooses to end. She will not take a life without giving them the proper time for that person to come to terms with their death. She is determined to make the Scythe purpose closer to the original purpose, taking life to help society but to never enjoy the act.
Rowan was not give a ring, though he does have one. He is out for revenge. He is out to take down those he believes are destroying the Sycthedom. He has taken on a name fitting to his purpose.
When an old threat resurfaces and is determined to destroy all those in its path it is up to Citra and Rowan to save the society they have come to respect and hold dear, even if it costs them everything.
I was curious where this story was going to go in this sequel. I thought I had an idea, and I was partially right but it was much deeper than what I thought it was going to be. We got to see Rowan’s character develop as well as Citra’s.
I again felt partial to Rowan’s story. I think it is because his is a much more complicated storyline. I have always been partial to the storyline where someone tries to be good while doing bad things. I love to see the way their mind twists and tries to keep a moral high ground while doing things that we would normally find reprehensible.
Rowan starts this book as a vigilante. He is out to take down all the Scythe’s who abuse their power. He is ruthless and he even adopts the name Scythe Lucifer. I understood his point, he knew these were the Scythe’s that were destroying the true nature of the work they were supposed to be doing. The way he stalked them and killed them though was hard to read at times.
I wondered if he was going to end up a god-like figure. Someone certain people admired for his work but that wasn’t the case. He was feared, he was understood but never admired. I liked that part way through he understood that what he was doing wasn’t going to solve anything. He was helping to take out part of the problem but wasn’t solving the problem. I liked that this distinction was made.
I liked too that Citra seemed to come into her own in this book. We saw her decide to give her targets time to get their affairs in order. We saw her take great respect in taking a life. I liked how she was understanding enough to do what needed to be done while also still having the fighting spirit when necessary. I think her character plays well against Rowan’s character.
I also really enjoyed the addition of the Thunderhead as a sentient character. In the first book it was just a concept but in this one the in-between portions gave the Thunderhead a personality. I found myself feeling bad for it. It just wants to help the world. It wants to save humanity and yet it isn’t all powerful. I liked that it got frustrated and upset while, making it feel very human.
I am very curious how its character will develop in the next book. I can see it really becoming human like which will be interesting. The storyline of AI becoming human has been done many times before but I am still very interested to see where this one goes.
I also really enjoyed the ending, while the middle again felt a little slow the ending threw everything out the window. I have zero idea how this is going to play out. I am very curious where the story will go. How much time will pass and how this will all end?
I am still not a fan of the romance between Citra and Rowan. It is still feeling forced to me. I think a lot of times authors feel like YA books have to have a romance storyline but that isn’t always true.
These two feel very much to me like best friends. They care about each other but there is no real romantic feelings between them. I want to see them bond as friends who will go to any lengths to protect each other. I want to see them center their relationship on their shared experience and their shared desire to bring respect to death. I don’t need to see them try to find a way to be romantically involved, that would change the direction of the story which would hurt the story I think.
There was nothing that I really found out of bounds or threw me out of the story. I enjoyed the pacing. I enjoyed the story itself. I enjoyed the characters. I am eager to see where the story goes from here.
I gave this four of five stars on Goodreads. I loved the continuation of the story. I enjoyed seeing the characters evolve and loved the ending. I just hope this doesn’t swerve into a romance story.
“Did people miss the dizzy extremes of imagination as they lived their endless, uninspired lives?” (pg. 15)
“Simply put, humanity had a need to be bad. ” (pg. 99)
“While freedom gives rise to growth and enlightenment, permission allows evil to flourish in a light of day that would otherwise destroy it.” (pg. 176)
“Faith is an unfortunate casualty of immortality.” (pg. 241)
“….finding an easy scapegoat for complicated problems had been a human pastime since the first mob of cavemen struck someone down with a rock.” (pg. 326)
Death has been conquered. You hit your head on the sidewalk, fall off a building or end up in a car crash and you are taken to a revival center. You body is mended and you are able to live your life again. Humans are immortal.
Death has been conquered but the world is not perfect. The population has to be controlled, a job left to an elite group known as Scythes. They are charged with “gleaning” or killing people in order to keep the world’s population under control.
The Scythedom appears like a well oiled machine on the outside but on the inside it is falling apart. Something that two new apprentices Citra and Rowan begin to learn quickly. They can become masters of death but is that something they want? What does it mean to be the one that controls if people live or die? What does that do to a person? Can you keep your moral heart and do this job?
The concept of death being conquered is what drew me to this story. I loved the idea of a story that centers around reapers or scythes. This group is not one that you find in stories very often and I was eager to find out how this concept was interpreted.
I thought the idea of no one dying and what that means for the people was really interesting. It is pointed out numerous times that without the fear of death and an end to life, people have become complacent. They just live to live. They don’t work towards anything. They know they have literally eternity and no one really strives to make anything of themselves. They are all alive to be alive.
There are no more issues to conquer. There is no hunger, no war, no real crime and no death. All of life is controlled by an AI called the Thunderhead. Life is literally perfect and simple. But without anything new to discover and no problems to conquer what does life mean then? What do you do when you can’t change anything? What do you do when your job is to just keep you from being bored? What does life mean in this world? I loved exploring that concept.
I also really enjoyed Citra and Rowan’s journey’s. In this book Rowan stood out to me more than Citra did. I think it was because Rowan was thrown into a situation where he had to find a way to keep the good side of him alive. I really enjoyed watching him struggle between two sides of himself.
Rowan gets caught up with a group of Scythes that love to kill. They enjoy bringing death to people. In our world they would be classified as Sociopaths. They show no care or remorse for their actions. They take in Rowan and we watch as he struggles to not become them though that is not an easy task.
For a character who has always felt invisible or like “lettuce” as he puts it, he finds his new role enticing. There is power at his fingertips. There is meaning to his actions. People notice him. He is caught up in that feeling at times and we watch him struggle to keep himself from falling down a wormhole. I love watching characters struggle with their darker sides.
At first I thought I had an idea of what this story was going to be about. These two apprentices coming to terms with their new roles and then fighting to right any wrongs. It had some of that but there were some serious twists throughout the story. I actually found myself shocked at points. Any book that can throw me for a loop is one that I will enjoy.
There was a middle chunk where Citra was running away, for a reason that I won’t state to no spoil anything, that I thought was not necessary. It was there more to give her something to do while Rowan was completing a part of his story. It was also an update on another character.
I thought it felt like it was just there to buy time. There was no real consequences of the whole ordeal other than some character development. For the plot thought it really didn’t do to much. I think there are other ways for those moments to happen without needless running around.
I also had a little issue with how resolute Scythe Curie was about Rowan having turned dark while he was with his tutor. She was firm that he was not on their side anymore and that Citra could not trust him. I thought that seemed harsh. They didn’t even talk to Rowan at first. It was a decision made quickly without thinking about why he did what he did.
I think Curie’s character was smarter and could have seen that some of the things Rowan did was to save himself and Citra. I just felt like her character was not the right character to have this doubt. It just didn’t fit with what we knew about her.
The only true issue I had with the book was the romance aspect. I did not feel any chemistry between Citra and Rowan. I thought of them more as best friends. There was no reason for them to have a romance storyline. I think it would have been better to keep them as close friends and nothing more.
I highly enjoyed this book and went out at ten o’clock to Target to get the next one to continue the story. I ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads. It is a fun story about what life and death mean in this “perfect” world.
“So then, if we are no longer human, what are we?” (pg. 110)
“The sanctity of the law… and the wisdom to know when it must be broken.” (pg. 114)
“Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.” (pg. 191)
“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy. The best we get is pleasantness.” (pg. 244)
“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace of 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 were lose that.” (pg. 386)