The Toll, Neal Shusterman

The final instalment in the Arc of a Scythe series is one book I’ve been absolutely desperate to read after the shocking cliff-hanger in Thunderhead – talk about starting in a bad situation. But even then, their situation goes from bad to worse to basically hell on earth.

*Obviously spoiler warning for the first two books*

The world was drastically changed after the sinking of Endura and is in a worse situation than ever; Goddard has made himself the high ruler of North Merica; Tonists have become dangerous fanatics; and the Thunderhead has cut itself from everyone but Greyson Toliver. Now in a place of power, Greyson finds himself both the biggest target in the world and one of the few who could help it. After an immense time deadish, Citra and Rowan woke to be a symbol of hope and an infamous terrorist. Forced on different paths due to the world’s perception of them, Citra and Rowan are torn away from each other.

Citra and Rowan finally admit their feelings for each other, but sadly this only seems to make the pain of the separation stronger. Made worse by the fact that every scythe in North Merica is hunting them (on Goddard’s orders) while absolutely everyone is after Rowan. These two really matured during these challenges and it was great to see them equally grow into their roles, find their directions in life and continue to strive during overwhelming odds. On top of this, I loved the budding relationship between Jerico and another character (no spoilers), and how they respectfully and casually addressed dating a nonbinary like it was no big deal – because it shouldn’t be!

We switch to new character POVs throughout the novel which really helps you truly understand each character – even if their one contribution is a quick action – and shows numerous continents. I loved these POVs, it really helped the fast pace and at times philosophically looked at what it means to be human. My favourite thing about this was finally getting to see how each region differs from one another, something that has been mentioned repeatedly. One character, Jerico – my new favourite – is incredibly fascinating and is from Madagascar, a region that raises children without gender and adds great diversity to the cast. I loved learning more about how the Thunderhead thought. The Thunderhead’s development and character arc was intriguing and is truly unique amongst AI characters.

The stakes were higher than ever with the future and lives of the entire human race at risk (I’ve never read a book with such high stake for the human race). What made this story stand out is that they were at risk in a very subtle way; thousands were being massacred yet Godad’s charm and propaganda made the majority blind to the sheer horror of his actions. But Goddard wasn’t the only threat in this world and he may not have even been the most dangerous – which is truly saying something!

There were several twists and reveals, some of which had been building since the first book. My absolutely favourite thing about this book was that Rowan and Citra both continued towards their goals while still being very devoted to each other. It’s great to see a couple where neither person had to sacrifice their goals for a relationship and are truly equal partners. I am glad to say it was worth the wait, I give it 5/5. It is impressive the author managed to finish the series on a high note and I can finally recommend the entire trilogy.

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