Book Review: The Toll by Neil Schusterman

 book review

The Toll by Neil Schusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

Publication date: 05 November 2019

Genre: YA science fiction

Page count: 640 pages

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This is a spoiler-free review for The Toll, but there will be major spoiler for Scythe and Thunderhead.


The Arc of the Scythe series is a funny one for me, because while I really enjoyed the second book, Thunderhead, I nearly didn’t read it. Scythe had a great concept but I felt the  main characters were poorly executed and Schusterman didn’t let his amazing worldbuilding and ideas shine. Therefore The Toll had a lot of expectation riding on it and I have to say, I didn’t love it. What the hell happened in this book?



It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.


I feel like I can’t say much about The Toll in this review, as many of my thoughts are filled with spoilers. However, this book did land a place in my Most Disappointing Books of 2019 video and you can check out my spoilery rampage here.

What I can say is that while this series has many good ideas (the entire concept of the Scythedom as a way to combat mankind’s dominance over death is brilliant. Everything about how the Scythes operate is brilliant. The factions within the Scythedom are brilliant) I don’t think that he used those ideas to their fullest potential. Rather than including a few good, key ideas as the backbone of The Toll, the book is a huge mess of storylines and disjointed plot points — it often felt like the characters had broken loose of their narrative and were running around in the wrong book (a fun concept, but unintentional!). Add to it the fact that this book takes place over the course of years, glossing over so many things that could have been interesting as more drawn out stories. It feels as though Schusterman either didn’t plan the series well or he should have expanded into a longer series or created more books in an expanded world like Joe Abercrombie’s First Law.

Adding to this is the fact that his own characters are sidelined in their own story — they just don’t feel important at all. All of the intricacies and plot lines that he set up in previous books seem to have been crumpled up and thrown out the window, which is such a pity because characters like Citra and Greyson had so much potential to be incredible. Instead of a cohesive, well-formed character arcs, Schusterman reverted back to the cardboard cutouts of the first book — none of these characters felt realistic or important in their own stories.

I truly believe the Arc of the Scythe series had the potential to be absolutely incredible and one of the best that YA sci-fi had to offer, however this great idea was executed pretty poorly. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but the series left me disappointed!


Want to try The Toll for yourself? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):

Book Depository| Blackwells


Have you read this series yet? What did you think? Let me know!

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