Book Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

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There is always a sense of trepidation when knowing you will be reviewing an absolutely stellar books sequel. All too often the first book in a series is the most compelling to me. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about Thunderhead. It seems rare that I find the second book in a series more than just a “bridging novel.” Thunderhead didn’t give me the same gripping, intense love that Scythe did and I am finding it hard to pinpoint exactly why it feels that way. (Speaking of which, If you haven’t already, and would like to read my spoiler free review of Scythe, you can do so by clicking here.)

Thunderhead picks up a year after the events of Scythe. We are introduced to new characters from the get go, which felt a little bit like “starting fresh” rather than a continuation of the original plot. I understand that these characters, one in particular, will have a bigger role in future novels, however I just felt that Thunderhead was, for lack of a better word, a little boring for the majority of its pages. It took me at least 200-300 pages into a 500 page novel before I started to enjoy the book as much as I did with Scythe. I never felt that “drive” to keep reading like I do with so many other books.

The main characters from Scythe, particularly Rowan, didn’t get much airtime until later in the book which was upsetting because his chapters where the ones I found most compelling. And although we are specifically told that certain characters serve a bigger purpose in the corrupt world of the Scythes, it’s not really explored all that much in this novel and again, felt like a set up for the following book. There was however, a couple of great moments throughout the book. Times where I did find myself on the edge of my seat or being blown away at how well the author can turn us in circles before we know what’s really going on! But like I said they were few and far between or were towards the end of the novel.

The “Thunderhead” itself is described as being essentially like the “iCloud” of today but has advanced enough to become a conscious being, which acts as a virtual “mother” so to speak, to the Earth and its inhabitants. I did enjoy this books exploration into how drastically humanity relies on technology, a sentiment that resonates with us even in reality, and what happens when that technology can no longer sit idly by when the corrupt begin to disrupt the peace and order it has maintained.

I will pick up the next book, if only because the last two hundred-ish pages were action packed enough for me to want to see what happens to these characters. We are left with quite a cliffhanger and some really brilliant and tragic revelations. I just wish I could have felt that same intrigue for more than just the last half of this book. That is why I’ll be giving this book 3.5 stars.

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