Book Review: THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman

The Toll
Genre: Sci-Fi/Dystopia
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: yes - final book in trilogy



Book cover for THE TOLL: two charaers in green robes and holding scythes flank a figure in purple

I do not speak with the voice of the Thunder, but the Thunder does speak through me.

Everything has changed in the world of the scythes. Citra and Rowan have disappeared. The floating city of Endura is gone. It looks like nothing else stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute power. Now that the Thunderhead is silent, the question remains: is there anyone left who can stop him?

The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll and the Thunder.

Synopsis taken from the blurb on my copy. Add to your Goodreads shelves here.


This book had superb pacing and an intriguing plot that kept me reading late.

However, I almost DNF’ed the book in the first half. The writing was superb, but I was struggling to care and was really frustrated that Shusterman had continued what he’d started in THUNDERHEAD – not focusing on the series leads established in SCYTHE.

Rowan and Citra don’t appear until chapter 13, and then not again for a while. To be honest, they don’t really feature in the first half. The second half features Citra as a prominent character, but Rowan comes up in maybe five chapters. It’s as if he’s been discarded completely, given a task to make him irrelevant to the plot, because the author didn’t know what to do with him.

The lack of the main characters really irritated me. Yes, they’ve been stuck in a sealed box for three years, and are dead with no one able to access them for a while, but I wanted to read about them. SCYTHE was more or less exclusively about them, with other POVs thrown in occasionally to build their story. Now one is little more than a footnote and the other doesn’t matter until the second half. I like to follow the same characters, watch them fight the baddie and grown, but this series hasn’t let me do that.

Instead of following them, we follow Grayson as he becomes the Toll. Frankly, he’s this book’s main character (it’s even named after him) It was interesting, and I really liked his relationship with the Thunderhead, but I wanted Rowan and Citra.

The first half also includes Scythe Rand (who’s in love with Tyger, the boy she killed to resurrect Goddard and we’re supposed to like her?), and Faraday and Munira. Rand’s chapters exist purely to show what’s going on with Goddard, to show his desire for power and that he’s unstable. Meanwhile Faraday and Munira live on an island where the founding Scythes built a back up in case of trouble.

The narrative splits into three timeline around this point: a month or two after the end of book 2 (Faraday/Munira and Rand), a year after (Grayson) and three years after (the salvage operation that finds Citra and Rowan). I had to message a friend to check if it had split because I was so confused.

Then Faraday, Munira and Rand drop out as we follow Citra and Grayson, returning to a linear timeline. What was the point of including them in a big chunk at the start, then dropping them for half the book? And if there was going to be a timeline split for 20%, why not extend that to the whole book so that we could have had Citra the entire time and not have POVs coming and going?

Overall, the lack of focus on the main characters really irritated me because I wanted to follow them.

Read my reviews of other books by Neal Shusterman:

Arc of a Scythe (this series):


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