REVIEW: The Toll by Neal Shusterman
In the Toll, we continue to follow Citra and Rowan after the events of the previous book in which Scythe Goddard drowned the scythedom sacred place of Endura underwater leaving thousands killed and lost at sea. As her last act, Scythe Curie, saved both Rowan and Citra from being drowned by locking them in a vault to preserve their bodies. This would allow them to be eventually revived when the island is eventually searched, even if that took years. At the moment of Endura sinking, The Thunderhead screams for ten minutes straight as it cannot understand what humanity has become. The AI falls silent to everybody but one, Greyson Tolliver, who went undercover for the thunderhead as unsavoury. He calls for the AI in that moment, and the thunderhead finally replies to him after months. It says, we need to talk.
Following on from those events, time has clearly past and the thunderhead still only talks to one but gives some clues to people as to what to do, not leaving them completely. Scythe Faraday and Munira Atrushi have found the land of nod, the one place on earth hidden from the Thunderhead to preserve itself as a failsafe if anything happened to the AI. They find two secret bunkers, one they can enter, and one they cannot. The second one cannot be opened without two scythe rings and since Munira is not a scythe that leaves them with one ring only. Unfortunately for them, they have crashed their plane and there is no way off the island.
Whilst this is happening, the thunderhead allows former nimbus agents to kidnap Greyson. Though the thunderhead is all knowing, he allows them to do this, to give the former agents information because he cannot send it directly to them, he uses Greyson as his intermediary. Greyson as told by the thunderhead, tells them the co-ordinates of the land of nod, having just found out about it via the plane that went down. The nimbus agents gather and tell others of the news and that they must head to the land of nod. Regrettably, not a lot of the people survive due to the heavily guarded island. The guns that surround the island fire on them, thinking that they are the enemy. Lots of lives were lost and not even just dead-ish anymore. Because there is no thunderhead in this area, it cannot give them any more chances at life. Just as the mortals were once. Luckily, the guns are jammed by Munira and Scythe Faraday and they are able to rescue those that remain.
Whilst this is happening, Citra and Rowan have been found in the vault that also has the scythe diamonds in it. However, in order to keep the two of them safe from Goddard, Scythe Possuelo hides them in his region. Unfortunately, one of Scythe Possuelo’s men betrays them and Goddard finds out that they are alive. Because of this, they must hide in a region that is not aligned with Goddard in any way. The scythes in this region convince Scythe Anastasia (Citra) to broadcast the knowledge that she has found in the back brain of the thunderhead. Goddard retrieves Rowan however and calls for a public gleaning of the Scythe Lucifer. Rowan escapes his gleaning and Goddard plays of his escape as part of the show and that the reason why they are all there is for a mass gleaning.
The tonists have claimed Greyson Tolliver as their own and claim that he is the Toll. After all, he isn’t lying to the tonists, he does have toll in his last name. He is the last one that can talk to the thunderhead and as such this raises him to fame as the Toll. Because he is an inconvenience to Goddard though, he tries to have a scythe glean him, it back fires however, as the toll offers the scythe a way out and to instead join him and fake his death. They do so and then travel the world speaking their truth and calming violent tonists. Meanwhile, people are getting work orders for materials like they have never seen, all sent by the thunderhead for the land of nod.
Eventually, Scythe Anastasia is lead to the Toll via the thunderhead playing a backseat role. The Toll and Anastasia instantly recognise each other and have a bit of a laugh about it. A while later though, they are both spotted by one of Goddard’s men and tells him that they are together. Two of his worst enemies are together. They end up reaching the land of nod. They tow in the boats the tonists that the scythedom has gleaned as a substitute for everything that had gone wrong. Luckily, Rowan is found hiding in one of the boxes. A new AI that is on the island, Cirrus, speaks to them for the first time. The AI explains everything that the thunderhead had done. He provides them with a plan that they will escape the earth and the scythedom by going into space but they must decide what to do. They decide yes, and Cirrus is uploaded to all 42 spaceships that were built on the isle. Greyson wakes up with a warning from the Thunderhead that everyone must leave. This is the thunderheads way of saying that Goddard is coming for all of them because the thunderhead cannot say it outright as it cannot intervene in scythe affairs.
Scythe Anastasia is rendered deadish by a piece of shrapnel that has fallen from one of the ships. Fortunately she is saved by Rowan and brought back to the ship. But Cirrus dictates that he has orders to awake the deadish only when they are at their destination in 100 years time. Faraday and Munira are still on the island. They activate the failsafe of the scythedom with Citra’s ring. It causes all of the scythe rings to explode with nanites that are programmed to kill 5% of the population 5 times a century to curb the population issue. The people on the spaceships are completely unaware of what happened on earth after they left and never have contact with them again. We later see Citra opening her eyes waking up with Rowan standing over her and welcoming her to their new world.
Overall, this was a fantastic ending to the trilogy. Neal Shusterman did a fantastic job at closing the series. We kind of see a happy ending but with something more sprinkled on top. In this book however, though they are featured, this book focuses less on Citra and Rowan and more on the rest of the world. This means that we can explore more and see the outcomes of the scythedom across the world. This is something that is not featured in dystopian too much. We always see what America does, but not enough of the rest of the world.
As said, we do see less of Citra and Rowan but that also makes you miss the characters more and enjoy them when they have their own screen time.
4 out of 5 stars.