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?
I generally dislike the second books in those popular YA series (i.e. Insurgent, The Scorch Trials and etc.). They do not live up the hype that was created by the first book. Thunderhead however is an exception. And I would say that it may be better than the first installment (Scythe)!
The lives and social structure of a Scythe is the main focus of the first book. In this book, the concept of separation between Thunderhead and the Scythedom is highlighted. Essentially, Thunderhead is a super advanced AI (as it has emotions and a conscience) which controls everything in the world, except death. Death falls under the purview of the Scythedom. There is a clear separation between the state and scythes whereby it will be a violation if Thunderhead interferes with matters which fall within the jurisdiction of scythes. In other words, while Thunderhead is super powerful and is aware of the evil acts of the new order of Scythes (who enjoy killing without conscience and act beyond their 10 commandments), it cant do anything to stop them as it is a violation of the law.
We follow a lot of Thunderhead’s POV in this book. It is interesting as it is not a typical story of AI suddenly turn evil and humans are trying to stop it. In fact its the other way round. We see how humans can be super reliant on technology, not only in the petty matters in their daily life but to the extent of authorizing Thunderhead to take care of their own child. It is also clear from this book that sometimes, human nature can be scarier than AI.
We also follow the journey of our 2 main characters, Citra (who became a Scythe) and Rowan (who went rogue and became a vigilante who kills corrupt Scythes). Some new social classes were also introduced/explained further in this book: the Unsavories (people who have broken the law) as well as the Tonists (a cult who believes in a particular religion). Again there are so many plot twists and the huge cliffhanger at the end of this book just breaks my heart. All I can say is: Neal Shusterman, you have changed my perspective towards YA series! A clear 10/10 star read for Thunderhead!