I recently read Scythe for the first time (find that recap here) and it BLEW MY MIND. I, of course, immediately read Thunderhead and it BLEW MY MIND EVEN MORE! Neal Shusterman is an evil mastermind genius and how dare he leave me hanging at the end of the book like that??
To prep for The Toll, which is out now(!!), I’ve recapped (with much emotion) what happened in Thunderhead for you below.
If you stumbled across this post and haven’t read Thunderhead yet, GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY and be warned: there are spoilers ahead.
The Thunderhead Recap You Need Before The Toll Comes Out
Part One: Nothing If Not Powerful
Rowan is running around MidMerica as Scythe Lucifer in black, taking out corrupt scythes. He threatens Scythe Brahms, who sounds like a serial killer, but Rowan gives him a chance to redeem himself. High Blade Xenocrates is desperate to hunt Rowan down and even has a trialogue with the Thunderhead to gather information. The Thunderhead, like us, thinks Rowan is a baller and gives no information.
Citra is running around MidMerica as Scythe Anastasia in turquoise, giving her selected targets a month of warning before gleaning them. It’s causing quite a stir.
Rowan and Citra have a clandestine meeting where they wonder why the Thunderhead does what it does, and I wonder why Neal Shusterman is BREAKING MY HEART like this.
Tyger finds Rowan briefly, telling him that his dad was gleaned. He then heads to Texas for a fun! new! job! Turns out it’s with Scythe Rand who is NOT DEAD? Nobody panic; I’m panicking.
Part Two: Harm’s Way
We meet Greyson Tolliver, whose parents are kind of the worst, so he was raised by the Thunderhead, who tells him he’s special. Sounds like my mom. He’s on the path to become a Nimbus agent when he’s called up to headquarters and lectured on the rules for the separation of Scythe and State. He’s like, well yeah duh, until the Nimbus agent casually drops that there’s a threat to Scythes Anastasia and Curie’s lives, but the Thunderhead can’t do anything about it. Greyson, being the upstanding fellow that he is, takes this as the hint that it is, and throws himself in front of Curie’s car to warn them of a booby trap in the road.
Greyson winds up deadish for his actions, gets kicked out of the academy, and is marked as unsavory, which means the Thunderhead can no longer speak to him. OOF. He’s questioned in a questionable way by Scythe Constantine, who is also investigating Rowan, but Citra shows up and puts a stop to that. What we’ve learned so far in this book is that doing the right thing kind of sucks. But Greyson is a treasure and decides to embrace the unsavory lifestyle, working as an unofficial double agent searching for blind spots the Thunderhead can’t see.
Scythe Faraday confronts Rowan, who is still on the run, and tells him of his plan to search for the Land of Nod, which Faraday thinks is a fail safe created by the Scythe founders, and not just a line from a nursery rhyme.
We check in on Tyger who is being trained by Scythe Rand. He thinks he’s on track to become an apprentice, but you can’t trust Scythe Rand okay??
Part Three: Enemies Within Enemies
Faraday heads to the Great Library of Alexandria, rebuilt by the Thunderhead and then hijacked by scythes to house their journals (typical). There he ropes Munira, a part-time employee and full-time scythe expert, into helping him look through scythe journals in the hopes of finding Nod.
Scythe Constantine meets with Scythe Curie and Citra, trying to convince them it would be safest if they went into hiding. Citra has a better idea: luring their attacker into a trap with one of her upcoming gleanings. They lay their trap for a very public gleaning during a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. So extra.
Greyson transforms himself into Slayd, an unsavory with an over-the-top backstory of destruction. He meets Purity, who is full-on unsavory and quite dangerous. Naturally, he falls head-over-heels in love with her. They have a lovely unsavory time together until she tells him she’s got a plan to kill some scythes. Greyson is like I DID NOT DO ALL THIS FOR THAT and tries to warn the Thunderhead but his Nimbus agent, the only person who knew his actual identity, has been gleaned! He’ll have to stop the plot himself!
Rowan visits Xenocrates in the Roman baths and finds out that Scythe Brahms gleaned his father. (See my note about doing the right thing being the worst.) Rowan is a total idiot, forgoing all of this training, and confronts Brahms, only to be captured (along with MY HEART).
Part Four: Cry Havoc
Greyson, as Slayd, tries to uncover the plot to kill the scythes but Purity is keeping her lips sealed, except to proudly admit she got his agent gleaned. Girl, no. Slayd is instructed to create a diversion on the street, realizing at the last second what the unsavories have planned. We jump to Scythe Anastasia in Julius Caesar, who gleans most magnificently on stage. Greyson runs inside, because WE KNEW the scythes Purity is trying to kill are Curie and Anastasia. Greyson tries to warn everyone, but it’s a disaster. Purity is gleaned but Greyson manages to cut the pipes before acid can rain down upon everyone in the theater, rendering them unrevivable.
Greyson is at a total loss with what to do now that his first love is dead and both Scythe and State are after him, so he arranges a secret meeting with Citra. She can’t do much for him, but suggests he take refuge in a nearby Tonist monastery. That which comes can’t be avoided…
The captured Rowan wakes up to find he’s trapped with Tyger who is trapped (rather willingly because he’s got a crush) with Scythe Rand. Rand makes Rowan spar with Tyger, who remains cheerfully optimistic through each loss. It’s not going well, but it could be worse, until one day Tyger shows up to spar but HE’S WEARING GODDARD’S HEAD. Rand somehow saved Goddard’s decapitated head and put it on Tyger’s body in a terrifying rebirth. It’s as awful as you think.
Part Five: Circumstances Beyond
Faraday and Murina have discovered something in their research, or rather the lack of a thing: a blind spot on the planet where no planes fly. Ohhh!
The Winter Conclaves rolls around and the New Order and Old Guard are at odds more than ever. A junior scythe named Morrison is trying to suck up to Anastasia but Citra isn’t having it. Xenocrates drops a bomb on everyone, announcing that he is joining the World Scythe Council and his High Blade seat will soon be open. Scythe Curie is nominated to take his place, and then Scythe Brahms drops an actual bomb, nominating Goddard, who strolls in like the drama
queen serial killer he is. After some uproar, the two debate, and the vote is cast. Citra has an epiphany and calls for an inquest before the results are read, on the grounds that Goddard isn’t actually a scythe because he’s only 7% him (shoutout to Tyger saving the day!). The inquest is granted and Goddard storms out and gleans a bunch of people in retaliation. UGH you’re the worst.
Goddard takes out the rest of his frustration on Rowan, who refuses to lose to Goddard, and is killed and revived again and again. The Thunderhead speaks to Rowan as he did to Citra when he’s deadish, telling him he has a 39% chance of making a difference in the world. Are those good odds?? After 7 deaths, Goddard decides Rowan needs a public death in Endura and finally lets up. He’s busy hatching some sort of evil plan involving any engineers he hasn’t killed yet. Not ominous at all.
Throughout the book, we’ve been hearing snippets of thought from the Thunderhead, who is very invested in Faraday and Murina and Greyson, who remains with the Tonists. The Thunderhead also seems to be having some sort of midlife crisis, questioning its own existence.
Part Six: Endura and Nod
Scythes Anastasia and Curie arrive in Endura for the inquest. It’s a beautiful feat of human engineering, but because the Thunderhead has no power there, it’s kind of a mess (like our world today- fun!). They take a tour of the island, including the Museum of the Scythedom, which contains a vault filled with the founder’s robes and 400,000 scythe gems forged by their founders.
Rowan is having a much worse trip to Endura since he’s still Goddard’s prisoner. But turns out Scythe Rand might have a heart after all? She can’t help her attraction to Goddard because he has Tyger’s body, and when he handily rejects her, she allows Rowan to go free in revenge. Rowan knows something bigger is afoot and tries to find Citra to warn her (swoon).
Faraday and Murina visit the Library of Congress where they discover a grouping of islands in the Thunderhead’s blind spot. Not just islands though, they’re atolls, like the tolls in the nursery rhyme! But of course as they discover this, so does the Thunderhead. Should we be worried?
Scythes Anastasia and Curie square off against Goddard and Rand in the World Council chamber, where the Grandslayers unanimously agree that Goddard is disqualified and Curie should be High Blade of MidMerica. YES! We get to celebrate for about one second before we realize there’s something very wrong with Endura, which begins to sink. Rowan finds Citra (FINALLY, YES) and chaos ensues as everyone tries to escape. The Grandslayers are set upon by sharks and we realize this was Goddard’s evil plan all along as he flies over them in a helicopter gloating. Um WHAT.
Scythe Curie leads Rowan and Citra into the Museum of the Scythedom and locks them in the Vault of Relics and Futures, sacrificing herself so that they may die to be revived someday. Curie gleans herself (NOPE NOPE NOPE) and Citra and Rowan embrace as they die. Meanwhile, I’m having trouble seeing the last chapter through my tears.
As they die, the Thunderhead screams in anguish and the Tonists know their Great Resonance has come. Everyone in the world is marked as unsavory…except Greyson Tolliver, to whom the Thunderhead says, “We need to talk.”
SEE WHY WE CAN’T WAIT TO READ THE TOLL?!