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Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

thunderhead cover

The basics

Title: Thunderhead

Author:

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

- Scythe (2017)
- Thunderhead (2018)
- The Toll (2019)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

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. 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?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. 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?

Read a full summary of Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman below. If you can’t remember what happened in Thunderhead and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

what happened in Thunderhead?

  • Thunderhead starts with Rowan, as Scythe Lucifer, threatening to glean Scythe Brahms. Scythe Brahms is part of the new order of scythes, and is known to side with Scythe Goddard. Brahms has been gleaning people without respect or compassion, so Scythe Lucifer gives him a month to turn it around.
  • Xenocrates goes to confession, except it’s a bit different to our modern day confessionals. In order to speak to the Thunderhead (which isn’t allowed to speak to scythes), Xenocrates has to speak through two other people. Xenocrates wants to know why the Thunderhead isn’t doing anything to stop Scythe Lucifer. The Thunderhead basically says it’s not its problem.
  • Citra, as Scythe Anastasia, has been gleaning people for a while now. She gives them a month to sort their lives out and say goodbye to their friends and family, and she lets people choose how they want to be gleaned. This is actually really nice.
  • There’s a conclave, and the older scythes try to tell Citra off, but she’s not actually breaking any rules.
  • Tyger finds Rowan and tells him he’s moving to Texas, which is a Charter Region, meaning the Thunderhead doesn’t watch it all that much. Tyger also tells Rowan that his father was gleaned and that Rowan missed the funeral. Rowan correctly guesses that this gleaning was revenge for what Scythe Lucifer has been doing.
  • Scythe Rand is the one that hired Tyger in Texas. Tyger assumes he’s going to train to be a scythe.
  • Greyson Tolliver is called into the AI HQ, and is quizzed on the rules regarding scythes. Apparently the Thunderhead was involved with this. The Nimbus agent who’s testing him, Traxler, asks what would happen to Greyson if he were to tell Scythe Anastia and Scythe Curie about their lives being in danger. Greyson would be banned from becoming a Nimbus agent.
  • Citra visits her family for Thanksgiving (I’m surprised this is still a thing). The family gets into an argument.
  • A few days later, Citra is driving herself and Marie to a gleaning. She hits a man with her car when he jumps in front of it. He lies there dying, but he also warns Citra about a booby trap. There’s a wire in the road that would have undoubtedly caused an explosion and killed the two scythes.
  • The man is obviously Greyson. He’s revived, taken to the Nimbus Academy, and then marked as unsavory. The Thunderhead can’t speak to unsavory citizens either, so apparently there are lots of holes in the Thunderhead’s presence.
  • Marie and Citra are forced to stay in hotels, and Marie’s house is no longer safe.
  • Citra goes to find Greyson, but before she reaches him the Blade Guard arrive and try to arrest him. Citra offers Greyson immunity, but he rejects her offer. He’s also really vague about what he did to save the scythes.
  • Traxler is now Greyson’s parole officer. He vaguely suggests that Greyson goes undercover as an unsavory in order to spy for the Thunderhead. This is all very unofficial, of course.
  • Rowan gleans Scythe Renoir, who has been performing some kind of ethnic cleansing.
  • Faraday visits Rowan in the middle of the night. He is a bit upset with his former apprentice. While Faraday is talking about Citra, Rowan realises that she must be in danger. Faraday says he is going to look for the Land of Nod, which is supposed to be only fiction.
  • Faraday goes to the rebuilt Library of Alexandria. He asks Munira, one of the people working there, to show him the journals of the scythe founders. He wants to research something for a secret project.
  • Scythe Constantine tells Marie and Citra that their gleaning quota can be suspended since their lives are in danger. Constantine tells Citra not to worry about most of the people she was going to glean, and he has already done so. Citra plans to set a trap for the people who are after her by going to her remaining gleanings.
  • Greyson, as Slayd, goes to an unsavory club. It’s all a bit uncomfortable. He meets a few people, including a girl called Purity. Greyson tells Traxler that he thinks he’s onto something but he tries not to mention Purity specifically. Someone has a crush!
  • Citra’s final gleaning is for a guy who wants to die while playing Julies Caesar. The group plans to limit tickets to the performance and have agents in place to catch whoever has been trying to kill them.
  • Rowan goes to see Xenocrates at his bathhouse. Xenocrates agrees to stop looking for Rowan, and to start investigating the Marie/Citra situation. In return, Rowan will stop gleaning in MidMerica.
  • Xenocrates tells Rowan that Scythe Brahms gleaned his father.
  • Traxler is gleaned out of the blue. Greyson gets a new parole officer, but no one seems to know about his real identity or his mission.
  • Greyson tries to speak to the Thunderhead but obviously gets no response.
  • Rowan goes to glean Brahms, but he is captured by some guards.
  • Citra breaks a Tonist’s arm when she thinks he’s there to kill her or Marie. Marie puts the Tonist’s arm in a splint.
  • Rowan wakes up at Rand’s place. Rand makes Rowan fight Tyger. Tyger doesn’t listen when Rowan tells him he’s in danger.
  • Purity tells Greyson there’s an unsavory plan afoot. She also says that she’s the one who had Traxler gleaned because Greyson didn’t seem to like him.
  • Purity and Greyson reach the theatre where the Julius Caesar play is happening. Greyson’s role is to cause a distraction while Purity sneaks in and puts acid in the pipes, which will then kill everyone inside.
  • Citra gleans Julius Caesar. Greyson warns Constantine, who then warns the audience. He also shoots Purity. Greyson breaks the pipes so that the sprinklers won’t spray out the acid. Some acid gets in Constantine’s face.
  • Greyson sends Citra a note. Citra assumes the note is from Rowan and goes to meet him. Greyson asks Citra for help, and she tells him to go to the Tonists.
  • Tyger disappears for a couple of days. He returns to Rowan’s room (prison) in a wheelchair, and with Scythe Goddard’s head on his neck. Rand saved Goddard’s head, and put it on Tyger’s body.
  • Munira has been looking into flight patterns, and it turns out that they seem to avoid one specific area in the Pacific. She and Faraday think this is where the Land of Nod is.
  • The Winter Conclave is held in Fulcrum City. Xenocrates announces that he’s going to become a Grandslayer, and that his position as High Blade will become open. The scythes nominate Marie and Scythe Nietzsche.
  • Goddard makes an entrance and is nominated. Nietzsche withdraws, so it’s now just between Goddard and Marie. The scythes vote, and just before the new High Blade is announced, Anastasia objects on the grounds that Goddard is only 7% Goddard in this new body. She calls for an inquest.
  • Goddard kills Rowan almost every day because he can’t beat him in a fair fight. While Rowan is deadish, the Thunderhead speaks to him. The Thunderhead says that Rowan has a 39% chance of impacting the world.
  • Goddard and Rand take Rowan to Endura, the city of the scythes that is a manmade floating island. Goddard plans on presenting Rowan to the Grandslayers after his inquest.
  • Goddard goes to see Xenocrates and threatens to reveal that Rowan visited Xenocrates in the bathhouse and that Xenocrates let him go.
  • Anastasia and Marie go to look at a museum in Endura, which houses the Enduring Heart. This heart represents humanity’s immortality.
  • Faraday and Munira go to Washington DC (or what’s left of it) so they can research in the Library of Congress. Someone has been keeping books back there in secret. The pair are looking for maps to try to pinpoint where the Land of Nod is.
  • Rand tries to seduce Goddard, but he’s having none of it. Furious and embarrassed, she lets Rowan escape to get back at Goddard.
  • Munira discovers the Marshall Islands on one of the maps. Remembering the childhood poem about the Land of Nod, everything starts to make sense. She discusses this discovery with Faraday, and unfortunately (I think?) the Thunderhead has been watching them. The Land of Nod seems to be something that the Thunderhead was never meant to know about.
  • The Thunderhead is a bit pissed but also forgiving. IT wants to continue looking after humankind, and it thinks that to do that perfectly, it needs to know everything.
  • Goddard discovers that Rowan is gone, and Rand blames Brahms. Goddard kills Brahms, which violates the seventh commandment. Oh dear.
  • Weird glitches start to happen around the island, and the technicians and engineers are all so unprepared.
  • The Grandslayers hold council. They listen to Anastasia and Goddard, and then break to discuss the situation. They reconvene, and announce that they will allow Goddard to remain alive for now, but he is not to become High Blade. Goddard will need to go through his apprenticeship again. Marie becomes the new High Blade (with a unanimous vote, btw).
  • The computer systems on Endura malfunction and the island begins to fill with water. The marine life starts to circle the island and it’s all very creepy.
  • Rowan finds Anastasia and warns her and Marie about Goddard. At this point, most of the island is in chaos. Marie tries to head to the marina, but it’s overrun with people.
  • The Grandslayers are stuck in the council chambers. Goddard flies overhead with a helicopter, and pretends he wants to save them, but instead he just lures them into the water and allows the sharks to eat them. Xenocrates isn’t having that, and instead makes the decision to drown himself.
  • Goddard tells Rand that no one on the mainland knows what is currently going down on Endura, and no one on the mainland knows what the council decided regarding the High Blade situation.
  • One woman in the crowd realises that Rowan is Scythe Lucifer and tells everyone that he’s the one sinking Endura. Marie, Anastasia, and Rowan have to make a run for it.
  • They head to the museum, and Marie locks Anastasia and Rowan in the vault. It’s air tight, and should sink to the bottom of the ocean. Of course, Rowan and Anastasia will suffocate, but their bodies should eventually be recovered.
  • Marie heads to the top of a tower, and gleans people quickly and painlessly. “Are we rats, or are we scythes?” *sobs*
  • The Thunderhead lets out an electronic scream for ten whole minutes. Every living thing on Earth hears it. The Tonists are thriled because it’s their Great Resonance, which they predicted.
  • Every human being is now marked as unsavory, except Greyson. The Thunderhead greets him and wishes to speak to him.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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