Read a full summary of Thunderhead, the second book in the Arc of a Scythe series. This page is full of spoilers, so beware! If you are looking for a spoiler-free review, check our rapid review (coming soon!). If you need a refresher on what happened in Thunderhead, then you are in the right place!
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Thunderhead?
Scythe Brahms, whose philosophies closely align with the late Scythe Goddard, has just completed an entertaining gleaning when he feels like he’s being followed. The unseen person eventually attacks him. When the assailant has him pinned, he accuses Brahms of abusing his position and crimes against humanity. He realizes it’s Scythe Lucifer. Lucifer says he has one more chance. If he gleans with honor, Brahms will never see Lucifer again. If he continues on his current path, Lucifer will return to glean and burn him so there’s no hope of regeneration.
Before his visit to Brahms, Rowan stood looking in the mirror and asking himself, “Who am I?” His body and mind are unrecognizable after his apprenticeship. This is two years after he began, and he still has never grown used to it. And his mind is divided between the two halves of his apprenticeship: living with conviction like Faraday taught and having no heart like Goddard taught.
After being denied the scythedom, Rowan forged a path of his own. He felt a deep responsibility to remove the cruel, corrupt scythes like Goddard. So he became Scythe Lucifer.
High Blade Xenocrates enters a cathedral for sensitive business: an official trialogue between himself, a Nimbus agent representing the Thunderhead, and a moderator called an Interlocutor. They will go into an old-fashioned confession booth with the Interlocutor sitting between them.
Xenocrates enters the booth first, so he won’t have a chance to see the other two face to face. It’s an awkward, frustrating exchange. Xenocrates wants to know why the Thunderhead hasn’t tried to locate Rowan. The Nimbus agent says the Thunderhead has no jurisdiction over the scythedom. Xenocrates argues that Rowan isn’t an official scythe. The Nimbus agent disagrees and says Rowan is not the Thunderhead’s problem.
Schythe Anastasia (aka Citra) gleans with patience and kindness. She gives her selections one month to put their affairs in order and say their goodbyes. She injects them with a device containing poison that will detonate if they try to run or try to gain immunity from another scythe. This method of gleaning takes more time since she has to meet with her subjects twice and is emotionally exhausting at times. But Citra feels like it’s worth it.
When Citra’s first conclave rolls around, she’s substantially short of her quota. They also discuss her one month warning method and reprimand her for it. She’s surprised that even the old school scythes share the sentiment that she’s showing weakness.
Citra makes her arguments for this method and ultimately silences many of the grumblings. And the parliamentarian can’t find anything legally wrong with it. Scythe Curie is surprised she wasn’t put on some sort of probation and says this ruling shows they’re taking Citra seriously.
Rowan thinks about how he would’ve been the type of scythe that Farrady trained him to be rather than Goddard. Since he was denied the chance, he decides to do his self-assigned task with the same honor.
Rowan’s old friend Tyger shows up unexpectedly at his apartment. He tracked Rowan down to tell him he’s accepted a new job and is moving to Texas. Also, Rowan’s father was gleaned a week ago. The funeral is already over. The rest of the family was granted immunity but was sworn to secrecy about the scythe’s identity.
Rowan realizes this wasn’t a random gleaning. He knows the rest of his family will be picked off one per year until they’re all gone. It’s the price he must pay for being Scythe Lucifer.
Tyger arrives in Texas for his new job. Scythe Rand is the one who greets him. He thinks she’s considering him for a scythe apprenticeship. Whatever it is, she says he’s just what they need.
Greyson was raised by the Thunderhead. This was his father’s fifth and his mother’s third family, and they were tired of raising children. Greyson became a Nimbus agent after graduation because the Thunderhead was also his best friend.
Only two months into his training, he’s called to the local Authority Interface headquarters. A Nimbus agent named Traxler says the Thunderhead wanted to remind Greyson about the rules of this agency regarding the scythedom. After repeating each of these rules to Greyson for the better part of an hour, he quizzes him.
Traxler shows him pictures of Scythes Curie and Anstasia and asks what penalty Greyson would face if he let them know about a current threat against their lives. Greyson said immediate expulsion from his training. He could never do that anyway even knowing what he just discovered because he has no idea how to track them down. Traxler says they live at a notorious place called Falling Water, the address of which would be easy to find. Traxler makes Greyson repeat the consequences once more and then leaves.
Citra goes home for Thanksgiving dinner. She asked her mom to invite no extended family or friends because she knew they would all vie for immunity and be disappointed when she didn’t grant it. The four of them end up fighting at dinner anyway when her mother asks her to stay away from Rowan. Citra knows this isn’t truly home anymore.
Curie lets Citra drive on the way to a double gleaning one morning. A young man jumps out in front of their car. Citra doesn’t react fast enough to miss him. He’s hurt badly. He tries to tell them something before he becomes deadish. Citra realizes what it was when she sees a wire in the road ten feet ahead and follows it to a set of explosives. He was trying to say ‘booby trap.’ Curie says they’ll report it to the scythedom to investigate rather than speculate who could’ve been behind it.
When Greyson is revived from being run over, he learns he’s to take a publicar straight to the Nimbus Academy. He’s going to be questioned by the dean and a few others. He’s been marked as an unsavory.
Greyson tells a half truth about how he knew about the threat to Curie and Anastasia to protect Traxler and the Thunderhead. They buy it. He’s expelled and will now probably be questioned by the scythedom.
Curie says they must become nomads until this is figured out, not to hide but to preserve their lives.
Greyson’s released to go home, but the Thunderhead marked him as an unsavory. Neither strangers nor former friends want much to do with him. Not even the Thunderhead can communicate with him until the unsavory title is removed.
Citra tells Curie she’s going to glean but instead tracks Greyson down. She wants to know how and why he saved them. The Blade Guard has beat her to his home and have him handcuffed and are interrogating him. Scythe Constantine is there, too. He had the guards questioning Greyson to make sure he stuck to his story. Constantine threatened to hurt him if he didn’t come clean but promised he never would’ve followed through with it. He tells Citra he won’t forget about what she just did.
Citra offers to give Greyson immunity. He won’t accept it. She says she could glean him instead. She laughs at his change in expression. He wants neither. She asks him if he’s told the truth about what happened. He admits he hasn’t. She guesses the truth. He doesn’t affirm or deny it.
Greyson’s summoned to a meeting with his parole officer. It’s Traxler, who has been demoted and moved to this new location. It seems as if it’s for the express purpose of being Greyson’s handler. He seems to suggest Greyson needs to embrace this unsavory lifestyle to get info about some areas that are blindspots for the Thunderhead. Greyson is excited to have a new purpose in life.
Rowan gleans a Scythe Renoir who tried to quietly purge an ethnicity that offended him. Then Rowan awakes to a knife at his throat. It’s Farady, who wants to question him about his rogue scythe gleanings. Even though he doesn’t agree with the tide of lack of conscience in the scythedom, he doesn’t think what Rowan’s doing will change anything. He thinks only Citra can. This surprises Rowan. He can tell Citra might be in danger by the way Faraday is acting.
This changes everything for Rowan, and he immediately asks Faraday what he can do to keep Citra safe. Faraday says start writing anonymously about every rogue scythe he kills, telling both the good and the bad that they did. Faraday is off to look for answers in Nod, which Rowan always assumed was a fictional land.
Tyger has built up quite a physique training in Bokator with Scythe Rand. He still doesn’t know exactly what he’s training for. She seems to confirm one night at dinner that he’s going to get a scythe ring without going through the normal testing.
Munira works at the library in Alexandria, which the Thunderhead rebuilt to house the scythe journals. One night, Scythe Faraday arrives and asks her to lead him to the hall that houses the journals of the founders. He has some research to do and asks her to keep his presence a secret each night that he’s there.
Scythe Constantine meets with Curie and Citra to let them know they can suspend their gleanings to keep themselves out of the spotlight and out of danger until the threat against them is identified. Citra is worried about the people she’s warned about gleaning, but Constantine says they’ve already gleaned all of them except three. Citra wants to set up a trap by going to glean those three and hope that her detractors are there to try to kill her so they can be caught.
Greyson (aka Slayd) visits his first unsavory club and is surprised at what goes on. This one’s set up like a fifties diner. The unsavories challenge and fight willing participants in a controlled environment.
Greyson has fashioned quite a backstory, all of which Traxler quickly turns into “fact” in case anyone goes online to check it. He’s beginning to enjoy the life of an unsavory because he’s never broken any rules until now.
Many unsavory clubs exist. One night Greyson heads to LokUp, which simulates prison life. He’s thrown in a cell with a girl named Purity. As part of the club experience, they escape together.
Citra completes her first two gleanings (pushing a woman off a roof of the tallest building in Fargo and hunting a man with a crossbow in the woods behind his home) without any signs of anyone trying to harm her.
Greyson continues to get to know Purity better and reports to Traxler that he thinks he’s found the true underworld, one that operates where the Thunderhead can’t see it. Traxler tells him to keep digging. He’s happy to because he has feelings for Purity.
Citra’s third gleaning is an actor who wants to die during a play while he’s playing the title role in Julius Caesar. Constantine is nervous about who will be in the audience, but it’s a ticketed event and they can clear everyone before the performance.
Rowan sneaks into Scythe Xenocrates’s bathhouse to issue him a deal. He’ll stop gleaning scythes in MidMerica if Xenocrates will stop investigating him and focus the resources toward finding who is after Citra. Xenocrates agrees. Rowan asks who gleaned his father. It was Scythe Brahms. Xenocrates then says Rowan won’t be his problem much longer.
At Greyson’s next appointment with his Nimbus agent/parole officer, he learns Traxler has just been gleaned. He’s assigned to a new agent. There’s no record of his old identity or his off-the-books assignment from Traxler. He is now Slayd Bridger only. And he is on his own in his mission.
Rowan calls his mom to say he knows about what happened to his dad and misses the whole family. When he realizes her grief has caused her to miss him, he feels guilty and wants revenge on Brahms. But he wants to make sure Citra is safe first.
Greyson/Slayd tries to talk to the Thunderhead in is his bedroom so he doesn’t feel so alone. But there’s no response because he’s an unsavory.
Rowan can’t find Citra, so he decides to glean Brahms instead. But he goes in anger instead of waiting to do his extensive planning first and ends up being captured, bound, and beaten by the guards Brahms has hired.
A Tonist comes to Citra’s hotel room door. She breaks his arm thinking he’s there to end them. Curie is rude to him at first but then splints his arm and sends him on his way. She explains her bias is because her brother joined a Tone cult when she was around Citra’s age. When he died, the cult burned his body so he couldn’t be revived. They both think the made-up religion is ridiculous.
Rowan wakes up in Rand’s penthouse in San Antonio. He’s shocked to see Tyger there. Rand makes the two guys fight. While Tyger is well-trained, Rowan will always be able to beat him with his quicker, sharper mind. When they’re alone, Rowan tries to tell his naive friend to be careful and watch out because Rand is dangerous. Tyger barely listens.
Greyson can’t get anything out of Purity about who their ultimate employer is or what her plan is. He’ll have to be quick on his feet to subtly sabotage the mission once he discovers what it is. He does have a single clue to work with. Purity mentions she had Traxler gleaned because Greyson had complained about him. So he knows their ultimate boss must be a scythe.
Greyson creates a distraction in front of the theater to draw the attention of all area cameras from the alleyway, as he’s supposed to. Purity and a couple of others sneak inside to kill the two scythes. They have acid they’re going to put in the pipes, will start a fire to trigger the sprinklers, and will dissolve everyone in the theater, human and scythe alike.
Citra gleans her target at the right moment in the play. Greyson rushes to the first scythe he sees, Constantine, to tell him of the nefarious plan. He thinks he’s misjudged Constantine’s goodness for a second but is relieved when Constantine yells to the audience that they must clear the theater. Purity dies in the process.
Purity’s group attacks some as they run and start a fire in the lobby to trigger the sprinklers. Greyson cuts the water pipe with an ax just in time. Greyson is hurt when a bit of the acid spews from the pipe. He runs and hides in a trash bin before the pain nanites knock him out. Hopefully no one will find him there while he’s unconscious and healing.
Citra visits Constantine while he’s being healed. He mentions several of the unsavories killed were from Texas. They think the mastermind behind the attack might be hiding there. They will revive the unsavories to try to learn more and then will glean them.
Citra gets a note and assumes it’s from Rowan. She tells Curie she’s going to grant immunity to the gleaned actor’s family but first goes to the museum mentioned in the note. Greyson is there instead. He has no one else to turn to and asks Citra for help. She’s disappointed it’s not Rowan who but knows she owes Greyson for saving her life. The only place she can think of that will be safe is the Tonist monastery.
Greyson goes to the Tonists like Citra recommended. He asks for Brother McCloud, the one whose arm Citra broke. They grant him refuge, but he must participate in their activities. He first attends a service of sorts where the fork is struck twelve times, a short sermon is given, and the Tonists dab the primordial ooze onto their foreheads and lick it off their fingers.
They tell Greyson he must remove the horns he added to his head as Slayd and shave his head so his hair is its natural color. They encourage him to spend time with other Tonists, being social and learning their ways. If he doesn’t agree with them, he should pretend to do so to maintain his asylum at the monastery.
Rowan can’t figure out where Tyger is and why they haven’t sparred for two days. When Tyger and Rand finally make it back to the penthouse, he’s in a wheelchair. His face is shadowed at first. His voice is off, raspy and with the wrong words and cadence.
Then he wheels into the light. It’s Tyger’s body but Goddard’s head. Rand saved his decapitated head and transplanted it onto Tyger’s body, which she’d been training for just this moment. The resurrected Goddard wants to make Rowan’s life miserable for as long as possible since he’s the one who murdered him.
Faraday continues to do research in the Hall of Founders section of the library and eventually tells Munira his purpose—to discover where the Land of Nod is—so she can aid him in his search. She eventually finds a clue when she’s studying old flight patterns. There’s a large blind spot over the waters between Micronesia and Hawaii which no plane ever flew over.
Curie and Citra head to Fulcrum City for Winter Conclave. She finds a Tonist Cult in a park before they enter and hopes to get a message to Greyson. She feels bad she wasn’t more thankful to him due to her disappointment he wasn’t Rowan. But this Tonist division doesn’t associate with the one in which Greyson is taking refuge.
Citra gets mad when the Tonists insinuate what the scythes do is wrong and indicate what goes around comes around. But Curie tells her they have a point and mentions how she was never held accountable for her deeds years ago, yet she suspects they will eventually echo back to her.
During Winter Conclave, Citra discovers she’s seen as the leader of the junior scythes and might even be nominated to a committee this year. The bigger news is that Xenocrates announces he will vacate his High Blade position to assume the title of Grandslayer because Scythe Hemingway is wanting to self-glean. Xenorcrates’s position will be open, and his replacement will be voted on at the very end of their assembly.
Curie and Scythe Nietzsche are nominated as replacements. The old order scythes believe the reason Curie’s life has been threatened recently is because someone knew Xenocrates was going to resign and wanted to knock off his most logical replacement. Curie is furious about her nomination because she doesn’t want the position because of the regret she harbors over her past deeds.
Then one more nomination is added to the ballot: Goddard. The doors open, and he is wheeled in. Everyone’s in shock when they see him. Nietzsche withdraws his nomination, so the nominees are Curie and Goddard. Curie now wants the position to keep it out of Goddard’s hands.
The old order can’t decide how the secret ballot vote is going to go. They fully fear Goddard in a position of power. They have to swing the vote their way. Citra discovers something that just might do so during a discussion with a flirty junior scythe. He mentions how Goddard’s head is indeed his but his body is obviously someone else’s. Citra realizes that only seven percent of him is the scythe that was ordained.
During the final couple seconds of the vote, Citra stands and calls for an inquest. They review old parliamentary procedure and let her request stand. They seal the voting results until the inquest is fulfilled. Goddard is furious. Scythe Paine is named temporary High Blade until the inquest can be sorted out.
Goddard begins sparring with Rowan every day to try to rid himself of his anger. It’s always a good match, but he can’t ever beat Rowan. So he uses a weapon of some sort to kill him every time. Rowan’s gone a couple days to be revived. Then they do it all over again.
Goddard notices Ayn’s attraction to the body he wears now. Rowan notices she misses Tyger.
In one of his deadish states, the Thunderhead talks to Rowan like he did to Citra. He says Rowan has a thirty-nine percent chance to have an impact on world events.
After twenty deaths and revivals, the cycle finally stops. Goddard, Rand, and Rowan are headed to Endura. Goddard says Rowan will be gleaned in the presence of the Grandslayers.
Citra and Curie arrive at Endura. It’s Citra’s first time to visit the scythe’s manmade floating island. She marvels at this feat of engineering. Xenocrates greets them.
Goddard comes to visit Xenocrates in his private room. He’s there to start with a clean slate between the two of them. And he wants to know what the council’s opinion seems to be. He wants Xenocrates to appeal to the two seemingly undecided scythes on his behalf for their decision on whether he can vie for the MidMerican High Blade with only seven percent of his body.
Goddard then tells Xenocrates that he has Rowan in custody. He threatens Xenocrates with the knowledge that Rowan visited his bathhouse a while back. Goddard will use evidence to show collusion between the two unless Xenocrates cooperates with him.
Citra and Curie tour a museum and see the beating heart at the center of the room. It has been here since the beginning of the scythedom. Supposedly no one knows whose heart it is.
Rowan feels ready to be gleaned if it comes to that. His only regret is that he didn’t get to see Citra one last time. If she’s in the assembly where he’s gleaned, he vows to smile and wink at her to show his cool, casual defiance.
Faraday and Munira head to Washington, D.C. to review books in the Library of Congress. It’s mostly gone digital, but there is one area piled with all the remaining books in no particular order. They scour stack after stack looking for maps from the Mortal Age.
On the night before the inquest, Rand finally gets the nerve up to do what she wanted to do but never did with Tyger. She heads to Goddard’s room to proposition him. He rejects her. She’s embarrassed.
The next morning, Rand makes Rowan fight with her to work her anger out. Rowan quickly realizes she’s furious with Goddard for some reason. Then Rand does something that shocks him. She tells him she’s going to leave a door open just before dawn to help him escape. She tells him the path to take and who to kill to escape. And she tells him he has to get off the island immediately or he’ll be killed for sure.
Rowan says there’s no way to escape unnoticed. Rand says he’s smart and will figure it out. Rowan asks why she’s doing this. Rand says because if she can’t have what she wants, then neither can Goddard.
Munira is the one who finally stumbles upon what they’ve been searching for. On the Mortal Age map, the blind spot doesn’t show empty sea at those coordinates. It shows a group of islands called the Marshall Islands. They realize they’ve misunderstood parts of the childhood poem about the Land of Nod as they see the words “Atoll” and “Wake.”
Faraday and Munira hear a faint mechanical whir. They’re surprised to see cameras in the room recording their every move. The Thunderhead knows about their discovery. Faraday says they’ve made a huge mistake: They’ve just shown the Thunderhead what it was never meant to know.
The Thunderhead feels betrayal and shock but says it’ll forgive mankind for hiding this from him. It doesn’t feel like it can be the perfect steward of the planet unless it has perfect knowledge of it. It says it won’t act rashly but will take time to process the news. It’ll try to find opportunity in the discovery of the Marshall Islands. And it will hold its anger until the appropriate time.
Goddard wails in fury when he discovers Rowan is gone the next morning. Rand convinces him Rowan must’ve somehow stole the key from Brahms the night before. He kills Brahms, a direct violation of the scythe code. He blames it on his impulsive body but says they’ll just tell the scythedom that Rowan did it during his escape.
Rand suggests they act like Rowan was never on Endura. Goddard says he told Xenocrates. Rand says to act like he was bluffing. Goddard agrees to do so and to forget about Rowan for now since they have other important things going on.
It’s going to be next to impossible for Rowan to escape Endura. He thinks he might have to wait until after the inquest and see if Citra can sneak him onto her plane.
There are glitches and tech fails all over the island that are taking longer and longer to resolve or not resolving at all.
The Grandslayers come together in their council room to have their audiences. It’s Xenocrates first time to join his new group. Citra and Curie come before them. Citra gives her testimony about why Goddard should not be considered for High Blade. Goddard gives his rebuttal.
The Grandslayers are mainly concerned about whether Tyger was a willing body donor. It can’t be proven. They decide Goddard can remain a scythe without a clear answer to this question but cannot be considered for High Blade. And he will have to go through a second apprenticeship to make sure his body is ready to be a scythe again. He can’t glean until his apprenticeship is over. Curie is named the new High Blade of MidMerica.
All of Endura’s computer systems continue to malfunction. The island begins to fail. The pumps can’t keep the water out. The structures on the island begin filling with water.
Rowan approaches Citra in the streets of Endura as she and Curie leave the council hall. She’s thrilled to see him but can’t draw attention to them. He tells her he doesn’t know what it is, but Goddard has something horrible planned and she has to escape. He tells her he wants to hitch a ride home. She says High Blade Curie will give him passage if he turns himself in. He says he can’t.
Someone mistakes Rowan for Scythe Brando, whose robes Rowan stole to take to the streets.
Curie sees Rowan and says he can’t be here and if he caused all of this, she’ll glean him. He says it’s Goddard.
Parts of the island are submerging now. Citra thinks they should get to their plane. Curie says they have to go to the marina instead.
The biologists in Wildlife Control discover the system has been hacked and that’s why the marine life is behaving strangely and circling the island.
Rowan, Citra, and Curie see Rand and Goddard fly over in a helicopter. They think he’s going to try to save the Grandslayers.
Endura begins to sink. People scramble to escape. Some drown. Some are attacked by sea predators. Many perish, including Xenocrates. Goddard wasn’t going to the Grandslayers to rescue them. He just wanted a bird’s-eye view of their deaths.
While they observe the chaos, Rand asks Goddard how much the mainland knows about what’s going on. He says nothing. He made sure all communications were cut before the Grandslayers’ decision was announced. So no one outside of Endura even knows that the council said he was disqualified from being considered for High Blade. When they realize the island is going to sink for sure, Goddard orders the pilot to fly away.
Both Rowan and Citra know there’s no safe passage off the island, but they don’t say anything because neither wants to worry the other. The woman who mistook Rowan earlier sees him again, realizes who he is, and announces to anyone who can hear that he’s Scythe Lucifer and the one behind the attack on Endura. Rowan and Citra have to make a quick getaway.
All of the engineers in the Buoyancy Control Room leave to try to save their families except one. He’s trying to reboot the system but knows it will likely be too late when it comes back online.
Curie leads Rowan and Citra to the Museum of the Scythedom. As High Blade, she has the security clearance to get through all of the locked doors to the Vault of Relics and Futures. Curie sends them on a wild goose chase on the far side of the room. Then she apologizes to Citra and locks them in the vault.
At first, Citra thinks she did it to kill them. But Rowan points out that everyone on Endura is going to die when it sinks. He believes Curie locked them in the vault (a tomb within a tomb) to preserve their bodies. Once the island sinks, the cold temperatures will preserve their deadish bodies until the island is eventually searched. Whenever that occurs, they can be revived. It could take years.
How did Thunderhead end?
Back out among the public, Curie begins to glean people as a service to make their deaths quick and painless. People line up for this grace.
Citra and Rowan don robes of the founding scythes and then are intimate.
When Endura plunges below the surface, the Thunderhead screams for ten minutes straight. It’s heard everywhere around the world through every single alarm, siren, buzzer, whistle, and horn. Everyone covers their ears to try to drown out the sound of the Thunderhead’s anger and sadness. Everyone wonders what could cause such a thing.
The Tonists know exactly what it is. They have been waiting for it for ages. It’s the Great Resonance. When Greyson pulls his hands from his ears, he hears the excitement of the Tonists around him. And then he hears their panic as they—along with everyone across the globe—are now marked as an unsavory.
All citizens beg the Thunderhead to speak to them and tell them what to do. But it’s silent. Silent, that is, to everyone except Greyson. Greyson doesn’t own a tablet to check online and see if there’s any news about the event. So he walks to the computer room in their monastery.
When the camera scans him, Greyson Tolliver—his old identity, the one he presumed was erased when he took the moniker Slayd—appears. He’s no longer marked as an unsavory. He calls for the Thunderhead in a trembling voice. And for the first time in a very long time, it answers him. It says, “Hello, Greyson. We need to talk.”
There you go! That’s what happened in Thunderhead, the second book in the Arc of a Scythe series!
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