Book Review: Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
After reading Dread Nation, I decided to take a break before reading this sequel. Why? Well, sometimes sequels are disappointing and don’t meet expectations. Also, after finishing a 430-page book in just a few days, I couldn’t deal with another almost 600 pages immediately after. I also skimmed reviews for Deathless Divide and some of the feedback was making me skeptical. I will say, after reading this book which I loved, a lot of the criticism it received from other disappointed readers is still valid.
This book is told from the perspective of both Jane and Katherine, which was a nice touch but did affect the pacing at times. I found it hard to follow Katherine’s pov a few times but eventually got used to it. We get to learn a little more about Katherine and I do enjoy her character development in this installment. This sequel picks up immediately after book 1. Summerland is gone and the remaining survivors in Jane’s crew are headed to Nicodemus. Along the way, secrets are revealed, and lives are lost. This puts Jane in the beginning spiral of losing her mind and herself, as she struggles with grief. As you would expect, the dead find their way to Nicodemus and Jane finds herself dealing with a string of new problems.
We are reunited with characters from the first book and introduced to new ones. Gideon is back, and with his character, we explore the issue of problematic white allyship, and how good intentions are not always good, and often rooted in selfishness. We are introduced to Callie, a young woman who had a ‘relationship’ with Gideon, and eventually with Jane. I do appreciate how Jane’s bisexuality and Katherine’s asexuality were explored in this story. So I give Justine props for that. Now where the main issues begin are in part 2.
Yes, this nearly 600-page book has two parts. After Nicodemus, there is a one-year time jump, where Katherine and Jane are separated as they both find their way to California. This is when the book suddenly turns into a wild western story, and for a while, it feels like we are reading a different book. Now I didn’t mind this, because as the girls head west, life is different, so I expect the atmosphere to go along with that. What I didn’t like, was how that year is glossed over with information dumps later. This should’ve been the second book in a three-part series. For a book of this length, we should've gotten to see what happened to Katherine when she arrived in the other town. We should’ve gotten to see Jane and Callie’s relationship form as they survived together heading west. But instead, we get a time jump and a bunch of dragging scenes/chapters about Katherine in San Francisco and Jane being a bounty huntress. As I said, all fine and dandy had this been a middle book, and not one long-ass book with a lazy time jump.
I also want to point out that before reading this book, I felt like Dread Nation was originally a stand-alone that was not planned with a sequel. And certain things, (Like the secret revealed at the beginning of this sequel) are why I believe this to be so. While it was still consistent and a nice OMG moment, it still felt like the author threw it in the story for shock factor. If you read my review for the first book, then you know I had this same gripe with certain reveals in that one too. There was some repetitiveness as well with Jane’s narration telling us things we already knew like it was new information. Like the constant reminder of how beautiful and white-passing Katherine was. The author never described any darker characters this way, which was problematic for me. Only the light-skinned & white characters were described as attractive. (Kate, Lilly, Jackson, Gideon).
I know you’re probably wondering why this book got 5 stars with all these issues. Well, because despite these issues, this story was beautifully written, and I couldn’t put it down. We got to see Jane’s mental and emotional problems unravel, and how her need to kill and survive played a part in why she couldn’t find happiness where others did. This series is the perfect example of how important character-driven stories are. Had I not cared about Jane, Katherine, Jackson, or Gideon’s fate I probably would have skipped this sequel. But being invested in what happened to these people is what made me stick around. Despite the issues with pacing and plot, I would still recommend this to anyone who asks. For those who decided to DNF or skip this book, I implore you to give it another chance.