Published on 4 February 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Girls & Women, Historical, United States, Young Adult
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The sequel to Dread Nation is a journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.
After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.
But nothing is easy when you're a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880's America.
What's more, this safe haven is not what it appears - as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.
But she won't be in it alone.
Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by - and that Jane needs her, too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.
Watching Jane's back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it's up to Katherine to keep hope alive - even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Deathless Divide was the perfect sequel to Dread Nation. PERFECT.
Whereas Dread Nation (which everyone lost their minds for, myself included, because Civil War era zombies and a black female warrior lead? Oh. My. God. Yes.) sold itself on ‘combat school for Negro girls’, it really wove in a plot that expanded beyond the school and into a dystopic settlement called Summerland, where a young scientist was trying to find a cure for the restless dead that plagued the nation, threatening to wipe the continent off the face of the planet.
However, the scientists’ experiments led to the fall of Summerland, and when Jane and Katherine escaped and headed off to another safe haven, disaster and heartache dogged their steps the whole way.
This novel was more an exploration of the Wild West + zombies. There was a fair amount of travelling, but I appreciated that, since literally nowhere is safe in this world. The descriptions of the traveling and the world were so well done. I could almost feel the road dust in my mouth, feel my feet aching after all that walking, and I was in a constant state of low key anxiety knowing that my beloved characters could be attacked at any moment – and not just by shamblers, but by highwaymen bandits, white people, sheriffs, basically for any reason. It is a terrifying world to be in, and I’m no warrior, so I kind of felt like I was hiding behind Jane and Katherine at times, knowing they were the best girls at Miss Preston’s.
It didn’t save my heartache. Ireland’s not a helicopter author. Characters I cared about died, many with little ceremony. Others swam in and out of the story, which was filled with betrayal and shifting loyalties and everything else that makes for great conflict.
The one constant I had was Katherine (and her point of view). She was so loyal and brave and true. I believe she even outshone Jane, who was driven by revenge for the entire novel, and turned into someone I still respected but didn’t admire as much as Katherine. Jane became hard and difficult to love, but Katherine always found a way, which I loved so much because it was such a huge character growth for her. Like, she wears a corset because it helps her anxiety? I totally get that! Her response to every man that looks at her? Not interested.
I absolutely loved seeing everyone struggling with the same problem. All the cities, even the ones that look safe, were faced with an overhanging threat of shamblers, but also dealing with racism, sexism, classism, and all the other horrible things that keep people not born into privilege down, while fancy white folk go about their business, safe and rich and reasonably healthy.
I loved even more the characterisation of our two leads, Jane and Katherine. They were enemies at the start of Dread Nation, and I have loved so much seeing them come to rely on each other and consider each other friends (not that they would admit it to each other? Hard love). I also love so much that while Jane is bisexual (possibly pan? Not really confirmed and it’s just another label) and Katherine is ace, they have such a strong platonic bond. That is something I’m always looking for, and I’m so pleased that in this book there is diversity but no romance between the two female friends. It’s hitting bullseye on everything I love.
I also have to mention how easy it was to read this book. Both Deathless Divide and its precursor Dread Nation have the most phenomenal narrative voices, and they are by far the strongest I’ve read in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Deathless Divide, and I was always keen to get back to it after the real world took me away.
I do however feel that there are a couple of threads still not answered, and I hope to god there’s a third book exploring more of this:
– The first thing is – will the cure become widely accessible and lead to America surviving this undead plague? Or will the shamblers just slowly destroy everything like a successful Plague Inc game?
– The second thing is: what caused the undead in the first place?
I’d really love to see those two questions explored and answered in a third book. I think there’s enough plot, characterisation, and demand for a third book. I’m basically begging down on my knees for a third book. PLEASE?