Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2) by Justina Ireland

Thank God for Katherine! I was pretty fond of her in the first novel of the series too, and am so, so glad she gets entire viewpoint chapters in this novel, alternating with Jane’s.

Deathless Divide begins with the girls fleeing Summerland and trying to figure out, with their small band of survivors, where to go next. Jackson, Jane’s sometime lover, is cagey about their original plan to head to the nearby utopia of Nicodemus, and wants to press on to Fort Riley, further away but more heavily fortified with military and escape routes along the Mississippi. Given that they have barely any supplies tho, the closer destination wins out.

Tragedy strikes before they even reach the safety of Nicodemus, which appears a welcome balm after the horrors of Summerland and their journey. Jane and Katherine are surprised to discover that Gideon, the young scientist who is their occasional ally, is already well established here — perhaps too well established. A suspicious set of circumstances leaves the town open to the shambling horde, causing Jane and Katherine to go on the run again.

Fast forward nearly a year and Katherine is ready to leave the relative safety of ocean travel for a shot at establishing herself as a seamstress in San Francisco. But the California promised land isn’t quite as welcoming as expected, so she must fall back on her still sharp martial skills in order to find a haven… and to bring a killer to justice.

The strength of this series lies in the unshakeable, at least on Katherine’s end, bond of friendship between her and Jane. Katherine is aro/ace and it’s so great to have her be such a kickass main character, a woman of principle and a steadfast friend. She’s just as awesome as she was in the first book, if not more so. Sue also gets more time on the page and is also fun to be around, especially when she’s telling off Jane and Katherine for being ninnies.

Unfortunately, the other main characters from the first book suck really hard here. Gideon, I imagine, sucks by design: the evolution of his character is fascinating to see. I don’t remember Jackson being quite this annoying in Dread Nation tho, picking idiotic fights at the worst times.

And Jane. Oh, Jane.

Jane spends most of this book being angry and mean, focusing on revenge and pushing away the people who love her. And while she’s 100% entitled to her rage, and 100% correct in wanting to stop scientists who experiment recklessly and unethically, it is also 100% no fun to be in her head while she’s stalking around the country, so bitter that she can barely string coherent thoughts together. If it weren’t for Katharine’s more even-handed chapters, I doubt I would have been able to finish this book. Jane hates science, hates Chinese people and Native Americans, hates Black people who think they can live in harmony with people of other races. Jane thinks everyone else is stupid but won’t tell them why. Someone else in the book points out that Jane is a huge hypocrite, like that’s a charming character trait. While hypocrisy is hardly the worst fault known to man, when it means our heroine is essentially a Jane supremacist whose idea of dealing with situations is to get angry and go off instead of informing the other person why they’re wrong so they stand a chance of correcting themselves — and we’re not talking about microaggressions here but situations like trying to save the lives of hundreds of people — it’s really hard to care about, much less sympathize with, such a self-centered petty tyrant.

So thank goodness for Katharine, who manages to care about Jane and to make readers like myself care about what happens in this novel, which is worthwhile even with one of the main characters sucking the joy out of everything with her incessant “everyone sucks except me” attitude. While there are no plans for more books in the series, and it has a good ending, there’s still room for more of Katharine’s adventures, which I’d like to read. I’m just baffled and annoyed still that Jane went from being so much fun to spend time with in the first book to being an absolute chore here, as incoherent and malevolent as the zombies she strikes down and just as uninteresting.

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland was published February 4 2020 by Balzer + Bray and is available from all good booksellers, including

Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.

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