“It’s a curious thing, to watch a town fall to the dead.”
After being surprisingly pleased with Dread Nation, I couldn’t wait to start Justina Ireland’s sequel, Deathless Divide (Balzer + Bray, 2020). It’s got a phenomenal cover, and I was eager to have more Jane and Kate. I really wish I hadn’t read it so close to my first reading of Dread Nation because I fear I’m having some issues removing my negative experience with Deathless Divide from my positive one of Dread Nation. It’s not the worst follow-up in a series (coughchildrenofvirtueandvengeancecough), but it comes close.
The things I loved about Dread Nation are gone. The relationship between Jane and Kate isn’t as effortless as in Dread Nation. And I’m not talking about the plot, which admittedly drives the pair apart. I feel like Ireland stopped being able to hear the two as she was drafting. The alternating POVS in the sequel had potential, but she loses their voices.
A little more than halfway through, the novel leaps forward a year and five months. The events that happened during that time are hinted at, but I wanted to see them. Kate escaping Fort Riley in a wedding dress and heading back home to New Orleans? Jane becoming a bounty-hunter and earning the new moniker, Devil’s Bitch? It had so much potential. There’s a part of me that thinks this was supposed to be books two and three, and the deadline came faster than the muse could finish what happened after the fall of Summerland. It’s frustrating because the idea is so good, it’s just poorly executed.
There’s also a point in the novel where Ireland seems to have forgotten that one of the characters had their arm amputated. (I’m not going to say which character in case you want to read it.) That character holds out her hands, plural, to show she doesn’t have any money, but that character should only have one hand. It’s a little slip that probably went unnoticed by most readers, and clearly the entire editorial team, but it has annoyed me immensely.
In short, this is one of my least favorite reads of the year and I don’t recommend it. It’s set up for a continuation of the series, but I don’t know if that’s Ireland’s immediate intent and I honestly don’t think I’d read any more books in the series. As far as I’m concerned, the hope, happiness and positivity at the end of Dread Nation survives.