Cover Deathless Divide: Two female characters dressed in 1800s clothing face the camera, one is holding a sword dripping with blood

About the Book

Title: Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2)
Published: 2020

Cover Story: Old Timey Portraits
BFF Charm: Platinum x2
Talky Talk: Serious Sequel
Bonus Factors: Wild, Wild West, Friendship
Factor: Morally Gray Villain
Anti-Bonus Factor: Inequality
Relationship Status: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the last book in the Dread Nation series, so if you haven’t read the previous one, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing.

Cover Story: Old Timey Portraits

Can’t you just picture Jane and Katherine standing for their portraits like this if they, ya know, had the time to take them? Of course Jane has her weapons and didn’t bother to clean up, and of course Jane is looking like she stepped straight out of 1880s Vogue. I love it.

The Deal:

Summerland has fallen, and there’s a horde of shamblers on Jane and Katherine’s tails as they try to get their small band of survivors safely to Nicodemus, a purported free settlement for people of color. The road there is not without its own dangers, but even once inside the safety of the walls, malice lurks around every corner. Other (white) survivors of Summerland blame Jane for murdering the Sheriff (true) and causing the town to fall (false) and want her to hang. Gideon Carr, the Baltimore mayor’s son and self-appointed scientist, has a certain degree of influence over Nicodemus and wants Jane to vouch for his shambler vaccine so he can innoculate the town. And all the while, a massive horde is gathering outside the city’s defenses. Every Miss Preston’s girl knows walls won’t keep out the dead forever.

What’s that saying? Out of the frying pan and into the fire—yep, that sounds like Jane’s situation in a nutshell.

BFF Charm: Platinum x2

BFF platinum charm

The narrative alternates between Jane and Katherine’s perspectives. I already gave Jane a platinum BFF charm last time, and I won’t be taking it away despite some her becoming a bit, ah, rough-around-the-edges over the second half of the book. Revenge and vengeance fuel her and steal some of her easy charm and humor, but our Janey-Jane is still in there somewhere.

BFF platinum charm

I loved the chance to see inside Katherine’s head. We learn that under her genteel, Miss Priss persona she carries around a lot of anxiety. The reason she wears her corsets so tight is to keep the panic well contained inside, giving her a small measure of control in a world so out of it. Katherine is also fiercely loyal, and once you’ve earned her respect it’s going to be hard to shake her, which is good for Jane because while I think she’s a great character, dealing with her in real day-to-day situations would definitely be trying.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

Remember in my last review I was hinting that there may be something starting between Jane and Gideon? Yeah…his mad scientist ways—emphasis on mad—kind of put the kibosh on any of that. After a while, even Jane has too much on her mind to worry about romance, and Katherine is not interested in romantic or sexual encounters with anyone. This is romance-lite, which for this kind of story is totally fine.

Talky Talk: Serious Sequel

It’s been two years since Dread Nation came out and I have been figuratively dyyyying for this story to continue. Ireland made it worth the wait (and weight—it’s hefty!) and while parts didn’t go in a way I expected, I am pleased with where Jane and Katherine’s stories end up. Unlike one of my other recent reviews that had me surprised it was part of a trilogy, this series surprised me by being a duology! The end is open enough to invite more adventures if the author ever wanted to revisit it, but also satisfying enough that this could be it and I would be completely happy. 

Ireland’s writing is as easy to sink into as it was before. She still peppers in her opinions on racism that can easily (and sadly) apply to the way things can be either then or now. You’ll rage against the world your favorite characters have to live in, and mourn some inevitable, but still sad, deaths. My only critique is it took longer than I was expecting for the real bulk of the story to get going once the characters got to Nicodemus, but, despite that, I still couldn’t put this book down.

Bonus Factor: Wild, Wild West

Old timey photo of people from the 1800s West, sitting on horses and with wagons

Ever since Jane found out her mother had left for a town in California called Haven, it always felt like a foregone conclusion that the characters would one day make their way West. The title of the sequel refers to the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain ranges that make crossing from the plains to California sort of impossible for shamblers, leading to the state having a natural defense against hordes. Ireland leans into some Old West tropes—wagon trains, vigilantes, lawlessness—to make it a fun but dangerous ride.

Bonus Factor: Friendship

Characters from Baby-Sitters' Club show sitting on a bed talking and laughing.

Katherine and Jane’s friendship is my favorite part of this series. Their enemies-to-sisters dynamic is beautiful and complicated and the kind of friendship we’d all hope to have with someone.

Factor: Morally Gray Villains

Villanelle from Killing Eve

Gideon Carr is an arrogant jerk, no doubt. He uses unwilling participants to test his vaccines and kills quite a few in the name of science. At the same time, he’s one of the few people who seem to actually be doing something to try and stem the spread of this shambler disease and make the world safer. I am not supporting his methods at ALL, it’s just unfortunate that this one person trying to actually help is such a tool.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Inequality

An imbalanced scale, one side with wads of cash, the other with a few coins

When our characters show up in San Francisco, there is a hierarchy between white, Chinese, and black people that will make you want to scream, “Can’t we all just get along?! Aren’t there worse things to worry about?”

Relationship Status: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

You took me on a grand adventure, Book, and I fell in love with your snappy wit and your activism. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that you could totally protect me in a world full of things that want to eat me. Let’s ride this high until we die.

Literary Matchmaking

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2)

Craving more Wild West? Check out Rae Carson’s The Gold Seer Trilogy that starts with Walk on Earth a Stranger.

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2)

Do you want another book that has zombies but isn’t really ABOUT zombies? Check out Mira Grant’s post-apocalyptic Feed.

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2)

Jump ahead a few decades and revisit San Francisco, sans shamblers, during another tumultuous time (the 1906 earthquake) with Stacey Lee’s beautiful Outrun the Moon.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Balzer + Bray. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Deathless Divide is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.