A review by errantreads
Deathless Divide, by Justina Ireland

adventurous dark hopeful sad tense medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


This is a sequel. Much like its predecessor, I liked the book. And there need to be more books like this, by authors such as this. You will like the book. So read it!

But I have much criticism. This was traditionally published, but the editing is rather poor. I'm not talking about grammar or spelling (I found only one typo in two books!). It's the developmental editing that was so . . . slapdash. There are outright errors (a poker scene really screws up which hand beats another, for example) but then there are other major errors that a good editor (or team of editors, or beta-readers) should have caught.

Spoilers . . .

The geography is messy and not well understood. For example, not for many pages did we understand that they were downstream of Sacramento when they were on the Sacramento River. The reader is left wondering what the characters are thinking on this.

The antagonist. I didn't know he was the main antagonist until act 3. I didn't buy into him being the bad guy. His crimes were not sold well. Sure, he made really REALLY bad choices, but we didn't know that he was doing Nazi-like experimentation until near the end. Plus, the cure would have saved millions. So, for the entire book, I just felt that the thrust of the story was that the main protagonist was in the wrong about him—that she would discover that, no, the scientist's quest for the cure was far more complicated than she thought and he really isn't a terrible person. I was wrong. But I blame the writing and the editing. The writer could have developed this better, for sure, but I lay this on the feet of the editorial staff failing the author and the readers.

World-building: If the entire east and mid-west is wiped out . . . how is everyone not starving to death and dressed in rags. All materials would be extremely scarce. And humans would be MAJORLY more violent towards each other. I'm not buying the world as it is described.

The main character murders a lot of people. This is not addressed well enough IMHO. She even swapped out one body for another to get a bounty. Execution without justice . . an odd choice for a book such as this. I mean, it can certainly work, but I don't think it is explored nearly enough and the main character doesn't earn it. IMHO.

The magic. The penny was unnecessary and seemed out of place. It think the author realized that after the first book and that is why she invented a way to make it a non-factor in the second book. But then she added a ghost. Ugh! The ghost was really her conscience, but it was not sold on the page as such and was simply not well done. Cut out those scenes entirely and it would have been a better book. This is a sci-fi western, really, not a fantasy. Just didn't fit.

Murder, mayhem, torture, prostitution, and sexually charged language here and there. And yet still, the unbelievable amount of racism of that era is only given a lukewarm treatment for the YA audience (though they are moving outside of White America for much of this sequel). Much like the previous book, I think the YA audience could be treated a bit more maturely and this historical fiction made a bit more historical.

Criticism aside. I want to see more from this author and more books like this on the bookshelves. The self-published world is so much richer in this regard, but I want to see it from the trad-publishing world as well.