I became a fan of Justina Ireland once I heard the short Letters From Home on Nightlight: The Black Horror Podcast (find this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play). I loved the story–despite not being a fan of zombies. The story on the podcast was so well written, I made it a mission to find her. I am ashamed to say I had not heard of her until this podcast. I read the first book, Dread Nation, via Audible within three days.
And. I. Was. Hooked!
Being introduced to Ms. Preston’s, shamblers, Red Jack was engrossing, but being introduced to Jane McKeene? I took to her as if she were a grandmother in a parallel universe! From that knowledge, I was awaiting this sequel. The first book was told just from Jane’s point of view. For this story?! We get Jane AND Catherine’s points of view. I needed more from Catherine, and I am thrilled that Justina Ireland gave us that. You can truly see the personalities of Jane McKeene and Catherine Devereaux through those POV’s.
Pause: the Dread Nation series is not one of those series that you can just jump into! There are things you need to KNOW before you just jump in! Otherwise, you will be frustrated and be lost–and stop reading.
What I enjoyed most about this sequel was more backstory for Jane and Katherine! I loved how Justina Ireland expanded this universe to include the world that we know through current history, and the world she saw. I enjoyed how setting for this sequel played apart in how the characters moved through the story! At the end of the first book, we left our characters in Kansas–and now? We were all over California! In this time period that we would know as post-Reconstruction. Ireland wants you to know your history, so she can kick it all over!
This sequel is more character-driven, Ireland wants you to be invested in the characters. She wants you to feel Jane’s pain when she finds out Red Jack gets married. She wants to know Katherine has truly been through some things growing up in New Orleans, not quite fitting in as where she thought she would, and having to develop a resolve with a personal code for her to even survive! Ireland wants you to know just who the Devil’s Bride is and why she was necessary.
Clearly, this is a nod to the Black female cowboys of the Old West we don’t hear about often enough! Where you think the book is ‘slow’ it only slows to build the action in it! And chile, when Jane gets bitten by a shambler, and almost dies! I almost threw my phone! But that is mark of good writing–you get wrapped up and invested. I normally do not make a habit of reading a book more than once, but this one? I believe that I am going to have to read again. There are things that I need to make notice of, and I can only break them down by reading it again.
The most beautiful thing about this book, this story it how the friendship between Catherine and Jane evolves–they actually become friends! If anything, this is a feat only God could master (read the first book to see why!). The power of Black female friendships is evident again! The ending is bittersweet, I will tell you that. And the reunion with Jane and her family is not what you think it would be–or should be, and it will leave you feeling a little hallow; the investment you have in that reunion is not misplace BUT you will feel mad. Just. Saying. I need a third book, Justina. I need a third book!