Published: April 1st 2012 by HarperVoyager
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
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Time is running out for Ronan and his psychically-linked twin brother, Darragh.
In two weeks, at the Autumn Solstice in their own reality, the Queen of the Faerie will transfer the Undivided power to the new-found heirs and the older twins will die. But Darragh is trapped in 2001 Dublin and Ronan in a reality where the Undivided are not Druids, but Shinto warriors. The twins need to get home before the transfer takes place - not only to save their own lives, but to break the curse on Trasa, who is destined to remain trapped by Marcroy Tarth's spell, and to rescue Hayley from the Faerie Lord's seductive embrace.
With Darragh caught in a reality without magic, and Ronan stranded in one with plenty of magic but no idea how to use it, the brothers must prove that even across realities, they truly are the Undivided.
Following almost immediately from the end of The Undivided, The Dark Divide builds upon the rich and complex landscape Fallon created in the first book and introduces us to an alternate reality where the Japanese rule over much of the world (including Ireland). The brothers Ren and Darragh are divided; Darragh is trapped in our magic-poor world while Ren has been thrust into an alternate reality where he can be sentenced to death for merely existing.
The Dark Divide is immeasurably clever – the story is told across so many realities and characters that it could have easily become a confused mess, but the plot elements are skillfully woven together. Readers won’t be able to see the twists and turns until Fallon is well and ready for them to do so. Ren’s story-line is especially interesting because he is trapped in a world where the Japanese rule, and he has to contend with their weird (to him) concepts of honour and dignity. I really like how Fallon has created this empire and envisioned it so vividly without judgment. As Trása reminds Ren, it is not his place to judge another culture just because he doesn’t understand them – their ways of life have developed over centuries and make perfect sense to them, and that’s all that matters.
Darragh, on the other hand, is stuck in our reality and lacks access to the magic that would take him back into his world. He trusts that Ren will come back for him, which is impressive because he, Darragh, is soon hauled off to a police station and made to suffer through our confused and convoluted judicial system. Seeing our world from Darragh and Sorcha’s eyes really made me think about some of the things we take for granted here, and their struggles to understand our ways of life were sometimes hilarious. The inclusion of a real-world event, which impacted many lives internationally, made me a little uncomfortable at first, because I felt that the book was about to stray into preachy, political agenda territory. As horrific as that event is, however, it impacts our character’s lives in unexpected, indirect ways. I think it’s a really clever way to show that although Ren and his contemporaries might look down on other realities for how barbaric and callous they might be, but we have our fair share of unspeakably evil people as well.
The secondary cast in this series have always impressed me, and it is no different in this book. My favourites are Pete, the very confused but determined police officer who investigates Darragh and Ren’s crime-spree in the previous book, and his journalist brother Logan. Their relationship is awesome, and I like the glimpses we got of their extended family. Other characters I liked are Sorcha, who has one of the most interesting side-stories I have ever read, and Trása, who I wanted to hate, but the more I found out about her, the more I liked her. Surprisingly, I also ended up looking forward to Brydie’s appearances in the story because with her trapped in a jewel, she was privy to all sorts of secret politics that we would never have seen otherwise.
The world Ren finds himself in, where the Japanese control Ireland, has been exquisitely crafted and I loved spending time in it. Stories that are influenced by Asian culture are prone to over-use stereotypes as fact, but readers will easily be able to see how much in-depth research the author has done into the culture bases this reality on. I learnt a lot of interesting things, and never felt that the author was trying to show how these people are better or worse than the people in our reality – they are just as brilliant, kind, selfish, ambitious, courageous and blood thirsty as people from our world. It seems like we are going to spend more time in this reality, which is awesome because I get a kick out of reading about leprechauns dressed up as ninjas and carrying nunchucks.
The Dark Divide is, dare I say it, a more fulfilling read than The Undivided, which is incredibly rare in a sequel. It builds upon the world admirably, and lets readers explore new characters, new realities, while at the same time giving a deeper look at the characters we know and love. This series is not to be missed by fans of Jennifer Fallon’s work. It would especially appeal to readers familiar with urban fantasy who are looking for a different kind of novel, but is perfect for any reader to pick up. I am looking forward to reading Reunion, the next book in the Rift Runners series, soon.