July 11, 2017
Blurb from Goodreads: A mysterious murder in a dystopian future leads a novice investigator to question what she’s learned about the foundation of her population-controlled society.
Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of what came before. A culture of population control has developed in which people, organized into households, must earn the children they bear by proving they can take care of them and are awarded symbolic banners to demonstrate this privilege. In the meantime, birth control is mandatory. Enid of Haven is an Investigator, called on to mediate disputes and examine transgressions against the community. She’s young for the job and hasn’t yet handled a serious case. Now, though, a suspicious death requires her attention. The victim was an outcast, but might someone have taken dislike a step further and murdered him? In a world defined by the disasters that happened a century before, the past is always present. But this investigation may reveal the cracks in Enid’s world and make her question what she really stands for.
Carrie Vaughn, author of the Kitty Norville series, takes on a new heroine in Enid, a young woman in a dystopian world who has become an Investigator, a feared although necessary enforcer and arbitrator of justice.
Like all of Vaughn’s heroines, Enid is strong with firm beliefs. Unlike the typical heroines, Enid is frequently angry, appalled by the behavior of some who are too selfish to consider others and the possible future they all share.
It took me awhile to warm up to Bannerless and I think that this was because Vaughn was trying to do a lot of world-building at the beginning instead of interspersing it. This made me wonder if Bannerless isn’t the beginning of a series, otherwise I couldn’t imagine why she would pace the novel so slowly at the beginning. The murder mystery, which I thought would be the concentration of the novel, was only a small part of a larger picture.
The dystopian world in Bannerless was created by a flu epidemic that killed much of the population and then devastating storms that still continue. This population is starting with practically nothing as much information has been lost because it was electronic.
As a reader of quite a bit of dystopian fiction, I found the world of Bannerless interesting. Told in sections of present time and past, the present dwells on the mystery while the past shows us the world beyond Enid’s town and the one where the murder occurred. Enid, Dak, a traveling bard, and Tomas, another investigator link the two periods.
While I would recommend Bannerless, I would recommend it for readers of dystopian fiction primarily rather than mystery readers. Although there is a good deal of action, much of Bannerless is character-driven, which some readers might find off-putting if they are expecting a lot of adventure drama.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies