Thursday, July 20, 2017


Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 7/11/17
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0544947306

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn is a recommended murder mystery set in an agrarian post-apocalyptic society.

The world collapsed decades earlier and survivors of California have regressed into small towns along the Coast Road where enclaves of people are organized into households. The new society controls population growth and has strict guidelines that must be followed for farming the land. If a household proves that can take care of themselves they may be awarded a banner. The banner represents a child that the household can have because having children is a privilege in this society.

Bannerless follows two different stories set in two different timelines. Both feature Enid, either as a twenty-seven-year-old investigator or when she was a teen. In the present day Enid is an Investigator. She and Tomas, another Investigator, have to travel from their home in Haven to Pasadan in order to investigate the possible murder of a man named Sero. This is Enid's first murder case and she is determined to do a good job at discovering what really happened. In the end her investigation leads to even more questions about what happened and why it occurred. In the timeline from the past a teenage Enid travels with Dak, an itinerant musician who travels up and down the Coast Road, singing and playing his guitar.

The plot is set far enough in the future that details about the collapse aren't really well known. The narrative is interesting, but the world building feels like it is lacking.  The focus is really more on small, limited aspects of this new society and the investigation. The Investigators carry notebooks, which seemed very odd and felt out of place to me. There are also some things from the past that they have carried into the future, like intradermal birth control implants and some solar powered cars around, that just felt like anomalies.

The travels of teenage Enid actually detract from the story rather than explain her current choices or aspects of her personality. It might have been better to just briefly explain how she knew Dak from the past rather than spend so much time on their travels. It didn't add to the story.

While I liked this novel, I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. This is a quick read, perfect for escapism or a beach read. You won't need to concentrate on the story in order to follow it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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