Book Review: Bannerless (The Bannerless Saga #1) by Carrie Vaughn
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The Bannerless Saga #1
Paperback | Kindle | Audiobook
By Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: HMH Books | John Joseph Adams | Mariner Books
Release date: July 11, 2017

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has launched a new scifi/fantasy imprint called John Joseph Adams, and they’ve kicked things off right with Bannerless, the first book in Carrie Vaughn‘s futuristic dystopian saga.

The events of Bannerless take place after “The Fall,” which brought about the end of the modern world as we know it. Gone are most of our technological advances, as well as much of the knowledge of those creations; few people are left who remember what it was like “before.” Unlike most post-apocalyptic tales, this one is not terribly bleak; instead, life has been simplified, with most people living in towns in collective households where they ride horses and raise their own crops for food and trade with other towns. The big issues in this world are working the land properly, living within one’s means, and population control. For the latter issue, that means earning a “banner” for your household, which signifies that you’re allowed to have a child.

In Bannerless, we get Enid’s tale. She lives in Haven, one of the more successful towns, where she serves as an Investigator, what is essentially law enforcement and judiciary. Murders are rare in this post-Fall world, but now Enid has been called away to another town to investigate a suspicious death. As we follow her through this murder-mystery, we also get flashbacks on what led up to her choosing her profession and what things look like at the end of the world.

The book is a quick, engrossing read that introduces us to a lot of characters, both in Haven and in other towns and parts of the world, and Vaughn manages to make them all interesting and memorable. More importantly, she makes you actually care about what happens to them. Our main character is a strong, independent young woman who isn’t instantly compelled to conform, but she’s also not a rebel either; she’s someone you can root for and be proud of. Hopefully, the saga will both continue to follow Enid as well as explore other areas of this new world.

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.

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