The Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga #2)
By Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Mariner Books
A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?
I actually requested The Wild Dead not realizing it was a sequel. This worked in my favor, however, as I immediately picked up and savored the unique post-apocalyptic mystery that is Bannerless (<– start here). My experience with the sequel was one very familiar to its predecessor but somehow even more gratifying.
The Wild Dead continues life on the Coast Road with Enid after she has returned home to Haven (I am omitting a description of the setting as I recommend reading Bannerless first, and if you have then you are familiar). She has recently solved her first murder case and her home is now expecting their first child. When she is called to an investigation with her new partner Teeg to help settle a dispute in a small settlement, another body surfaces. This time it belongs to a young female, an outsider. Teeg is convinced that this is not their case to solve, but Enid sets out to find answers.
“They shifted from investigating one structure at one household to investigating the whole community. This was like expecting a drizzle and getting a typhoon.”
What I appreciated..
- Vaughn continues to deliver readers a solid mystery in what I can best describe as her own signature style. She serves the post-apocalyptic setting distinctively with the absence of grotesque monsters or beasts but still explores humanity and civilization to rewarding depths.
- The frontier setting strips away many of the familiar comforts and luxuries we have come to know, immersing the reader into a world that has regressed but not without a retained culture and sense of refinement. Coast Road residents have fought to hold onto certain commodities and materials, and Vaughn successfully tackles the implementation of each (i.e. birth control, vaccines) into this new life.
- Enid’s character growth is a slow and steady process that evolves at an appropriate and viable pace for the plot and setting. We find her as we would expect her, making the same decisions we have come to anticipate. However, there is also a newfound strength and courage that seems to drive her and for that, she is perhaps even more admirable and memorable.
- Vaughn’s writing remains succinct and effective, creating a fluid pace that while not fast does succeed in an effortless read.
“Starting a brand-new house can be an adventure. Even when you’re picking up the pieces of an old one.”
Challenges some may encounter..
- This is a murder mystery, a true whodunnit it at its heart. If you are expecting a high action dystopian story, you will not find it nor the usual sci-fi elements here.
- There are small moments of graphic material in terms of the actual victim and the topic of miscarriage if briefly discussed.
The Bannerless Saga is a refreshing twist on one of my favorite genres, dystopia. It offers readers something unique in the promise of hope after an economic and environmental collapse. Vaughn dares to explore a positive outcome that shows mankind learning to thrive and live again as a civilization. Enid is a beautiful example of that realization and one that I hope we will see again.
*I would like to thank Mariner Books & Edelweiss for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.
Enjoy this unique whodunnit dystopian read with your favorite mint green tea.
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