Soundless by Richelle Mead.
My copy: Razorbill (Penguin Random House), November 2015. Hardcover, 266 pages.
In a village without sound…
For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.
One girl hears a call to action…
Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.
She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…
And unlocks a power that will save her people.
Some thoughts on Soundless:
+ For people who don’t speak and can’t hear, it was odd at first that characters “said” things instead of “signed”. I can understand how they’d know the concept of speaking out loud and would know the terminology like “say,” “speak,” and such, but I don’t think the word “signed” was used once. If it was used, I didn’t catch it. And that felt a little, um, like cheating.
+ Oh look, Fei is such a special snowflake because she magically regained her hearing. Why is she the only person to get back her hearing? The reason revealed at the book’s end was sadly… kind of random and waaaay too convenient. This was, like, the only place where any magical aspects showed up, in the last few chapters. Honestly, I hadn’t gone into the book expecting loads of mythical Chinese creatures or ancient sorcery and such, but if you’re going to have magic be an important plot point, you’d better lead up to it well and not just drop it on me without any previous information or at least foreshadowing. The magic felt very unconvincing and still didn’t really explain why Fei was special.
+ Pacing-wise, the book started out rather slow. Only about halfway through did I start to care somewhat, but I was more interested in where the plot would take Fei and Li Wei than Fei and Li Wei themselves. They were serviceable characters, but not very memorable. Li Wei I did like, but Fei felt pretty bland.
+ Can we stop with the-sibling-the-protagonist-has-to-protect/save trope? It’s getting super old and annoying. I don’t care about so-and-so’s sister who’s going blind (as sad as that is) if I don’t have at least something about them to go on besides, “Oh, it’s my sister and I love her and she needs to be taken care of,” and, “I have to go back because my sister’s there, so I have to leave my one true love behind.” Yes, family is Number 1! But just who is this sister of yours? Why should I care about her? This trope needs to be retired because I just can’t care about characters I know absolutely zilch about.
+ This book supposedly is based on Chinese mythology. I can see it… if I squint. If you change the names to more Western ones and remove those (uber-random) Pixius (guys, you’ll learn more about these winged lions if you read the Wikipedia article, because the book sure as heck doesn’t give you any info), this book reads like any other dystopia that could be set anywhere. This was disappointing because I love books based on Asian mythology; I actively seek out books featuring Asian characters and Asian culture.
To sum it up… Soundless wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t that great. (I’m kind of lingering on a 2.5 star rating but I’m giving it a 3 for now, my initial reaction, since I did read most of this book in one quick sitting. At least it’s easy to read and relatively engaging, if seriously flawed and almost lazily written/put together.) A lot of reviewers have pointed out may of the same problems, almost all of which I agree on. I’m sad this wasn’t a stellar book because “Chinese folklore” caught my attention, plus the gorgeous cover, and for most other readers the fact that Richelle Mead wrote it was what made them excited. I haven’t read Vampire Academy or Bloodlines, which apparently are excellent. Soundless I guess just wasn’t Richelle’s best work, and that’s very unfortunate. Oh well. Not every book is a winner. ♦
Have you read Soundless?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a book you’ve recently read that let you down?
Comment below letting me know!
And, as always, happy reading!