Published by Razorbill on November 10, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Amazon Vine
From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. 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 and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.
Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...
While I haven’t read any of Richelle Mead’s other books, I know a lot of readers love her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. I was excited to read SOUNDLESS because of the book’s premise: a fantasy with Chinese influences, featuring an entire village of deaf characters. Fei and her people have been trapped on top of a mountain for generations. Avalanches blocked them in and keep them from farmland. So to survive, they mine precious metals which are sent down the mountain by zipline. In return, the line keeper sends them food.
It’s a system that’s worked for generations, but now miners are beginning to lose their sight. Unable to send enough metal down the zipline, they are punished with restricted rations. Fei, who has a more privileged life than many as an artist’s apprentice, is terrified because her sister’s going blind. Fei joins Li Wei, her childhood friend, on an impossible quest to get down the mountain to bring awareness to her village’s plight. The quest is made possible because Fei has miraculously regained her hearing.
I really wanted to like SOUNDLESS. So many fantasy books are set in Medieval European-like countries that I’m always excited to see a book use other influences. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the author really developed the Asian setting and culture of SOUNDLESS. There are a few hints like foods and dress styles, but if there wasn’t an Asian girl on the cover, you could’ve plopped the book into any other generic fantasy setting. There are mentions of pixius (a mythological Chinese creature) in the book, but they needed more page time and development for me to feel them, rather than swooping in at the end.
I also didn’t like that Fei needed hearing to basically save the day. Because she can hear rocks falling, she and Li Wei are able to get down the mountain safely. Because she can hear soldiers and horses, she and Li Wei are able to escape pursuit. At first Fei’s not super happy about being able to hear, because it’s confusing and annoying to her, but as it saves her behind more and more, she admits the usefulness of it. By having Fei regain her hearing, I feel like the author was erasing a big part of Fei. That said, I do think Mead did a good job of showing how someone who has been deaf would think about suddenly having hearing — there were some good passages showing Fei’s feelings and thoughts.
In the end, SOUNDLESS was just okay. It’s a standalone, which also disappoints me a bit. Everything wraps up a bit too neatly at the end. Even though I’ve mostly pointed out negatives in this review, I would have liked to see more of Fei and her village, of what happens after the big climax. SOUNDLESS was just a bit too straightforward — a standard fantasy without anything super memorable. I think there are some great ideas here, but the execution was too simplistic.
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