Soundless by Richelle Mead is a standalone fantasy adventure that attempts to be based in Chinese folklore about a deaf girl saving the day, but stumbles on both those accounts. I had high hopes for Soundless, and therefore was quite disappointed with the lack of Chinese inspiration, how the deafness was handled, the lack of magic, and generally the lack of much interesting going on besides romance. There are some spoilers here because I start ranting about things not happening until the end of the story, thereby vaguely alluding to the ending.
Note: I received an advanced copy of Soundless from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Soundless by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill on Nov. 10th, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 272 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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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...
- Soundless is a standalone as far as has been announced, so you don’t have to worry about getting dragged into another fantasy series. The plot wraps up nicely too so it seems unlikely there is going to be a series tacked on in the future ;-).
- The romance in Soundless is really the main draw since it’s one of those cute childhood sweethearts premises mixed with forbidden love and adventuring. I suspect readers who enjoy fantasy romance as a main focus will be happier than I was.
- Eventually, there are cool Chinese mythical creatures described and such and I always like learning about new creatures! Just wish they could have featured more prominently.
- For most of the story, Soundless could easily have been set in any culture if you just changed the characters names. They ate noodles a lot? There was so little description of daily activity and the surroundings that while I assumed they were writing in Chinese characters, for example, I can’t tell you for certain. I can’t tell you what their buildings looked like, how their children occupied themselves, etc. Very little sense of place unfortunately.
- There are several major logical problems in Soundless and they really grated on my nerves. The first is this whole climbing thing. I was a climbing instructor in college, okay? A girl who has spent her whole life doing nothing but painting simply won’t have the muscle development to make it 30 feet, let alone climb up half a mountain without safety gear. It doesn’t matter how determined she is, it takes muscles that you don’t use much in every day life. The second major problem is this whole toxins causing deafness thing. The claim is that over generations, everyone lost their hearing due to exposure to toxins from the mines. Unless they have pregnant women mining, it is really unlikely that babies would be born without hearing; that just isn’t how genetic inheritance works. There are so many ways that that could have been corrected, but as it stands it just makes no biological sense.
- Soundless seemed like it would be the story of a heroine born deaf who saves the day. It isn’t. It’s the story of a heroine who can hear being better and smarter than all her deaf friends and saving them because they are too afraid of falling rocks to save themselves. I was ridiculously uncomfortable with this whole storyline.
- The synopsis really makes it sound like Fei gains magical powers when she wakes up able to hear. But sound does not ‘become her weapon’ in any magical sense. There is no magic. She just can hear and that seems magical to all the deaf villagers because they apparently can’t feel vibrations either. This story is really barely a fantasy until the very very end, so don’t expect magic.
Soundless ended up being a rather uncomfortable disappointment. Even overlooking the logical flaws and lack of magic, I simply can’t enjoy a story that is first and foremost about a hearing person being better than a group of deaf people. In the current climate of both young adult and speculative fiction, who thought this was a good idea?
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Soundless by Richelle Mead
© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.