Author: Richelle Mead
Release Date: November 10th 2015
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…
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
I really wanted to love this book. I have read and enjoyed most of Richelle Mead’s other books so when I saw Soundless of course it went on my to-read list, and the blurb sounded interesting as well. Unfortunately it fell flat. While the plot itself was interesting, the characters completely fell flat, and the world-building was pretty much nonexistent.
For generations Fei’s people have lived at the top of the mountain, cut off from the world below after a series of avalanches which trapped them there. In exchange for food from the people at the base of the mountain Fei’s people mine precious metals from deep underground. However as they pull less metal from the earth the rations they receive have also decreased.
Fei is an artist, a observer recording what happens for future generations. Her life revolves around her work but also around protecting her sister. Fei’s sister is slowly going blind and if she is discovered she will lose her apprenticeship and be forced to work in the mines. For Fei life carries on as normal, she records the shipments and then heads to her observation post for the day, but then a note comes from the base of the mountain, cutting off their rations until they send down more metals.
Then Fei regains her hearing, the only person in a village full of the deaf.
In order to plead their case Fei and Li Wei sneak away and head down the mountain. Even with Fei’s new sense of hearing alerting them to when the rocks are shifting, about the cause an avalanche, the journey is hard and treacherous. As they get further to the ground both Fei and Li Wei discover thing which paint their people and the people at the base of the mountain controlling their food in a new, dangerous light.
Fei is a talented artist and dreams about painting more than supply orders and her observations. Like most people in her village Fei follows the status quo and doesn’t question the Elders and their wisdom. It’s only when her sister is dismissed from her artist apprenticeship that Fei goes against the rules and travels with Li Wei down the mountain. Fei is smart, kind, and loyal but she isn’t a physically strong character; instead she relies on Li Wei’s strength as they journey down the mountain.
Li Wei is bitter about the life he leads. He doesn’t understand why they are working themselves to death in the mines for less and less food. He voices all the frustrations the other villagers have but he is the only person to actually do something about them. He is strong, confident and sure of himself but willing to take help from Fei when he realises he will not get down the mountain in one piece without her returned sense of sound.
Artists and miners are not allowed to marry (it was never explained in the book why this is) but Fei and Li Wei have a history together and neither of them have quite been able to get past that. However it seems like all the build-up in their relationship was missing. We were told they were close, that they would have married if Fei hadn’t taken her artists apprenticeship, we weren’t shown any of their feelings for one another actually forming. Instead we jumped half way into their story and are never caught up. As an artist Fei is to marry another artist, Sheng, however he literally had no part in this story other than to enforce the barrier that is stopping Li Wei and Fei from being together. I wouldn’t even call this a love triangle as the only reason it seems that Sheng was even in this story was to add tension.
The blurb describes Soundless as ‘steeped in Chinese folklore’ but if you changed the names of the characters this book could have been set anywhere in the world. While we were told a lot about Fei’s village and how her people came to be there, there was nothing about their culture or much about their folklore. Due to the ever-shortening food rations they receive food is distributed to the people based on what job they have, but how was this system put into place? Why was it decided that the artists, who observe all day, need more food than the miners, who have the most dangerous job, the most physically demanding, and who supply the metals that are exchanged for food? There were a lot of things that were left unexplained or just didn’t make sense to me and it made it seem like there were massive holes in the world-building and the plot of this book.
The actual story was good, I enjoyed reading about Fei and Li Wei’s journey down the mountain and what they discovered there. However I feel the world-building and the characters really let this book down. Hopefully Mead’s next book, The Glittering Court, is more reminiscent of her Vampire Academy series than Soundless.
What did you think of Soundless? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.