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 reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull . . . and I’ll explain what I mean by that later on in this review.
As some readers have commented, Soundless starts out a bit slow. I believe this is a good thing, because it acclimates the reader to the book’s setting and unique circumstances – a remote village on the mountain where none of the residents have been able to hear for generations.
How does a writer approach writing dialogue for a group of people who sign their conversations rather than speak them? Since signing is a visual form of communication, it makes sense that there has been some discussion about how to represent it in text. Several readers have expressed disappointment with the way Mead decided to do it – by putting the dialogue in italics and letting the reader do the imagination-work. Unfortunately for those readers, I don’t see any other way that doesn’t involve complex drawings of signs, not to mention Mead coming up with a whole new system of signing (because as Soundless points out, sign language changes with the times and differs depending on location just like spoken language).
So when I said that the beginning of the book is slow, I said so because the book picks up pretty quickly. I mean, what has more SUSPENSE than a series of chapters where characters are literally HANGING OFF A CLIFF? Maybe I was just too mesmerized by the world that Mead sets up in this book, but even during times when the plot did lack suspense, I was still engaged and interested.
In fact, I found much to be excited about while reading Soundless. The book brings with it a potential discussion of disabilities, specifically the systems that oppress those with disabilities and the individuals’ rights. And the protagonist is not afraid to speak up for herself or her people – she’s a real force to be reckoned with, and ensures that her village is not overlooked or taken advantage of.
But here’s where that Indiana Jones analogy comes in: the ending. When watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I remember thinking, hey, this isn’t that bad! I kinda like it! Then I got to the ending, and it’s like the movie just wanted to prove me wrong. Aliens show up! And in a series about historical artifacts and human history around the world . . . it was such a huge (and out of place) let down. That’s how I felt with Soundless. Tension is building towards the end of the book, and I had so much hope that Soundless was going to offer this great ending that makes all the readers think about what it means to live with a disability and do so with pride. Then there were aliens. Okay, not really, but metaphorical aliens. I just couldn’t get on board with the ending. It was SUCH an abrupt departure from the rest of the book and the progress that could have been made.
Anyway, I did enjoy this book, to a certain extent. I hated the ending, but I can appreciate the book’s beginning and middle separately from that, even if the ending kinda ruined Soundless for me. But who knows – I’m sure this book is someone else’s cup of tea! Others are bound to like it more than I did, which in turn is more than some others liked it too.
About the Author:
Richelle Mead has written over twenty-five novels for teens and adults. She is the author of the international #1 bestselling Vampire Academy series and its spinoff series, Bloodlines. Her recent standalone novel, Soundless, draws upon Chinese mythology and history, and her forthcoming series, The Glittering Court, follows the adventures of girls destined for arranged marriages in a fantasy world inspired by colonial America. A lifelong reader, Richelle has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses to wear on tour. She is a self-professed coffee addict, works in her pajamas, and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is hard at work on her next novel.
P.S. – Have you entered my giveaway to win a copy of Winter by Marissa Meyer yet?!