Soundless by Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Publisher: Puffin, 2015
My Rating: 2/5
Synopsis: For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village. Her people are at the mercy of a mysterious faraway kingdom, which delivers food in return for precious metals mined from the treacherous cliffs surrounding them.
When villagers begin to lose their sight, their rations shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the boy she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
Then Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon . . .
I feel bad that I gave this book 2/5, not because it doesn’t deserve that score (it does, unfortunately), but because my boyfriend bought it for me as a present and I feel bad for not enjoying it more! So sorry Mark, you bought me a dud, but you weren’t to know.
But anyway, yes, this book does deserve a 2/5 rating. This was my first Richelle Mead book and I’d heard a lot of good things about her writing. Sadly, this novel has put me off reading any more of her work. In a nutshell, Soundless was clunky, predictable and lacking emotion.
The premise of the novel is great. An isolated village atop a mountain, populated by people who have lost their hearing and are gradually losing their sight. With arable lands cut off behind an ancient avalanche, a town at the base of the mountain ships goods via zip-line up to the village in return for the precious metals the village mines. But with blindness overtaking the villagers, mining has become exceedingly slower and more dangerous. Less food comes up the zip-line as less metals go down. Then, one day, our protagonist Fei awakes to find she can hear. And so begins a journey to save her village from starvation.
It started off alright. I wasn’t immediately hooked, but the world-building was at least interesting. Then came the pivotal moment of Fei regaining her hearing… and it was anticlimactic. There was a page or two of “oh, what’s this? What’s going on?” and then Fei seemed to forget all about the fact she could actually hear and got on with her daily duties. Perhaps Mead was trying to convey the idea that Fei’s hearing was coming back gradually, but instead it felt more like Fei just had selective hearing.
The story progressed, yet the action and emotion did not. There were perhaps one or two moments of action that made me tense a little. One such moment resulted in a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter, however, instead of eagerly turning the page, desperate to know the fate of this one character, I closed my book and went off to get something to drink. I just didn’t really care. I knew this character wasn’t going to die and oh, lo and behold, they were fine! No life-threatening injuries, not even concussion. It was all too formulaic and the writing lacked any feeling.
As a result, I didn’t care for the characters or the romance between Fei and old flame Li Wei. Mead tried to capture the tension between the two, but I felt nothing. The sentences weren’t original and nor was the romance itself. By the end of the novel, Mead clearly expected the reader to be totally wrapped up in the romance between the two characters. The rhetoric and the repeated motifs fell flat. Fei would repeat a sentence Li Wei had apparently said earlier about the two of them being good at the impossible, but I couldn’t even remember when he’d said that. In fact, I’d spent some parts of the book daydreaming, my eyes still reading a paragraph, and I’d realise I had no idea what I’d just read.
There were also some parts that needed to be elaborated upon. I felt 260 or so pages was not enough to convey the story and that’s why the emotion and the action was lacking. It’s strange to say a short book lacked action because normally shorter books are nothing but action. However, the action itself was too rushed, with no build up of tension. This meant things often went over my head, particularly Fei mentioning in passing how she also felt some kind of ‘connection’ to do with her hearing. I was halfway through the book by this point and couldn’t remember a time when this had previously been explained.
In addition, the plot was often too convenient and unbelievable to be true. MILD SPOILER AHEAD. DOESN’T SPOIL ANY MAJOR PLOT POINTS DIRECTLY BUT DOES HINT AT ONE:
Fei pulling herself up the zip-line, anyone? How on earth could a teenage girl pull herself hand-over-hand for hours up a zip-line that travelled the height of a mountain? Totally ridiculous!
So overall, this book was pretty predictable and lacking any real feeling. The parents were conveniently out of the way (aka dead), the first person POV had no special voice, and the romance barely even fizzled. I really wanted to love this book as I enjoy Fantasy settings inspired by China and Japan etc., but it was just a bit of a disappointment.
Have you read Soundless? Or any other books by Richelle Mead? What did you think?
I’ve now started the second book my boyfriend ordered me, The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent, and it’s much better. So, Mark, you didn’t fail completely. 😉
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!