Do you know how many times I checked out Soundless, by Richelle Mead, from the library before I actually read it? Three. I saw it, got all excited, checked it out, and then just let it sit in my TBR pile. I swear the cover model has started to stare at me accusingly. Why haven’t you read this book? What, do you think that Richelle Mead has managed to produce a bad story? Get real.
What Soundless is about:
Fei, a court painter, lives in an isolated village atop a mountain where everyone is deaf. The unstable mountainside means that travel is nigh impossible; the inhospitable terrain means that they cannot grow their own food. To survive, the villagers mine a precious metal and send it down a zipline to a kingdom called Beiguo in exchange for food. Unfortunately, the villagers are starting to lose their sight, too, and are able to mine less and less metal. Darkness and starvation are looming.
The future is bleak until one night, Fei is woken up by a searing noise—a scream. Suddenly being able to hear gives her an advantage that no one else possesses: the ability to hear rocks falling down the mountainside. Fei teams up with a miner, Li Wei, to descend the mountainside to Beiguo and save her village.
My thoughts on Soundless:
I wasn’t dazzled by Soundless the way I’ve been with other books (lookin’ at you, Mistwalker), but I did enjoy it. I liked the descriptions, particularly the attention to colors.
The Chinese setting was very (very) subtle, which I actually preferred to an in-your-face, look-how-Chinese-this-is style. I can’t stand travel guides masquerading as novels. That said, I’m probably never going to get to see Han-era China, so I wouldn’t have minded a little more umph.
All of the characters were a bit flat at the best of times. I liked Fei—her quiet feistiness and artistic flair made her a cool protagonist. Unfortunately, her love interest, Li Wei, was hella boring. I can’t think of anything that really distinguishes him from other YA romantic heroes. He’s handsome and muscular, fiery and impetuous, clever and insightful…and just so, so predictable.
My biggest fear about/objection to this book was the fact that the deaf protagonist suddenly becomes un-deaf. That’s the reason that I didn’t read it the first two times I checked it out. Deaf protagonist?? OMG YES. Deaf protagonist miraculously regains her hearing?? OMG NO. I’d never—never—read a book with a deaf protagonist before. Way to crush my dreams, Richelle. My only consolation is that Fei can’t integrate easily into the “hearing” world. She finds hearing disorienting and frightening, and she totally lacks the vocabulary to describe the experience.
Most importantly, she can’t speak aloud or understand spoken words and relies on sign language throughout the book. This actually made the book pretty cool—the dialogue is completely silent. By the time I’d finished the book, I was left with this weird feeling of having sat in a too-quiet room for too long.
All in all…3/5. It was a pretty good book, but nothing special.