I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Razorbill on November 10, 2015
Source: the publisher
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...
At its core, Soundless has the potential to be an amazing book. First of all, it’s Richelle Mead, which is always an automatic “yes” for me. But beyond that, the plot also sounded intriguing, as did the diverse characters and setting. However, in the end, I was pretty disappointed.
I’ll start with the positive: As always, Mead’s writing was gorgeous. She does an incredible job of showing the reader the world she’s creating, which (usually) really pulls the reader in. At times, I did find myself being pulled in and enjoying the book. But those rare moments were far out-numbered by the meh moments.
I have read four series’ by Mead, both YA and adult. Each series put a unique spin on a common plot and each had a colorful cast of characters that felt like real people – people I cared about and who I rooted for. Sadly, Soundless was lacking both of those trademark Mead elements. Though Soundless had a unique concept, the plot was structured much the same way as all the other Fantasy and Dystopian novels out there (example: The whole “saving my sister” thing reminded me of The Hunger Games and, once that comparison was in my head, I could’t shake it at all). That made things fairly predictable and I was able to guess how several things were going to play out from very early on.
The characters weren’t completely flat – they all had these brilliant moments where I really loved them; however, they were lacking… something… And I really can’t even put my finger on what it was. I guess I’m comparing them to Mead’s other characters from her other books and I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the cast of Soundless in comparison to the cast of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines (I’ll leave out comparisons to Mead’s adult books, to level the playing field a bit).
Fei and Li Wei absolutely had moments of bravery and strength throughout their journey. They experienced growth that the other characters didn’t. But given what they went through and what they learned, I expected more growth – and that didn’t happen. I’m not convinced of their chemistry, either, though they certainly had more chemistry than Fei and Sheng did.
The other characters in this book felt like secondary background characters, even Fei’s sister, because we mostly took this journey with Fei and Li Wei. I will say that I really liked Xiu Mei and couldn’t stand Sheng. But beyond that, I don’t really feel one way or another about any of the characters – even Fei and Li Wei, who are supposed to be the main characters. Beyond their moments of bravery and strength – and the fact that they had the most development of any other characters – nothing about them stood out for me.
Though I’m no expert on Chinese culture and folklore, I skimmed a handful of reviews on Goodreads and was disappointed to discover that those more knowledgable than I had two major issues with this book: the cover model is not Chinese and the Chinese names were done wrong. I’m proud of Mead for stepping out of her comfort zone and writing a book that’s vastly different from her previous ones; however, I’m disappointed she didn’t do more research and that the cover artist didn’t chose a better cover model, one that better represented the culture and the book as a whole.
There was a rushed convenience to the ending. At first, Mead had a logical explanation for the hearing and vision loss, one rooted in science. I actually found this explanation intriguing. But then, almost out of nowhere (I say “almost” because it was hinted at earlier), Mead brought in a (illogical) fantasy/magical element to explain certain things. Now, I’m usually the first person to be like “OMG SUPERNATURAL/FANTASY ELEMENTS!! YAY!!!!” But it didn’t feel necessary in this book. Instead, it felt forced and, in relation to the resolution of the book, entirely too convenient. In my opinion, Mead should have used either the logical explanation OR the illogical explanation, but not both.
Finally, Soundless is a stand-alone, but there was a lack of closure by the end of the book. I feel like the reader is left hanging, with a lot of questions still unanswered. And many plot points tied up quickly and simply, but with a lack of explanation and logic. Really, a lot of things in this book were incredibly illogical and required almost a complete suspension of disbelief. Many books require suspension of disbelief, but Soundless demanded it.
Overall, Soundless was nonsensical and illogical. I found myself asking “why?” too many times. There was no sense of urgency, no heart-pounding or heart-in-throat moments – even when there should have been. If you’re a Mead fan, I still recommend this book – you may enjoy it where I didn’t. However, if you’ve never read any of Mead’s books, I suggest starting with one of her other series’! Her other books, in my opinion, are way better – better plot, better characters. Basically, better all around!
PS: Alyssa @ The Eater of Books! posted a great review of Soundless, explaining the deus ex machina plot device and how it relates to the book. I had to look up what deus ex machina meant, but once I read the explanation and then read the book itself, I completely agreed! Check out Alyssa’s review here!