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...
I received this ARC from BEA 2015 this year, I was in no way compensated for this review.
Richelle Mead brings us a brand new fantasy stand alone that is unlike any other that I have ever read! Soundless is the story of a young girl who was deaf all her life, until one day she woke up to a loud noise.
Fei lives with her small village on the top of a large mountain. There's basically no one but them up there, and in order to get their food they use an intricate pulley/zip-line system with a village below. In exchange for the precious minerals that they mine they receive food rations to sustain themselves. It's not an ideal life, but it's the only one Fei has known.
She herself is an apprentice to one of the elders, and that's pretty much the best position one can have. The worst is being a miner, for their life expectancy isn't very long. The one thing everyone has in common in the village is that they are deaf. It doesn't get further explained until later on, but for awhile we're left pretty much clueless as to how this happened. It's just the way it's always been.
Then one day, she suddenly can hear for the first time in forever. Fei struggles to understand the simple sounds we take for granted on a daily basis. I must admit Richelle wrote these passages very well. How do you describe sound? Fei doesn't understand such words as whispers, bells, bonging, banging...all those words we think nothing of, Fei doesn't even know them. So to see her hear a gong going off was a challenge in describing, even to herself. But Richelle does it very well! I enjoyed seeing Fei hear all these things for the first time. It was nice to see her delight in such simple things that we would likely never look, or listen to twice!
The trouble then begins when the minerals in the mine start to run out, the village starts to receive less food and panic begins to set in. Li Wei, a young man who was once Fei's best friend as a child thinks this needs to change. The village needs a better of way of life and the only way to get that is to talk to the one in charge of giving them food. Though "talk" isn't literal in this sense, as no one in the village speaks like we do, they all sign. Which also makes for interesting conversations to read about. We're so used to dialogue, but here we are reading sign language conversations.
Leaving the mountain is dangerous though, for no one can ever hear the falling rocks that happen regularly on the mountain. Until Fei that is. Convincing Li Wei to let her join him was a task in itself, but eventually the two set off to leave the mountain in hopes to make life better for their neighbors, friends, and family.
This was quite the remarkable read. I've never read a book quite like it before. And while it is supposed to be a fantasy, I'd call it a very light one. The fantasy elements that I am used to seeing are very slim in this one. Fantasy does fit the setting though in its an unknown time period of way back when, when there was no technology or even indoor plumbing like we're used to! Though a larger fantastical twist does come in towards the end that made up for the lack of throughout the story.
Fei was an amazing heroine! She wasn't tough, but she wasn't soft either. She probably is best described as a girl who grows into who she needs to be to, literally, save her townspeople. She has moxie! And all the while she is trying to adjust to hearing things for the first time and even at other times, hiding that she can hear.
There was even a little bit of romance in this one between Fei and Li Wei. It was that sweet, first love kind of romance that makes all us reader smile and twitter! It was cute, but since it wasn't a key factor in the story it didn't have the depth we've come to love from Richelle's past series, but it was still done in a way to enjoy!
Pacing wise, I would say Soundless was reasonably well done. There were points when it seemed to drag here or there, for we never really get an idea of what Fei and Li Wei plan to do to help their people. They just want to help. And when it becomes clear that the village down below is filled with more danger than kindness, well...things take a startling turn!
Being a standalone the ending was the perfect kind! Filled with action and intense battles, secrets and mystery, this read pretty much has it all!
All fans of Richelle Mead will want to read this one, simply because it's Richelle Mead! And it's a new kind of story that we haven't seen from her before. It's a stunning and amazing fantasy that will definitely let readers see the power of sound in a whole new way!
Overall Rating 4/5 stars
Soundless releases November 10, 2015