Soundless takes place in a remote, closed off mountain village in ancient China, where all it’s members are deaf and receive food via a delivery in exchange for sending the metal that they’ve mined. Fei is a talented artist, who fears for her sister’s life as she slowly loses her sight. Until one day, Fei regains her hearing and joins her childhood friend on a mission down the mountain to find help.
I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed when I finished this book. I’ve only read two of Mead’s books, Vampire Academy and Frostbite, and I actually really liked them. A lot. If I can recall, it was brilliant albeit cheesy. But it had the action, drama and intensity and I was expecting all this to come in her new novel that is supposedly “steeped in Chinese folklore.” But nothing really jumps out as remotely Chinese about this story. Aside from the pixiu, you could change the names to Rose, Lissa and Dimitri and this could be set anywhere else.
I get this seems harsh, but I don’t have anything good to say about this book and that’s difficult for me, as someone tries to find redeeming qualities in even the worst books I’ve read.
“For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.”
For a fantasy, this is literally the blandest world-building I’ve ever read. It’s set on a mountain, so high up they can’t access anywhere else apart from a zip line from below. And that’s it. And even when they get down the mountain, you’re given even less. Within this village, there’s a class system which makes zero sense. The miners, who do the most important work, more important, in my opinion, than Fei’s job. And yet, they’re treated the worst, fed the less, even though they’re the reason everyone is getting fed.
Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.
I’m so grateful for the book blogging community because it’s taught me so much, in terms of writing. And one of those things I’ve learnt is that you have to be careful writing stories of marginalised groups, especially if you’re not one of them. So there were major red flags when I read the blurb and learnt that this is not a story with a deaf main lead. She is deaf but it’s then cured and gets her hearing back through magical means. And at the end, while it doesn’t outright say it, it’s implied that soon or later, everyone gets their hearing back. It is rather problematic to cure disability for the plot.
“A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance.“
Do I even need to say it? Fei can either choose the boy that was chosen for her or her childhood friend that works in the mines. And the boy she obviously chooses – they have zero chemistry. Just pushed together for the sake of the plot.
Overall, Soundless was dull. I wouldn’t even recommend anyone to even give this book a go. While the story was simple and easy to read, nothing really stands out with this.