Soundless by Richelle Mead
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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...
What I Liked:
I LOVED this book... up until the ending. I kid you not. I was enjoying it (with the exception of a few small things) until I reached the climax and ending, and I didn't enjoy it much. It wasn't that the ending was BAD - the ending was satisfying! But in a very simplistic, unrealistic way. You'll see more of my thoughts on that later in the review! This book is a Pili-Pushed recommendation, and I'm counting it for the month of September (I'm one book behind, oops!).
Fei and her village are all deaf, and slowly, some of them are going blind. On the top of a mountain, they are helpless and cannot feed themselves, so some of the villagers are miners, who mine precious metals and send them via a zipline to the base of the mountain, and food comes back up the zipline, just enough or sometimes not enough to feed the village. They have no concept of who is behind the zipline, who is at the base of the mountain, what lies in the world beyond the top of the mountain. When Fei's sister is demoted from artistry (she's discovered as going blind), and Fei's hearing starts to return, Fei knows that she needs to do something. And that involves scaling down the mountain.
While I was reading, I was so incredibly sucked into this book. I HAD to know what Fei would discover, who would be sending the food, what the world would be like. Fei and a boy from her past, Li Wei, scale down the mountains, discovering bit by bit as they go. When they reach the base, and keep walking, what they discover is both wondrous and terrifying.
But I get ahead of myself. Fei is an artist, one of the selected few who are the recorders, the ones that paint every day to record history in pictures. Since there is no spoken communication (they are deaf, and they do not speak either), paintings are how history is kept. Li Wei is a miner. Miners are starting to go blind, but and Li Wei's father is one of them. Somehow, Zhang Ling (Fei's sister and fellow artist) is also going blind. Fei and Li Wei decide to go down the mountain to see if they can convince whoever is in charge of sending the food to send more.
Like I said, I was dying to know what Fei would find out. And it's fascinating, as they climb down, and what they discover at the base. The world-building of this story is incredible, very rich and well-detailed. I've never read a Mead book, but I'm sure this is is a product of her talent and numerous published novels.
I struggled a bit with Fei, but I think it's because her personality and mannerisms are a product of her environment and lifestyle. She's naive and ignorant at first, but again, this is because she knows no better. Her ancestors knew no better than mining and painting and waiting for food via zipline. Li Wei has her seeing things differently, which is how she ends up going with him down the mountain.
If you haven't guessed, the unlikely romance is between her and Li Wei. Years ago, Fei made the choice to apply to be an artist, leaving Li Wei to be a miner. An artist must marry an artist, so she broke his (and her) heart that day. Hence, unlikely. The two of them care greatly about each other, and this blossoms as the book goes on.
I loved this book, overall. It should have gotten at least four, maybe 4.5 stars from me. The ending, why did the ending have to be the catch?
What I Did Not Like:
The ending. It was entirely too simplistic, too neatly done, too perfect. Things wrapped up way too ideally. I wish I could go into the specifics, but it really bothered me how la-de-dah and happy-snappy things were at the end. Just two or three months passed, and suddenly, class differences have been erased, everyone loves each other, blah blah blah. Are you kidding me? Do you see how long it's taking racial differences to be eradicated in the world? And this issue is STILL present. The same goes for social classes, class differences. If that makes sense. This is super general, trust me, I haven't spoiled anything.
It's things like that though, that seem way to ideal and cute and cherry-on-top. Not realistic enough, and very wtf. Not to mention, a lot of things don't change, at the end. That all by itself is so irritating.
Also, there is a HUGE deus ex machina factor at the end that REALLY bothered me. Using deus ex machina is such a cop-out for authors, and this usage was no different. Sure, it was slightly hinted at throughout the book, but the presence of the... deus ex machina things were not physically in the story until the very end of the book. Hence the deus ex machina. So annoying! Sure, it takes care of things (helping that ending become really neat and whatnot), and answers questions, but it's so annoying. It sticks out like a sore thumb.
Fei. I didn't always like Fei. Like I said above, it's a product of her environment and lifestyl, the way she is. But sometimes she is so selfish and stupid and ignorant, you can't help but be annoyed with her. But for the most part, she grows up.
Would I Recommend It:
I really liked this (despite the ending), and I would recommend it. I didn't really mention the folklore, but that was pretty interesting. The world-building was unique and well-written, and for the most part, I liked the characters (definitely the romance). This novel is very unique, fantasy like I've not read before. Definitely something I'd recommend!
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. The rating is deceptive though, because I really enjoyed the majority of this book. The ending could have been much more developed (the book was so short and hello, this is a standalone!), but it's something that most people would probably overlook. Not a bad experience for my first Mead book!
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