I received this book for free from Penguin Random House Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Trapped atop a mountain, Fei finds when her hearing returns that she is the only person who can help her deaf community who are slowly being worked to death in dangerous mines in exchange for barely enough food to survive.
I loved the worldbuilding in Soundless. I loved how bleak Fei’s initial mountain home landscape was, with barely any colour. I love how she responded to colour. I loved how Fei struggled with finding words to describe her newfound hearing. I loved the descriptions of the other locations and was nicely surprised to find that to Fei, the city seemed rather grand in comparison to her village, but in comparison to other cities, it was not as grand. I loved how the dialect changed between villagers who had been cut off, as a dialect would do under normal circumstances. The whole thing seemed really well thought out and the details added to the realism.
CHARACTERS + RELATIONSHIPS
What I didn’t like as much was that Fei and Li Wei already had an established, forbidden romance before this book even started. I felt that it was cheating a little. The sexual tension between the two was already at a ten and only ramped up higher during the adventure.
I really loved Fei’s unfaltering devotion to her sister. It reminded me of Katniss and Primrose Everdeen from The Hunger Games, even though Fei was the younger of the two. Everything Fei did, every danger she waded into, her sister was the first thought in her mind. I would even argue that I liked their relationship more than the heterosexual romance developed.
Because the book was so short and Fei’s parents were both dead before the opening pages, there’s not much more to say about developed characters or relationships. Most of the other characters seemed a bit two dimensional, but I was refreshed to see the end result of Fei’s rival, even if she wasn’t in the bulk of the book.
I found a striking similarity to Mead’s Vampire Academy world. Fei’s people can’t produce their own food, so they are dependent on the nearby village to support them in exchange for mined goods. The dhampis in VA can’t reproduce, so they are dependent on the Moroi to support them in exchange for guardians.
WHAT WORKED/DIDN’T WORK
I really liked the limited communication used in the book. Fei can’t use words like creak because she’s never heard that sound before, but the description is enough for the audience to gather what she means. I liked how the deaf people communicated in sign language and I loved how even when Fei’s hearing returned she couldn’t understand speech.
I think all of the elements worked quite well and there isn’t anything in particular I found that didn’t work so well, except for maybe the romance. I felt like Fei was purely attracted to Li Wei on a primal level because if the many references to his physical appearance, and I’m not convinced their relationship goes deeper than that. That being said, they’re both teenagers, so I don’t really expect them to reflect on the deeper aspects of a relationship. That also being said, I am not the prime target audience of this book, and perhaps a teenage girl will only care about the glittering hottie taking his shirt off and not his personality. After all, a lot of people think Christian Grey is hot, right? *shudder*
Mead’s writing is clear and concise and she knows how to write an adventure with a sexually tense romance. She gets bonus point for diversity – both using non-white characters and disabled characters, even if apparently some people don’t think it was ‘researched’ because it wasn’t ‘Chinese’ enough, or Mead got some things wrong like language and stuff, never mind that this is a fantasy story and so obviously NOT set in the real world, only inspired by folktales. It’s never said that the story is set in China so just take a chill pill, dude. I enjoyed the book, it was just missing a certain star factor.