Friday, 13 November 2015

Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Publication Date: November 10th 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 272 pages

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...

That blurb has had me all kinds of excited since the start of the year, and this has been one of my most eagerly anticipated reads, so you can imagine my disappointment when the blurb turned out to be filled with over exagerations.
Steeped in Chinese folklore? I’m sorry, where is this? If you change the names of the characters there is literally nothing that makes this stand out as being particularly Chinese. I was so excited about having a diverse and interesting new read for the autumn, filled with folklore that I couldn’t wait to learn more about. What I got was a poorly constructed story that had very little drive to it and lacked any real links to China or its folklore except in the names.

It’s a short book to begin with so I really shouldn’t have found my interest lagging at any point, but that’s precisely what happens. The story meanders along at its own pace with a very basic plot that never really explores its full potential. There are a couple of interesting darker aspects but I never really felt  though they were given enough weight or depth of exploration, and as a result the parts that intrigued me the most were mostly swept under the rug. Then the final climax takes on a thoroughly different approach and feel to the rest of the book, suddenly throwing in bizarre fantasy elements that have been absent up to that point. It’s a really strange and surprisingly unsatisfying ending.

With a slow and basic story you really need an interesting and engaging central character to drive the story and keep the reader focussed, but again ‘Soundless’ came up short. Fei was nice enough and very brave, but I never connected with her. I think that may be in part due to the narrative style, but it meant that I never really fell in love with her, never rooted for her or feared for her. I felt merely mild interest in her plight and didn’t feel any emotional connection to her relationships. The relationship between her and her sister was particularly puzzling as it never felt fully formed, and Fei never comes across as the younger sibling, more like an older sibling desperately playing the care taker.

The narrative style keeps you emotionally distant and whilst on the whole it’s quite formal and stilted, presumably to try and keep the traditional storytelling/fable feel, there are quite a few instances where bizarrely modern language and phrases creep in which are quite jarring.

All in all this was not the book I was hoping to read, and it didn’t even remotely live up to my expectations. It was a decent enough story, competently told, but lacking any of the diversity and excitement that had been promised in the blurb. Thrown in the frustrating narrative style that keeps you at arms length from the characters and the slow moving plot and I was left feeling more than a little grumpy on finishing this one.


  1. Agh, that's so disappointing! It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015 but I've heard such mixed reviews that I'm scared to read it :/

  2. Overall I enjoyed reading it, but I agree that the "steeped in Chinese folklore" was laying it on a bit thick.

  3. Aghhh I'm SO sad about this. I've literally only seen one "positive" review and it was only like 3.5 stars anyway, hehh. So yeah. o.O I have it on reserve at the library because the premise intrigues me a LOT but...gah. No details on Chinese culture is what's saddening me the most. That's what I really wanted to read it for. D:

  4. Awww this is disappointing. I think everyone has been waiting for this one with baited breath but your not the first reviewer I've seen saying it missed the mark. Oh well I will give this one a miss and hope that her next book is better.