Review of the Novel "Soundless" by Richelle Mead
In a village where everyone is deaf and some are losing their sight, Fei is of one of the highest casts; an artist, along with her sister Zhang Jing. They live high in the mountains, cut off from the outside world and from food, their only source of provisions coming from a mysterious line keeper none of the living villagers have ever seen.
Trouble rises when the "line keeper" cuts their provisions in half and Fei's hearing suddenly comes back when she wakes from a nightmare. She and her childhood love, a miner named Li Wei, decide to risk using her newfound hearing to chance the treacherous climb down the mountain to speak with the linekeeper and prevent their town from starving. On the journey, however, they discover that not all is as it seems and the problem lies much larger than one single man at the bottom of the line.
Fei is a great character because she's clever and talented. She has a large heart and, though a bit of a rebel, is not afraid of her femininity. She risks everything for her little sister and even worries for her when Fei's own life is in danger. This strong family bond is refreshing because it does what others fail to do; make the reader care about a non-romantic relationship.
Li Wei, the miner and childhood love of Fei, is a good example of a male character that is strong but not overbearing. He does not make Fei's decisions for her, but she makes them herself. He is very straight-forward, head-strong, and determined, but he genuinely cares for Fei and recognizes that she is her own person who makes her own choices, which is sadly refreshing for Young Adult books.
The romance is cleverly hinted at before anything happens, and develops in a way that is not too quick or unbelievable. Fei and Li Wei's relationship is very realistic, with awkward moments, doubt-filled thoughts and hesitations, and a slow build. Not only that, but instead of distracting from the main story, it only added to it.
This may mostly be due to the allusions to their romantic feelings for each other through childhood. Whatever the case, their relationship is intense and believable.
Mead creates an intriguing world where, even in a small, cut-off village, social status is deemed by job title and certain classes cannot marry into others.
Overall, however, the world is not unique from any other Young Adult book, using fairly common descriptions of the town below the mountain. Still, the details used add life to the book through the mentions of trade items (Fei's silk dress) and gambling games (the scorpion game Li Wei plays).
The prose of this book is odd in that it remains within passive tense almost throughout the entire book, yet somehow it works. At places, there are moments where the author skims over events by just saying that they happened, showing the importance of "show don't tell".
The majority of this book is "told" to the reader instead of "shown", but the story and characters are intriguing enough to keep the reader interested. It also leads to breathtaking moments where the reader is on the edge of their seat. The author could have added more suspense by describing more actions rather than telling, but for the most part, this book worked in a way that shows sometimes breaking the rules works if the author has enough skill and bravery try it.
All in all, this book was an interesting read. Though it won't be part of my favorites, it is certainly worth a read for those who are looking for a unique writing style and intriguing storyline.