Folklore is not a world I’ve immersed myself in much before, however, I quite enjoyed Soundless from popular YA author Richelle Mead. The idea of folklore is a notion beyond my usual school of thought because I haven’t done my homework on it in fact or fiction. Chinese folklore would merit much the same thought process; it too is not lore I am familiar with. Still, this rare standalone book from 2015 isn’t a bad way to enjoy a day or two binge-reading.
The story begins in a small Chinese village where young Fei lives. Her world is not only void of any and all sounds, it adheres to a strict social hierarchy where she has been fortunate enough to live a life of privilege. As an artist, it’s Fei’s job to recount everything that happens that day. At the end of days spent painting and learning under a master, Fei is able to go home to comfortable living quarters. Three things happen in succession that begins to change Fei’s world. Her sister begins to develop blindness, Fei begins to experience sound and Fei again comes face-to-face with the one boy who might inspire her to action against those who control their destiny.
If the name Richelle Mead has a ring of familiarity, that’s because she is well known as the author behind the vampire series Vampire Academy and the Bloodlines series. As a girl who never grew into the vampire subculture, I’ve not read those. However, this book did capture my attention. After reading Soundless, I had mostly positive takeaways after I closed the final page. However, the objects that make this story its own did raise some confusion. Given the roots the novel has in Asian folklore, personally, the characters names turned me around a few times. Each time someone new stepped onto the pages, I had to try and rewind through the event sequences to remember who they were and what they meant. Still, given the nature of its primary plot (suggesting a heavy folklore overture), this book might not live up to expectations for some readers familiar with Asian folklore.
That is not, in fact, however, how this novel actually reads. Sure, there are some legends whispered about among the villagers, and Fei uncovers a secret that has been unknowingly suppressing her people, but beyond this, the book is surprisingly simplistic, a term I am using in a positive way. I’m not the kind of reader who likes “fussy” writing. Instead, I’m happiest with good characters and an entertaining plot. As a premise, this one is remarkably unique allowing the story itself to stand away from the day-to-day fray of YA lit. This uniqueness is without question one of the best things about this novel. Not only are the ploys in the plot well attributed, the characters too are unique. As usual, the first person narrative is sometimes a burden because it only always us to know Fei, however, she was a compassionate heroine who had only the best of motives in everything she did.
Romance is kept in the background, but what’s there is lovely. The sweet words of love exchanged between Fei and her fellow rebel remains wholesome yet with an edge of passion. This succeeds in making the novel well rounded. If you like diverse books, this falls into that classification even if there is untapped potential where the author may have exposed more diversity. That said, I enjoyed the story as it is and feel this proves Richelle Mead can be successful outside the comfort of her usual world. Between this novel and her upcoming new series (which sounds amazing!), I’m most eager to read more by this talented author.
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Page Count: 272
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy (Standalone)
Add Here: Goodreads
Author Website: Richelle Mead
Buy on Amazon: Soundless
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