Friday, November 6, 2015

Me on Soundless

Title: Soundless
Author: Richelle Mead
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin imprint)

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.

Soundless is a mystery in the mountains and a search for the truth, a journey down below the clouds for answers. But will Fei find them, or will she only find despair as her village continues to starve and suffer?

Fei is a cautious girl who worries about the well-being of her sister, a creative girl who dreams of painting gorgeous pictures filled with bright colours instead of the daily report of what's going on in the village. Like everyone else in the village, Fei cannot hear, relying on a signing language and writing in order to communicate. But when her hearing does return, things change. With the village in decline, with her sister's health suffering, she knows something must be done. And so she and a companion head down the mountain, using her hearing to keep them safe from rock slides. But the land below the mountain is a strange one, hiding secrets about those living above and in the mines.

A village where no one can hear. How intriguing. It's there in the sign language, in the writing out of the day's news, in the machines that shake the beds awake. There's a moment where Fei sees a bird open its mouth and another bird flies in to sit next to it. As she couldn't hear then, she wonders what the bird did to attract its mate. It's intriguing to see how the village adapted to their lack of hearing over the years, how they're able to get on with their work and their lives. How some still wonder what it would be like to hear the sounds around them.

The book begins with a soft, quiet tone that belies the urgency the villagers face. They're slowly going blind. They need to see and mine if they want food from below the mountain, if they want to survive. As the book progresses, as Fei and her companion travel and learn, the sound builds as Fei hears more of the world around her. The tumble of the rocks down the mountain, the wind rushing past, the bustle of the township, the sounds the traders and townsfolk make when they open their mouths. It all builds, rushing towards the climax. I found this to be a rather sweet sort of mysterious fantasy story with a strong heroine. Fei is frightened, yes, but she would do anything, go anywhere, to keep her sister safe and healthy. She would fight back. I would recommend this to those looking for a softer kind of fantasy tale, to those looking for a story with roots in Chinese folklore.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Random House Canada.)

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