Review of Soundless by Richelle Mead and Reflection on the Use of Sound
First off let’s get this out in the open, I love all of Richelle Mead’s work. She’s one of my favorites and in my opinion one of the best YA authors writing today. Now you know why I had to pick up Soundless the standalone novel by her. I lover her series from Vampire Academy and Bloodline, to the on going Age of X, (still waiting on book 3 over here!) they are all amazing. So let’s get to the good stuff.
In this book Fei lives in a Asian mountain village where the people do not have the ability to hear. They mine the resources send it down to a larger town by way of a zip-line and in return they get food up from the town using the same zip-line. The food supply is slowly shrinking and some of the villagers are going blind. So when one night, sound returns to Fei she decides, with a little help from a childhood friend, to climb down the mountain and explain the situation to the line keeper to ask for help.
When I read the premise of Soundless I was a little nervous. A world where no one speaks, what would reading that be like? How will I know what they are communicating to each other? I was thinking it would be more of a logistical struggle to read then the easy flow I’m used to of character speech. The solution Mead created is simple and elegant: when a character is using sign language the words are italicized. It reads as easily as any other book, so my main worry went out the window and I began to lose myself in the story.
Fei is an artisan, an esteemed position in the village, as is her sister Zhang Jing. The protectiveness Fei has for her sister is touching and very real. She would do anything for her, anything to save her. Which is one of the motivators she has for going down the mountain. Then there is the childhood friend, Li Wei. He has become strong from his years working in the mine, but there is still softness within him. In the book Fei thinks back on how their friendship started. “His easy smile and sense of humor soon helped me overcome my shyness, beginning a friendship that would span almost ten years and eventually become so much more…” (Pg. 17).
One incredible thing I experienced when I read this was thinking about how much language we use to describe sound. A buzz, gong, or whistle all had no meaning to the people in the mountain village. There is a section in the book where Fei is trying to understand what’s happened to her (her return of hearing). She looks in the library and finds a scroll that describes what sound is. Such descriptions as, “When a small bell rings, the sound is high and sweet, clear and often staccato. It is a tinkling, almost like the babbling of a brook” (Pg. 41) made me think about how off handily I use such language.
The writing is excellent and the characters are rich in detail. The only draw back really is that it is so short a book, only 266 pages. Though I must admit that it does feel like it is completed in full. There are no loose ends and I am satisfied by what happens.
Soundless by Richelle Mead is out now