Prior to picking this book up, I had no familiarity with the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines author, Richelle Mead. However, I was drawn to this book’s cover at the store, and when I saw it again at the library, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t even read the book description before buying it on my Kindle, so I had no idea what it was about. I just knew I loved the intriguing Asian-inspired cover and opening sentences.
Soundless (2015) is a folk story that takes place in a fictional mountain village in China. The era is quaint and timeless. Atop a high and treacherous mountain sits a village wherein all the occupants have long gone deaf for generations. The society is separated into artists and miners. The artists keep record of the town’s history, and the miners send their metals down a zip line to the base of the mountain, in exchange for the village’s food. While the food supply is very scarce, farming is impossible, and everyone’s going hungry, no one can climb down the mountain. Its passageways have been blocked for generations, and since nobody can hear the falling rock, one who attempts to climb down could be crushed by frequent avalanches.
That all changes when a young woman, a painter’s apprentice named Fei, mysteriously gains the ability to hear. Accompanied by her past love, a strapping miner called Li Wei, the pair resolve to climb down the mountain and learn what’s causing their people to go blind on top of their deafness, and to ask for more food for their village. What they discover at the bottom of the mountain is beyond what anyone expected.
I think one of the aspects I enjoyed most about this book was the concept of a community without hearing, how the characters communicated only in sign language, and the experience of one person in such a society’s hearing suddenly coming awake. I loved the romance between Fei and Li Wei. Fei is a strong, noble character who deeply cares about her love interest, her sister, and her people, and she respects her elders, too. The writing is excellent. Mead’s style reminds me of Kiera Cass; direct and easy to follow. I loved the mythological flare at the climax. Overall, a solid and engrossing YA read that I would recommend, especially to anyone with an interest in Asian folklore.