Friday, November 13, 2015

ARC Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Title: Soundless
Author: Richelle Mead
Published: November 10, 2015 by Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore. 

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. 

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

Soundless is the first book I have read by Richelle Mead. Honestly, it's the first book of hers I have even been interested in. This is such a hard book to review. I mean I liked it, but there were just so many parts that didn't work for me. Those middle of the road kind of books are the hardest to review because for better or worse nothing really made much of an impression, positive or negative.

Soundless is a fantasy standalone and I'm starting to think that I may just not really enjoy fantasy standalones. I'm a huge fan of the genre but I prefer to spent a lot of time with a world. I also just think there is a much better balance between the world and the plot when you take the time to develop them and when it comes to standalones you really have to focus on the plot development.  Sometimes more is more and when it comes to standalones that is very true. Most fantasy authors spend the first 100 pages building and establishing the world. So in the case of Soundless if you only have 160 pages to then focus on the plot it's going to suffer. I think that's what may have happened here. There could have been a lot more mystery and action but for me it didn't come off that way until the last quarter of the book. I'm just a plot-driven reader that the lack of plot development in the beginning made it challenging to get through.

But that focus on the world-building did create a world that was lush and engaging. The mountain setting was interesting and descriptive. Everything in the village that Fei lived in seemed to come alive in my mind and it felt like the kind of place I would want to visit and experience for myself. This is where I think the influences of Chinese culture came in. In the back of my mind this helped to build a visual on a society that could have seemed odd and backwards, but instead felt creative. Plus Richelle Mead's prose was poetic and worked well to create something different and interesting. I especially liked when Fei got her hearing back, the exploration and explanation of sound to someone who didn't know what that was. It felt very genuine especially her confusion and curiosity. It added an unique element to the world and character development.

Another thing that made the book interesting but didn't quite blow me away is the characters. I did like the main character Fei. I felt invested in her story to find out what was happening. She is smart and resourceful but she isn't your typical strong female protagonist and I respected that about her. If you were to request someone to save your town from danger she would not be the person I would request. She is kind of an unlikely hero. I also loved the relationship between her and her sister. It gave her more depth and made her more sympathetic. I would have liked to see her sister be a little bit more involved in the book. She, like many of the other characters here weren't very fleshed out. I didn't enjoy the romantic lead, Li Wei. He was more of the character you would expect to be the hero. He's a bit disruptive and doesn't appreciate the status quo. That normally would be interesting but because I appreciated the unlikely hero aspect of Fei, having a character supporting her who does fit the hero trope didn't work for me. And of course there's my general reluctance and dislike for romance which added to my lack of enjoyment in that aspect of the story. There were some great characters but most of them didn't make a lasting impression on me.

But I think the biggest thing that didn't work for me with this book was the pacing. It started out very slow with a lot of set-up. I get that, I understand you are building the world but it was a bit of a slog to get through it. And with the focus on the world-building, the pacing felt even more problematic because it didn't feel like it had good flow to it. It was almost like there wasn't much transition from moment to moment. Then as the plot development did start kicking in, that aspect made it seem like things were just escalating extremely quickly. Towards the end of the book were at almost a breakneck speed and yet I still just wanted it to be over. It moved too quickly that it was confusing and I may have checked out a bit. This is a really fast read but it's not really much of a page-turner.

I know this is a bit of a critical review but I don't think this is a bad read. I just don't think it is for me. I like my books to have a big focus on the plot development and that wasn't the case here. The world-building and setting is interesting and the main character is likeable. On the whole, with the focus on world building and lack of plot development, Soundless felt a lot like a classic fairy tale or myth. It was as if it was some culture's origin story or something help to explain why things were a certain way. That part of the book was interesting, it's just that is not my kind of read. If you are into those kinds of books then you may enjoy this a bit more.

I give Soundless by Richelle Mead 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This book was definitely not for me but it does have some good aspects that I think a certain kind of reader would really enjoy. I think I would honestly recommend to those who are interested in fairy tales and folklore.

Have you read Soundless? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I've heard so many mixed things about this one I don't think I'll be picking it up. Thanks for the review :D

  2. I think I enjoyed this one a bit more than you did, because I really loved the world building and the writing and the short length and the plot development reminded me of mythical stories or fairy tales, when things get resolved a bit too easily, because that's how things go.
    Great review Cassi!

  3. It's a standalone?? I actually may have known that already, but . . . it's surprising to read. It's such a short book, especially for a fantasy! Richelle Mead is one of my absolutely favorite authors, but I'm a little reluctant to read Soundless because of all the meh things I've heard about it. I think I would feel similarly to what you did, but . . . I don't know. It looks like a lackluster read.

  4. Eh, it looks interesting, but yet not lol!! I like that you said "borrow" at the end. Thanks for the heads up there I definitely would borrow first if I decide to read it.

  5. Oh man!! I was hoping everyone would be completely blown away by this so that I could read it and be blown away too! It's pretty disappointing to see that everyone isn't loving it. :( I do have a really hard time with slow beginnings though, so I could see that being an issue. Thanks for the review though! I might still give it a try...

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds