Richelle Mead, the hugely successful author behind the Vampire Academy series, stepped into new territory this year with Soundless, a fantasy novel set an a China-inspired world.
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 Beiguo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever…
I’m not a fan of YA novels in general, their plots are simplistic at best, problematic at worst, so I hadn’t read any of Mead’s books before. However, since this one featured a “Chinese” setting, I picked it up.
The plot is both simplistic and full of holes, but it wasn’t terrible. I was easily able to keep reading it.
One of the criticisms I read of the book before I read the book itself said, “While Mead may be commended for attempting to create a world based on a non-Western culture, her use of Chinese mythology and culture is superficial at best. She could have renamed her characters and plonked them down in medieval England with no real narrative impact.”
While this is true, I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. The fact that the book features an almost all non-White cast is a big deal. I am sent dozens of books every day from people asking for reviews. I can count on one hand how many of those feature non-White protagonists. Representation matters, and kudos to Mead for stepping out of her comfort zone and creating a novel, and whole world, based on non-Western culture.
If you enjoy YA fiction, I would encourage you to give this book a try. It would also make a good gift for your kids.
Have you read Soundless? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!