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review 2016-12-15 00:00
Soundless - Richelle Mead Well the main plot of "Soundless" intrigued me a lot. A hidden village on top of a mountain where no one can hear. Instead this village has learned how to adapt to not being able to hear and has broken their village into artists, miners, and suppliers. After the village has increasing cases of blindness occurring which leads to less food provided by those below, the main character Fei (an artist) leaves the village with her childhood sweetheart to investigate what is happening. What is a fun little twist to the book is that Fei regains her hearing and that causes an interesting wrinkle to the story. The book fell apart for me though when we get to the ending of the story. I don't know about you, but mythical creature comes to save the day was a letdown after all of the nuance that proceeded the ending.

I liked the character of Fei. We find out she is a star pupil in the artists group and is seen as the successor to one of the elders in the village. However, Fei is concerned because she realizes her younger sister is slowly losing her sight and it worries her that if her sister cannot be an artist, she will eventually be thrown out to beg for food among the village. When Fei regains her hearing it was interesting how Mead showed how she dealt with hearing things for the first time. Her reactions to hearing birds, to sudden noises, to people screaming, etc. did have me immersed in this fantasy world. We can also see how Fei being challenged by her childhood sweetheart, Li Wei causes Fei to open her eyes more to the fact that how the village chooses to just blithely agree to demands for more minerals from the people below them in exchange for food is wrong. It's also wrong that the village does not allow miners, artists, or suppliers to inter-marry. Instead if you are an artist, you have to marry another artist. I had a lot of trouble with that one since Fei came from a family of miners and showed a talent for art as did her sister, so you would think someone would realize that was a dumb rule to keep insisting upon.

Most of the other characters are not developed very well in this story besides Fei, Li Wei, and Fei's sister. Everyone else seems to be pretty one dimensional.

When the story moves from the village after Fei regains her hearing, after the initial parts that fascinated Fei and Li Wei the whole story slowed down. I understood these were new and wondrous things to them (seeing a woman in head to foot yellow silk) but it got old after a while while these two signed to each other.

The writing was okay, but the fact that Mead chose to have the characters when "speaking" to each other have that text be in italics was hard to read after a while. I don't know if authors or others don't realize this. But having different fonts or text style right next to each other are hard to read after a while. My eyes felt like they were constantly readjusting and a few times I had to go back and re-read something because my eyes were skipping over words after a while. The book in middle also changed from a YA fantasy to a YA romance novel. There was a lot of Li Wei declaring himself to Fei and Fei shying away from it, but not really. I maybe sort of rolled my eyes a few times.

And before anyone yells at me, no I don't hate love or anything. But declaring your feelings while you have run away from your village and have soldiers out trying to track you down is definitely a let's wait for a second situation. At least that is to me.

The flow was off throughout the book. I think it's because once the book changes gears to Fei and Li Wei leaving the village, there was action, but there was also way too many information dumps being thrown my way while reading. We quickly find out what is going on with the food drops, what exactly is causing blindness in the village, and a myth thrown into boot. I maybe pulled my hair in frustration at this point.

The world building really needed to be better. I liked the idea of a village where no one could hear. But I don't think Mead played with the concept enough. And I really don't get why it was necessary that everyone was color-coded (artists wear blue for example, I cannot remember what colors everyone else wore). And the myth aspect comes out of nowhere and I would have loved more information about that way before we got to the end. I felt a little bit like it was hey there's this awesome thing that somehow can make everything better.

And the book pretty much ends with somehow everything is better, but there are still a lot of questions going on. I was glad to finish this, but I did struggle with it a few times here and there. This was almost a DNF for me just because I was having problems staying engaged with the story.
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review 2016-05-31 00:00
Soundless - Richelle Mead I really enjoyed this book. The world building was very interesting, though, admittedly there could have been more of it. I liked the characters, and loved the way the author reintroduces us to our sense of hearing through Fei, who has never heard anything before, and doesn't know anyone who can hear. The ending felt too fast, but other than that I thought that it was paced well. The audiobook reader is very good as well. I would not have pronounce pixiu correctly if I had not been reading via audiobook, though the irony that I was listening to an audiobook about a village where no one could hear was not lost on me. Because I thought that the world this book was set in was very interesting, but the author did not explore it very much, I would really like to see another book set in this same place, and maybe get a glimpse of how Fei, Li Wei and Zhang Jing are doing through a new character on a journey of their own.
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review 2016-05-29 01:47
Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead
Soundless - Richelle Mead

Quick review for a really sluggish read. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when picking up Richelle Mead's "Soundless". Considering how upset I was over the bigotry presented in "The Glittering Court" - I almost completely passed over this. I'm now glad I didn't because it was better than I thought it would turn out to be - and I enjoyed the story when taking it for the bare bones of its aim. However, "Soundless" isn't really representative of Richelle Mead's best work either - and I'm actually disappointed in terms of how such an intriguing premise (based on Chinese folklore, female protagonist who rises up to challenges to protect her people in something of a dystopian realm, some interesting supernatural/fantastical elements that showed up far too late in the narrative) could've had such poor execution.

I'll mention one thing that bothers me right off the bat before I dive into the heart of this review. Considering that the country of China is NOT ONCE mentioned in the body of text in this book gives me pause. You would not know it was based in China if not going by the blurb or descriptions surrounding this book, because the elements of the book (besides certain names) don't really frame it specific to the culture. I know it's supposed to be based off Chinese folklore (as of the writing of this review, I'm not sure of the specific tale(s) that inspired this - and I'm curious to know) but the way the story skirts around the setting and details of this world is bare bones at best. It wasn't immersive; that's disappointing considering one of Mead's prime strengths is worldbuilding. It would've been awesome to dive into the setting, the aspects of the culture, what made this village the way it was. I also felt that the depiction of characters in this book was shortchanged on many counts.

Fei's an artist/recordkeeper in her village under a rather strict caste system (Artists, Miners and Suppliers). Food and other supplies are sent to their village in the mountains based on the precious metals the miners are able to get. But the downside is that all of the villagers are deaf, and some are becoming blind no one knows the cause for (this is later explained in the narrative). Li Wei is Fei's childhood friend, sort of estranged lover since Fei's in an arranged marriage scenario (that focus gets tossed by the wayside after a while in the book, though. Very obvious who Fei ends up with at the end of the book.) After a tragic set of events, Li Wei decides to leave the village in search of the truth and better prospects since their village supplies are getting cut back more and more, and people are continuing to suffer under a hand they know nothing about. Fei decides to go with him, sacrificing her high status in society and contributing one key thing that Li Wei doesn't have - hearing. Yes, Fei miraculously regains her hearing for a reason the reader doesn't know in the initial parts of the story. (I guessed it was a TCO thing from the very beginning, so this didn't surprise me.)

Fei and Li Wei brave the descent down the steep mountain to discover the truth of things and the iron fist of the people that are controlling the information surrounding their society, so it's up to them to try to return back and tell their fellow villagers (and Fei's sister, who is quickly losing her vision) the truth of things and search for a better way of life/fight against their oppressors. You would think this would be an action packed and tense scenario story based on those descriptions, right?


This story was hampered greatly by sluggish pacing and cringe-worthy romantic interludes that had more focus than the actual structure of the story. I mean, as much as I can appreciate gestures of affection and noting physical attractive factors between LIs in a story, when you shortchange the building of the society, the conflict of the narrative, and potential folklore expansion with paragraphs describing Fei noticing how Li Wei looks shirtless? Not here for that. The romance was far too forced through this narrative for me to believe in it.

I struggled to get through this narrative given how bare bones the presentation was. It really wasn't even a long novel, just felt long with the way the story was presented. I only had a surface level of connection with the characters, world, scenario, etc. I mean, the bare bones of the story was good, but it felt so lacking compared to the worlds that have been built in Mead's other works. I think the only reason I was able to keep focused and motivated in this was the audio narration by Kim Mai Guest, who did a good job with the voice of the character and infusing emotion/tension in the novel where it might've been more dry reading the regular text.

The story pulls a semi-Deus-Ex-Machina ending where things work out for the villagers and certain plot points get resolved (also the story turns from distinctly dystopian to fantasy once that change comes about). I would've appreciated if some of that folklore had been woven into the story much earlier than being tagged on in the final chapters, because it was the one point in the story where I felt like this had a distinct identity and intrigue compared to other dystopian/fantasy works. Why it wasn't incorporated through the entire novel, I have no clue, but I wanted more time to sink my teeth into the lore than it just being a convenient plot point dropped at the end of things.

Nonetheless, I'll say there were so many missed opportunities in this novel, much of which made it longer, more boring and tedious than it had to be. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt, but considering this could've asserted itself so much more with the characters being blind/deaf, taking place in another culture, having an introverted heroine who stands up for her people, and having elements of Chinese folklore - it was very disappointing. So many points of intrigue, but poor execution. I think Mead can do better than this.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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text 2016-05-03 18:42
Library Haul
The Memory of Light - Francisco X. Stork
When We Collided - Emery Lord
The Archived - Victoria Schwab
Soundless - Richelle Mead
More Happy Than Not - Adam Silvera
The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

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