Review: Soundless

26th July 2021

In a village without sound…

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so 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. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

One girl hears a call to action…

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.
She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

And unlocks a power that will save her people.

I don’t even know where to start with this one, but I know how to sum it up perfectly: problematic as fuck. On every level imaginable. So let’s dive straight into the gazillion of issues …

White woman writing Asian inspired fantasy. Le sigh, that shouldn’t even be a thing anymore and this novel is a perfect example why. It’s not genuine. Well, it’s nothing really. I know, being a white woman myself, I’m not in the best position to judge. My “knowledge” of Asian culture stems from the historical and wuxia dramas I inhale, but I think even I could have done a better job in creating a somewhat Chinese-esque fantasy setting (not that I’d want to. I leave that to own voices).

This one is supposed to be historical fantasy. It’s supposed to be Chinese. It feels like neither. It’s timeless in a bad sense. I couldn’t grasp what period this is supposed to be, what century, what dynasty. Sometimes, it read ancient (the living conditions), sometimes modern (the zipline), but never quite Chinese. When it comes to China, you have these fabulous dynasties that can function as somewhat of a style guide for culture, so why not apply that? But no, there were no descriptions of the architecture, the clothes, the hair, the food, the traditions – all these small things that build up a world. I mean, what do their names even mean?! There are a lot of characters for Fei, a lot of characters with the same pronunciation even. Or when Fei and Li Wei part, why don’t they say that if they lose each other now, they’ll be reunited in another life? It totally read western and if I didn’t watch so many cdramas, my imagination wouldn’t even had an inkling of what it was supposed to broadcast. The only Chinese element were the pixiu – or were they? Because winged lions have been a thing in many ancient cultures, not just in China.

Disablism as a plot device. Oh yes, we’re going there. Having a people without hearing that runs into danger and has to find a way to save themselves could have been a fascinating plot and I loved the concept of them living in their own sort of bubble with their own traditions and own ways to compensate with their other senses like the painted news and the sign language. But along comes our very special snowflake of a main character: She’s the perfect artist, very idealistic, and suddenly through some kind of miracle, she regains her hearing and becomes the saviour and chosen one. I kid you not. It all went downhill (quite literally, actually) from the moment her hearing comes back. How can you have a people without hearing and make the only person with hearing around their saviour?! Why couldn’t a person without hearing manage the same feat – and make for a much better, much stronger, much more exciting story at that?!

The plot itself was pretty boring and bland, but there could have been much more thrill when having to deal with falling stones or being chased without hearing. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the love story. Childhood sweethearts being separated due to choosing different paths, then being reunited through a twist of fate, and falling for each other again. Is that even something that was possible considering the culture it is supposed to be set in? From what I have seen, there was a quite frigid class system in place and marriage was always dictated by elders. Besides, this is supposed to end in tears! I mean, have you ever watched a cdrama? They’re mostly damn cruel and heartbreaking and your ship will probably suffer and sink one way or another.

In conclusion: Well, at least it has a pretty cover …

Bibliographic Information
2015 by Razorbill
Hardcover, 267 pages
ISBN-13: 9781595147639
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