Soundless brings Chinese folklore into the YA genre
After having read both Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. I was pretty interested in seeing how she dealt with Chinese folklore with this new one-off, Soundless.
Mead has created an unfamiliar world for a majority of the general population, and helped those of the hearing get a bit of understanding of the challenges that the deaf deal with on a daily basis. Granted, this is a whole town that’s been deaf for generations, so even sound itself become unrecognizable.
We experience this through the eyes, and ears, of Fei, who one day for no reason known to her, is able to hear. With the knowledge of realizing her state, she’s unsure what this means for her or her village, and that’s part of the story.
There’s both the physical journey down from her rocky and treacherous mountain village and the psychological journey for Fei, one of the artists in the village who uses her talent to basically give the daily news to the village, as she struggles with finding hope for her people, including her sister Zhang Jing and her former close friend Li Wei, and adjusting to life with sound and words.
The story is fairly predictable and the characters fairly straightforward, however, there’s still an adventure to be had for Fei and it’s pretty exciting, even if it’s a simple story.
The simpleness of the story might also be a fault for some who are looking for more than just an adventure story. Though I am appreciative of the fact that we’re dealing with unfamiliar territory in Chinese folklore as we certainly don’t have many of that fantasy type in young adult fiction, knowing the rarity of that should make the author want to give a bit more dimension to the characters than what was given here.
There are subtleties about the story that can be appreciated, including overcoming language barriers as well as more threatening types of barriers, and barriers that we continue to build up in ourselves.
So , the fact that Mead takes on the challenge to introducing such asian fantasy to the YA genre is a step in the right direction, I think. Hopefully, it will inspire more writers to do more for such characters.
My Grade: C+