*Serious Face Review*

There is not a single quotation mark in “Soundless” because there is not a single line of dialogue. Spoken dialogue, that is. Every member of Fei’s tiny mountaintop village is born deaf. It has been generations since hearing disappeared, and they have only myths and legends to explain why.

Treacherous avalanches have long since blocked the passes, leaving the villagers completely cut off from the world. They are entirely dependent on a zipline that sends up a daily crate of food in exchange for precious metals extracted from the mountaintop mine.

When the villagers begin losing their eyesight as well, Fei realizes that this is the beginning of the end. The miners are unable to maintain productivity and the already scant food deliveries from below shrink accordingly, putting Fei’s people on the path of starvation.

When Fei inexplicably regains her hearing one night, she finds herself in a position to go for help. She teams up with her childhood friend and miner Li Wei to make the journey. Between his strength and practical knowledge, and Fei’s ability to hear oncoming rockslides, they repel down the treacherous mountain face.

Their initial plan is to seek out the Linekeeper and petition him to send more food. But when they reach the bottom, their worldview is shaken. The man guarding the zipline is not the powerful official they believed him to be, but a pawn in a much larger game. Thrust into a bustling world full of babbling people, they muddle along in their search for answers while trying to hide the fact that they don’t belong.

The description of communication is the most interesting thing about “Soundless.” Fei’s struggle to understand the concept of sound is fascinating to read, as she gradually makes the connection between the unfamiliar sensations assaulting her head and the movement of things around her. It’s slightly humorous to see her exploit her hearing advantage when she escapes with Li Wei, knowing she can force doors open and rip through window screens unnoticed.

Despite the fact that sound becomes Fei’s secret weapon, her family and friends aren’t portrayed as being less worthy or undignified for being deaf. Emotion and feeling are present in the silence, and the strengths of other senses are highlighted, particularly Fei’s artistic eye.

The premise of “Soundless” is unique enough to satisfy both teen and adult readers. Author Richelle Mead was influenced by the cultures of Taiwan and China for this book, which takes readers out of the generic medieval European setting of comparable stories. There is a touch of mythology and magic in “Soundless,” but it is almost ornamental compared to the story arc of Fei’s growth. She may have magically regained her hearing, but the strength to save her village comes entirely from herself.

Author: Richelle Mead