Soundless came to me as a recommendation from a friend and fellow author who is all about young adult, and knows I am all about Literature. I bought the book immediately to see how the two styles met.
Soundless is a standalone young adult novel by Richelle Mead. You may recognize Mead as the author of Vampire Academy and other paranormal series. Her previous stories are trendy complete with various love subplots and teen worries. There are trends that can be hard to break from especially when writing genre. Soundless is different. This novel has such a unique voice not often seen in mainstream publishing today.
In Soundless, Mead brings a literary voice while mixing in bits of young adult adventure. The book is written quite beautifully with lush, haunting scenery, and fluid human movement. As the title suggests there isn’t much in the way of sound. The characters communicate largely through expression and sign language. On the page, the italics in place quotations create a romantic sensation that helps to solidify Mead’s world. Their use is like poetry, dialect, or even a stream of consciousness. A different way to see the written word. There is a strong focus on the preservation of history, culture, and contribution to one’s community not often seen in young adult.
Asian cultural influences are strong in the world building of Soundless. The culture is one that reveres natural talent as dire to the community as worthy of respect and higher social standing. Aside from the main plot, Mead uses culture to create stakes and subplots that resonate realistically and authentically.
There are a couple of things that fell a bit short. The plot, while generally well thought and planned, isn’t incredibly imaginative. The purpose seems focused on the imagery which again, is successful. The plot could be helped with a stronger villain, or main characters with more vulnerabilities. The protagonists are very strong, not much gets to them. Characters need some weakness to allow the reader to care about what’s happening around them.
There’s one sin that bothers me above all which Soundless commits. In the end, the story loses its verisimilitude. The day is saved in a manner that doesn’t fit the established world Mead has built. I won’t spoil the story, but here’s an example of what I mean. What if at the end of Harry Potter, Harry defeated Voldemort with a revolver? Wouldn’t that be strange and unbelievable after all that magic training? Soundless ends in a sideswipe as such that was not set up in the rules of its world. The final sequence is beautiful, emotional, shocking, it just doesn’t make sense.
I recommend Soundless to readers transitioning from primarily genre readings, gaining footing in literature. Mead has the talent and beautiful language. Though this novel won’t become a top pick for me, I’d love to see another literary work from this author.