Although I've never read this author before, when I read in the description that YA fantasy Soundless by Richelle Mead deals with a deaf community, I knew I had to read it. I have an ongoing interest in deaf topics which is also a focus of Book Babe. In addition, Fei is a strong female protagonist. Those are the reasons why I am posting this review here.
For most of this book, I thought it was absolutely brilliant. It showed the competence of deaf people in their occupations, and their determination in surviving under extremely difficult circumstances. The vicious prejudice and exploitation that they face represent emotional disabilities of the non-deaf population.
Protagonist Fei is a painter. In most social contexts art would be considered a luxury that people who are struggling to survive can't afford. In this village, art is communication. In a low tech society like this one, non-deaf people would have a town crier who would provide an oral account of important events. Deaf people need their news in a visual medium. Fei was one of the painters who was assigned to observe and record what was happening in the village. She would then create a written account illustrated by paintings which would be displayed in the center of the village. She learned to paint swiftly so that her people would have the news on a daily basis. She was essentially taking the role of a journalist. Like the best reporters she had the courage to take tremendous risks to find out the truth about what was being done to them by those who had power over them.
The end of this book seemed unworthy of the rest of the narrative. It was a magical deus ex machina ending. I found this dictionary definition of deus ex machina from Merriam Webster . It's "a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel,
play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed
impossible to solve." I admit that there was some foreshadowing, so the ending didn't come out of nowhere, but it was still a letdown for me. I wanted it to be as interesting and imaginative as the rest of the novel.