DNF Q&A: Fantasy Standalone Falls Flat

I received this book for free from Razorbill. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

DNF Q&A: Fantasy Standalone Falls Flat

Written by: Richelle Mead
Published by: Razorbill
Release date: November 10th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Source: BookExpo America 2015
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. 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 and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...


The DNF Q&A is an infrequent feature here at TWBI — instead of reviewing DNF’d books, I will post answers to a few pertinent questions in order to explain what made me ultimately set the book aside. Feel free to comment and suggest additional questions for future Q&A posts (may they be few and far between!), or just ask some questions specifically about this book!


Did you really give Soundless a chance?

I tried. I tried really hard. I wanted to love this book!! But I made it to page 72 and just couldn’t go on. For those who are all “but Soundless is fantasy, fantasy books are long, give it a chance” I can only say — Soundless is short. My ARC is 266 pages. I… like… what?! So yeah. I read 27%, which was enough for me to decide that if I didn’t like it by then, it wasn’t going to grow on me.

Have you enjoyed other books of the same genre?

I said above that Soundless is fantasy — that’s how I first heard it described and that’s how I’ve seen it marketed. But honestly… from what I read, it felt a bit more like historical fiction — no fantasy elements at all. (I’ve since heard that those fantasy elements kick in a little bit at the end.)

Had you been looking forward to this book in particular? Why?

Yes! I was excited to see that Richelle was writing a fantasy because I love fantasy. I tried her Vampire Academy series a long time ago, but didn’t finish the first book — it just wasn’t for me. So when I heard Richelle was writing a fantasy based in Chinese folklore, I was really excited. But, well… we all know how that worked out for me.

Did you have certain expectations for the book before starting it?

Obviously, I was expecting more fantastical elements — but that didn’t really hinder my enjoyment that much. I didn’t dislike it because there wasn’t a lot of fantasy to it (from what I saw).

The synopsis says Soundless is steeped in Chinese folklore, but I didn’t feel any of that. The worldbuilding felt pretty generic and flat, to me. I could see some of that Chinese influence, but there wasn’t any spark, it wasn’t vivid, it didn’t grab me… I was just left feeling really meh about it, which was extremely disappointing. There were also a bunch of weird little… I don’t know what to call them, “worldbuilding holes”? Stuff that struck me as super weird and didn’t add up. Which, in addition to my already-blah feelings about the book, helped to push me over the edge in my decision to DNF.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

I. Felt. Nothing. I found the worldbuilding to be super bland, as I said. The characters were… also bland. I’m not even sure what to say about them — they didn’t affect me at all. I just didn’t feel much emotion in it. Even though there were some emotional things that happened, I didn’t feel any urgency and wasn’t able to connect. When I started to feel a little like ehhh, maybe this isn’t working out, I actually kept reading because I wanted to reach the point when Fei decides to leave the mountain to help her people. I thought, maybe, if I reached that point, I’d care. But when I finally did, I… didn’t. Care, that is.

I think this book started out with a fantastic premise, but the part I read just wasn’t given enough depth to hook me. And in a book this short, 72 pages needs to be enough to hook me.

Was there anything you liked about Soundless?

There honestly wasn’t much that I actively enjoyed. There was stuff I didn’t dislike — that I didn’t really mind — but nothing I was super excited about. I wanted to like the romance, at least, but even that fell flat for me. Fei and the love interest have a history, and the book jumps into their “relationship timeline,” if you will, in a place where they have established chemistry — chemistry that happened in the past, a little spark of which still remains. The problem is, I didn’t feel any of that past chemistry, so the little that was left was just… sort of boring, to me. Which seems to be the theme here.

Would you read any other books by this author?

I am honestly not sure. I tried the first vampire Academy book, but didn’t finish that one either. It just wasn’t for me. So maybe I just don’t like Richelle Mead’s books? I’m not sure. The writing wasn’t bad. And I don’t think I had any specific problems with Soundless that were similar to Vampire Academy — the two are incredibly different. So it’s not as if her books have similar elements that I didn’t like… But obviously something isn’t clicking with her and me. Jury’s still out.

So you DNF’d the book – but would you still recommend it to anyone?

I mean… Maybe? If you like Richelle Mead’s other stuff? I know I wouldn’t recommend it to fantasy fans who are expecting great worldbuilding. =/

13 thoughts on “DNF Q&A: Fantasy Standalone Falls Flat

  1. I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed views about this book. I was intrigued by the premise and I was excited to see how the Chinese folklore would be explored. However, I did make a double take when I saw the page number and I have doubts about how she will fit everything into such a short amount of time. I may have to give this one a pass for now. Great review. :D

    • Yeah… I think the length makes some sense when you consider the plot (it’s pretty simple and uncomplicated, and definitely not in need of a lot of page-time to resolve it), but on the flip side, that doesn’t give much time for worldbuilding or character-building. :(

  2. Darn it! I’ve SO been looking forward to this book – enough that I pre-ordered it and have been eagerly awaiting its release. Now that the reviews have started pouring in, it seems like a lot of people are underwhelmed. I DO like Mead’s other books, so I have that advantage. We shall see …

    • I was so looking forward to it, too! I saw some of the other underwhelmed reviews and was hoping to be the odd one out, but nope. I do hope you enjoy it since you liked her other books!!

  3. Agreed, obviously ;-). I liked her Gameboard of the Gods book and never gave Vampire Academies a chance because vampires. She does seem to have a writing style that is a bit… distanced? It worked for Gameboard, but that is also quite long and filled with world-building, so I was okay with it haha.

    • Yes, distanced! This was definitely distanced. I feel like more could’ve been developed with more page-time, but from what I could tell, the plot was too simple to warrant that extra page-time. =/

  4. That’s too bad. I read Vampire Academy and thought it was just ok (although I’ve heard the series improves) so I was already a bit nervous about trying another one of Richelle Mead’s books. And I do love fantasy, 266 pages sounds WAY too short, especially for a standalone! I can see how the worldbuilding might suffer in that case. I think I’ll give it a shot since I have an arc but I’m not expecting much to be honest.

  5. I was incredibly disappointed by this one as well. Since everyone was raving about it at BEA I did my best to finish but was super let down. It just didn’t have the grabbing quality that a good fantasy does. Maybe if it was a it longer it would have who knows. The premise was decent but it just never took off so I’m glad you saved yourself the 192 pages of nothingness.
    Next time we will know better. Still pretend excited for her new dried The Gliterring Court! Pls at BEA 16? We shall see.
    ❤️ Britt

    • I’m definitely interested in The Glittering Court – it’ll be more than a one-off standalone, so maybe that’ll allow for the depth that Soundless was lacking? FINGERS CROSSED!!!

  6. First of all, I love how you do a DNF Q&A!

    It’s a shame that soundless fell flat… I’ve been excited for this one because I was a huge fan of Richelle Mead’s other novels, but now I’m not so sure, especially after I wasn’t really into the Bloodlines series either. Maybe she’s just not for me anymore? Who knows, I might still give this one a chance.

  7. So interesting to read your thoughts on this! Honestly………. I didn’t even add this one to my TBR. I read into it and then saw some reviews coming back that said it fell pretty flat. I think I’m glad I decided to hold off! Sorry it didn’t work for you :(

  8. I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed stuff about it. Personally I’m a bit iffy about someone who isn’t Chinese writing on Chinese folklore. Not that people who aren’t Chinese can’t do it justice, but now a days it seems like it’s a means to get more hype and sales because it’s diverse!! It’s not european!! Idk. That’s the feeling I get from how you noted that folklore isn’t a huge part of the book. Even the synopsis doesn’t give a great hint as to where the folklore takes place. Is Mead trying to focus on a certain folktale or is she trying to focus on a chunk of folklore that is pertinent in certain parts of Chinese history? Where is this kingdom? China, if you havent noticed, is huge. If Ancient China, what time period?

    These are questions I keep having with this book and it never seems to be answered. It’s like if it’s set in China and “Ancient China” I’d like to know what the time period is because it changes how religious beliefs take place and how society is. Hell, it changes what the art looks like.

    It just seems like this was kind of hashed out as a cool and “original” idea, but there’s not a lot of substance other than the idea.

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