I am a big fan of Richelle Mead, my favorite series that she has written of course is the Vampire Academy with the Dark Swan series coming as a close second. I found out about this book coming out months ago so I have been waiting to get my hands on it for a long time. I tried not to spoil it so I went in with not knowing much.
One of the things that excited me about this book was that the protagonist was Asian and she actually looks Asian on the cover. There are a few books with (half) Asian as the protagonist but the cover shows a Caucasian, such as the Reborn series and The Immortal Rules.
This story takes place in a small village on top of treacherous mountains. The villagers are trapped up there because of ancient avalanches, and it is impossible for them to make the treacherous journey down the mountain. Everyone in the village is deaf and communicate by sign language. The village is not suitable for growing food or animals, and their only way of surviving is via a zipline that ferries away the precious metals from the village to the kingdom of Beiguo. In exchange for the metals, the villagers receive food.
The village has a caste system. The Artists/Academics are the highest caste, then the servants, the miners and then finally, the homeless, people who can no longer contribute to society. Fei is an apprentice Artist, her job is to record what happens in the village daily. Her sister Zhang Jing is also an apprentice but she has started losing her eyesight, Fei tries to correct her work before the masters see. Fei notices that many of the villagers start to lose their eyesight, mainly the miners. The miners are an important part of the village even though they are looked down upon because they collect the precious metals that are exchanged for food. When their supply of metals lessen, they get less food, people start to starve.
Fei goes to bed one night and she is disturbed by a weird sensation, the next day she figures out that she has hearing. She scours the records but did not find any record of this happening to anyone else in the village. One of the miners Li Wei’s father gets into an accident due to his eyesight and there is less food coming from the zipline, Li Wei decides to go down the mountain and talk to the line keeper and Fei offers him her help since her hearing could help them hear of any impending avalanches.
As a fluent Cantonese speaker,I can tell the book draws from the Mandarin language. It does not follow the traditional Chinese folklore but creates its own. The book talks about the pixius which are a bird/dragon/lion hybrid. According to legend, they made the villagers deaf so they could have some peace and quiet while they slept.
The story drew me in right away, I really liked that Fei was a strong character but not strong where she could physically fight her own battles. She realizes that she is not strong but she makes it up in other ways. I felt that the other characters such as her sister and Li Wei were a little bit one dimensional. there was no depth to any of the other characters besides Fei. I think Zhang Jing would have been more interesting if she shown some resentment towards her sister. After all, her sister was more talented and she was not going blind.
The story also shifted, at first it was a normal story with pixius as legends, and then the theme of the story shifted, and it became more mystical. There was almost an internal struggle between reality and fantasy.The story felt very short, it could have used an additional 100 pages, especially when they arrive at the Beiguo, the plot could have been expanded. The story felt like it ended abruptly, and Mead used an epilogue to cram in more details. I was surprised to find out that this was a standalone novel and not a series because I think it could have easily been a series.
Overall, I thought the story was interesting and t Fei was an interesting character. It would have been better if it was longer and Mead expanded more on the plot and characters. Technically 3.5/5 but since I enjoyed it I will give it a