Book Review: Word and Breath (Wordless Chronicles #1) by Susannah Noel

Word and Breath
Word and Breath by Susannah Noel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary:   Riana has learned how to stay out of trouble. She spends her days studying written texts in the government’s Office of Readers, and she spends her nights taking care of her sick sister. She always—always—follows the rules. Despite her low profile, she has mysteriously become a target. Someone has kidnapped her sister. Someone else is trying to kill her. And someone has sent a Soul-Breather to beguile her out of her secrets. 

Her help comes from the mythic leader of an underground rebel movement. A man who used to be her friend. A man who has silently loved her for years. He disappeared from her life without a word, and now he expects her to trust him again.

Then there’s the Soul-Breather, a man who can taste her spirit with only a touch. He makes her feel things she’s never experienced before, but she doesn’t know if the feelings are real. Hired to deceive and betray her, he offers to help her instead. 

Without both men, she can’t rescue her sister. And she can’t discover the world-changing knowledge—buried in her memory—that has made her a target in the first place.

I wanted to love this book. The summary sounded like it was just my kind of read. I must say that I was rather disappointed. First the good, the setting. Many centuries into the future after some great cataclysm, the written word has fallen out of favor & censorship rules. The main character, Riana is a Reader for The Union. A small group of people who can still read & who are set to work to look for messages & anomalies from The Front (the rogue group seeking to topple the government regime). She has a past that includes parents & a grandfather killed by The Union so everything is set up to be exciting. There's also a supernatural element going on with the Soul-Breathers. These are people who are able to glean pieces of a soul by touch & thus are very valuable at obtaining information. Sounds great right? I thought so also.

The problem for me was that Riana was too flat a character for me to connect to for the great majority of the book or empathize with her deeply. She was bland in almost every way one could be. She didn't have friends, she took care of her invalid sister, she kept her head down at work and basically led a life of blending in. Okay, given her circumstances, it was understandable, in the beginning. Enter Mikel, the Soul-Breather sent to get info from her & provide the romantic element of the story. Here's the thing though, Mikel was more interesting than Riana. He had deceit & subterfuge working in his favor & had to struggle between what he was hired to do & his own personal feelings. We also get Connor who knew Riana before he went all underground with The Front as The Librarian. He was more interesting than Riana. And there may or may not have been some mutual attraction between the two but nothing ever came of it. This is sort of made a big deal of but nothing really comes of it in this book, so unless there's some reckoning further along in the series, I can kind of ignore this. It's like faux-love-triangle right now. Anyway, Riana has two men working to help her find her sister, the Zealots are out for blood & there's romance in the air... and she was still flat. Literally, it was a chore sometimes to read page after page because she was so dull. I rarely experience this with main characters so it's a little difficult for me to let it go. I almost didn't want all these people putting themselves on the line to help her because I didn't feel she deserved it. She didn't do a thing to earn such loyalty & devotion.

I quite enjoyed Jenson, Tava & Donn. They were well drawn characters & mostly, more interesting than Riana. The world building was pretty good but as a dystopian/sci-fi lover, I wanted more explanation of what happened to get the world to this place. I am looking forward to seeing what more there is to learn in subsequent books.

I will say that I loved the last three chapters. They basically saved the story for me. Riana finally finding her purpose & something to drive for made me very happy.The big reveal in the last chapter pulled me in & made me want to read the next in the series.

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