The best fantasy books with characters who can't talk

Debbie Iancu-Haddad Author Of Speechless in Achten Tan
By Debbie Iancu-Haddad

Who am I?

Writing a protagonist who can't talk out loud is quite a challenge. I talk constantly as I'm both an extrovert and a public speaker for my day job, but I have had several bouts of severe laryngitis and have been under severe no speaking orders from the doctor. People react differently when you can't talk. Nowadays, we all have a convenient mobile device on hand to help, but that isn't always the case in the fantasy books we read. In Speechless in Achten Tan my main character Mila can't talk because magic took her voice. Her magic power is connected to her ability to speak, so she's pretty desperate to regain her ability to speak.

I wrote...

Speechless in Achten Tan

By Debbie Iancu-Haddad,

Book cover of Speechless in Achten Tan

What is my book about?

Eighteen-year-old Mila hasn't spoken in the five years since she became an Onra, a first-level Everfall witch. After failing the test to reclaim her voice and control her magic, her mentor sends Mila to Achten Tan—City of Dust—a dangerous desert town, built inside ancient bones. To reclaim her power, Mila must steal a magical staff capable of releasing it, from the sky-high lair of the Bone Master, Chief Opu Haku. Her only resources are the magical luminous elixirs of the cursed caverns where she grew up, and a band of unlikely allies; a quirky inventor, a giant-ant rider, a healer, a librarian's assistant, a Tar-tule rider, and the chief's playboy son. If Mila fails she will never speak again and her bones may be added to the wasteland.

The books I picked & why

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By V.E. Schwab,

Book cover of Gallant

Why this book?

I've always loved V.E. Schwab's writing and the evocative ways she weaves words. In this book we follow Olivia Prior a mute girl who grew up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. The book starts with us seeing firsthand how the other girls torment her due to her lack of speech, and others in position to help, like the nuns, don't bother learning her sign language. Since Olivia lives a pretty terrifying life as a homeless orphan, who sees ghouls, this additional barrier to communication is one more insurmountable obstacle in her already hard life. No wonder she's willing to put up with a lot to find a home.

The Witch Collector

By Charissa Weaks,

Book cover of The Witch Collector

Why this book?

I picked up this book because I wanted to read another book about a witch who couldn't talk. Luckily, it's nothing like mine, phew.

Raina is a young woman who was born without the ability to speak. She lives in a country where magical ability is commonplace and marked on their skin. To substitute her lack of voice she communicates with sign language and can also weave spells that way. I didn't sense that Raina's lack of voice held her back very much. I think she had more trouble with jumping to conclusions and being too stubborn for her own good.

This was a great adventure with breakneck pace and some really high stakes.

The Trouble with Trying to Date a Murderer

By Jennifer Cody,

Book cover of The Trouble with Trying to Date a Murderer

Why this book?

This is actually a humorous fantasy book, but I only discovered the fantasy elements about halfway through. It's also M/M romance. The MC lost his voice as a baby when his father cut his vocal cords. Pretty gruesome. He usually communicates with his phone, nonverbal cues, and lots of body language.


By Marie Lu,

Book cover of Skyhunter

Why this book?

This character is another fantasy character in a pre-technology world. Robbed of her voice and home, Talin Kanami knows firsthand the brutality of the Federation.

I read this quite a while back, but as far as I understand, the MC is selectively mute because of trauma after losing her home and becoming a fugitive. She communicates with sign language.

Daughter of the Forest

By Juliet Marillier,

Book cover of Daughter of the Forest

Why this book?

This retelling of a fairytale about the six swans is the one situation where the character cannot talk by choice. Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters must refrain from talking to save her family as her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift. This unique situation may remind you of The Little Mermaid where the character voluntarily gave up their voice for love. And I think this is what makes this such a powerful story.

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