Monthly Read - Cradle by Will Wight
Come on in and take a seat!
This year, one of my reading goals was to read a large series that could be spread over the year and read on consecutive months. Now there are many series out there that could fit this bill, stuff like Malazan, Wheel of Time etc, etc
Now whilst at some point I would like to read these, the timing is not quite right for a series of chonky reads. So, I was looking for something that was reasonably sized, and continuous, and for me The Cradle Series fits this bill perfectly. And add to this, I have quite a number of the books on my Kindle in the first place. So, it seemed that this was the perfect series.It fitted my specifications perfectly, reasonably sized and I already had it! Sorted!
On top of this, I have heard and had numerous recommendations to read this. One of my Twitter pals, David S. who also writes for FanFiAddict.com recommends this series continuously, as it is one of his favourites, and if you watch or read Petrik Leo's you tube channels or read his reviews, he always gives the Cradle books high ratings.
So, with recommendations like this, I set on my merry way to start the first one.
Initially, this was billed as a January read on my TBR. However, I went ahead and started it at the end of December. In addition to this, David also said to me on Twitter, it would be great if you sent your reactions to the book coz i love talking about Cradle (poor David😂).
Now in all honesty, I have heard a lot about the Cradle Series, but in reality, I did not actually know what it was about. I knew it is classed as a 'Progression Fantasy', which if you are like me elicits the response -
So, what is progression fantasy?
Well, according to Reddit - Progression Fantasy is a fantasy subgenre term for the purpose of describing a category of fiction that focuses on characters increasing in power and skill over time. These are stories where characters are often seen training to learn new techniques, finding ways to improve their existing skills, analyzing the skills of opponents, and/or gaining literal levels of power.
In reality, I don't really care of what category a book falls into, but I also like looking, and there is this definite element in the first installment of The Cradle Series, and this is a definite driver in the story of our main character, Lindon.
What is The Cradle Series about?
The Magazine Plus describes it as: -
Cradle series – a series of epic fantasy novels by Will, a story about Lindon, a 15-year-old young boy determined to learn his clan’s sacred arts. Even though this is forbidden thanks to his unsouled status, Lindon is no quitter. The series follows the growth of an under-hero who rises the ranks through hard work and sheer determination. It also comes with a complex and well-thought-out magic system. Add the fantastic action and diverse cast, and you have yourself an outstanding series.
(ref: The Magazine Plus, Top 9 Reasons Why Cradle is the Best Ongoing Series, Oct 2021)
What drew me to read the Cradle Series?
When I was looking for a series to read and my initial draw was towards The Cradle Series, I did a bit of digging on the old t'interweb, there are lots of articles about Cradle. As I have already mentioned, David S from FanFiAddict describes it as one of his favoutires. However, independently of David's recommendations, I came across his deep dive into the series on FanFiAddict.com, and this really piqued my interest.
How Many Books are there?
There are currently ten books in the series, and I am told that it will be a twelve book series. Here is the link to the books that are currently published. So far the series consists of -
Right then, onto the first book:
Sacred artists follow a thousand Paths to power, using their souls to control the forces of the natural world.
Lindon is Unsouled, forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan.
When faced with a looming fate he cannot ignore, he must rise beyond anything he's ever known...and forge his own Path.
(No wonder I didn't know what it was about!)
So, I finally started reading Cradle by Will Wight, beginning with the first book in the series, Unsouled. Now, there are 12 planned books in the Cradle series, and I have made it one of my reading goals this year to get through this series and see what all the fuss is about, as each time I look for recommendations for a series this comes up.
Unsouled introduces us to the World of Cradle, and its main protagonist Wei Shi Lindon, as well as other people in the series.
So, with Cradle, I am finding myself introduced to new words and concepts, which is always a pleasure as it sends my brain a whirring. According to other reviewers, the Cradle series resembles Shonen Anime/manga in its inspiration.
Got to say, I haven’t a clue, and I will take their word for it!
In addition to the anime/manga thingy, I am an absolute noob when it comes to progression fantasy.
(I did have to look up the meaning for this as you can see from my earlier musings on the why I chose this book)
Now, whilst I have a little bit of trepidation on that lot of information, the main concerns for me is whether I would enjoy it. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when you start a series, and it was particularly nerve wracking when you have decided to devote this as a 10 – 12-month endeavour.
However, not to worry, coz I positively devoured this book over two days and could not put it down. It was such an enjoyable and easy read.
The story is set in an Asian inspired world with a people that devotes itself to the practice of magic and their progression through the mystical arts. Each member of the society that Lindon grows up in is tested for whichever brand of magic that they possess and when Lindon is tested, the special substance that is used to identify the individual’s magic, shows that Lindon does not possess any magical abilities. He is subsequently labelled as unsouled (which I thought was a bit harsh to be honest!). This has an impact throughout his life, and he is seen as a freak and an encumbrance (yay highly enlightened people for accepting difference). This means that Lindon cannot progress in the magic/martial arts system that he resides in, which is a kind of isolated world in the mountains and hidden from the world outside, reminding me of the legends of Shangri – La.
However, through various misadventures he sees a way to progress and forge his own path. At one point he is entered into a duel against a much more powerful opponent, and he orchestrates the opponent so that he cannot win, and Lindon comes out of a potentially devastating situation unscathed. Throughout the book, Lindon has to employ his wits to overcome insurmountable odds, and whilst at times, Lindon can come across as a little unscrupulous in his methods and without any thought as to their actual consequences, you can see that he is highly disadvantaged in the society that he lives in. I have seen that some reviewers thought that there was a level of dishonesty in the methods that Lindon employed. However, for me, I thought that he was battling against overwhelming odds in one of the harshest and elitist societies in SFF that I have seen, and that whilst he uses some dodgy methods, he uses his quick wittedness to do what it is natural to do in this highly competitive environment. And as a world view, he is a little selfish in his goals, but the whole society is built on the principle that you can elevate yourself is to be solely enamoured of your own abilities.
This is very much an introduction to the story of Cradle, and at times there is some info dumping on the reader, which at some points slowed the pace a little, yet on the whole, it did not affect my enjoyment of it.
Initially, I did find the characters a little two dimensional, but this changes about halfway through when there is an incident that changes that whole direction of the book. I have to say that I had no idea that this inexplicable event would happen, but when it does it certainly pulls the rug out from you. And another point to add, is that by the very nature of the society that Will Wight introduces us to, is pretty two dimensional in all honesty, when its only goal is to progress further in their search for more power.
Now, you cannot write a review of the Cradle series without mentioning the magic system. It is such an integral part of the book, and is so intricately woven, with it having some influence from Chinese spirituality and mixing it with the use of artifacts and elixirs.
I don’t want to go too much into the minutia of the book, as I think the best way to go into this is without any indication (except from the obvious!) of the plot.
I have got to say that I really did not have a clue what this book was about in all honesty, but I can definitely say, that I was not expecting that.
And for those of us that are old enough to have a “what the hell is going on” look on our faces when anime or manga is thrown at us, it really doesn’t confuse you at all, and me, with very little anime experience was able to appreciate the story.
Unsouled is a fantastically paced romp that had me hooked. It’s one part coming of age, with one part underdog story, mixed with a whole lot of adventure.
Give it a go!