TITLE : Unsouled (Cradle #1)
AUTHOR : Will Wight
GENRE : YA/NA Fantasy, Cultivation/Progression Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : June 13th 2016
Unsouled by Will Wight is the first book in the Cradle series. It is an Asian-inspired fantasy. Although this is a YA/NA novel, it’s an exceptionally addictive and fun fantasy for adults as well. This was also one of the buddy reads I signed up for on Goodreads and had a blast reading it with our group. I started Insouled in January and am only now getting to review the book. Life got hold of me and I am behind on most of my reviews.
Let’s get into the book, shall we? So as far as I understand from what I have been informed, the Cradle series is under the LitRPG genre, where it could further fall into either the Progression subgenre or the Cultivation subgenre. LitRPG is Literary version of the Digital Role Playing Game, where you have the combination of literature and the elements of a computer role-playing game added into the sci-fi/fantasy world. And Progression fantasy is when the focus of the story is on it’s characters increasing in power and skill over time with the help of training and such. Whereas, Cultivation fantasy is when we have stories with characters who meditate and train in martial arts or similar arts to ultimately gain the highest power or even immortality(Godhood).
Unsouled is my first experience in this genre and subgenre, and so it was a wonderful learning experience. I got to learn more about the genre and what it entails. So the story follows young Lindon who is banned from learning sacred arts because he is Unsouled. He cannot use his spirit to manipulate the madra thus making him the lowest in ranking among his peers. Madra is the raw power of the spirit that is used to make souls. Different people will have different affinities associated with madra. He has been ridiculed his whole life, gets bullied, and has to go through so much difficulty in life just to survive among people who are so much more powerful than him. Surprising events happen in the valley changing his fate forever and ultimately forcing him to carve out his own path.
The world-building in this book is interesting. we get glimpses into possible expansion of the world in this one but for the most part, the book focuses on the life of the people of the Valley. The magic system is quite unique and unlike anything that I have read before. Initially, I did have some difficulty understanding it, but as I read more things started to come together. The magic system focuses on the power of madra and how one uses and manipulates it. Based on the madra each person has and how they use it, they can create learning paths that help them get more powerful by advancing to various levels of the power structure.
The plot is pretty straightforward at first glance but brings in a few twists that make things not as easy to predict. The characters were all wonderful and I loved how the life in the Valley and the day-to-day grind there help us understand more about each of them. For the better part of the book, we follow Lindon and his life in the Valley learning about the sacred arts, the different levels of power, and how the magic system works. The beginning of the book is mainly focused on establishing the world and the magic system and only then does the story take off with the plot.
Lindon as mentioned before is our main protagonist and he is the ultimate underdog. He lived most of his childhood and teenage thinking he is unworthy. Life hasn’t been kind to him and has always put him in situations that were challenging.
I loved how Lindon did not let his lack of power, rule his life and was always trying to improve himself. He also was quite crafty when it comes to making things work and finding solutions to the problems he faced. I really liked seeing him use his brain while everyone else is focused on their power to win fights. Yes, he was sneaky and at times did things that feels deceitful, but the rule is to win by any means necessary in his Valley. So he wasn’t breaking any rules by his community’s standards. He is always trying to get the upper hand by being clever and turning around the situations to his advantage.
When it comes to championing the MC who is not the best human in terms of morals by our standards, it’s easier to do so with Lindon as he is not just an underdog, he is also a victim of his system which oppresses those less in power. But also because he is driven, has a good head on his shoulders, and is always looking to improve himself and learn more. He has a hunger for knowledge but his circumstances do not let him succeed, yet despite all of that he is clever enough to forge his own path or at least attempt to do so anyway.
The people of the Valley and his family have interesting ideas about success. Their beliefs on success, honor, and even growth as a person were rigid and quite backwards leaving no room for people who were differently abled. The whole thing about power coming from progressing to higher levels and those who don’t have the natural affinity for the source of said power being shunned and treated badly reminded me of how much value some societies and cultures place on education, career, status, and honor that comes from achieving these in the real world. In Asian cultures, there is a higher value placed on these aspects. Being Indian I have seen a version of this in our culture and it felt familiar. Respect and honor being shown in the book are also quite similar in certain families.
The pacing is good and has a slower progression in the beginning when compared to the ending. If you are a plot-focused reader you might not be vowed by the beginning of this book. I really enjoyed everything I read mainly because I enjoy the mundane, day-to-day kind of events and establishing the foundations for the series part. It adds to the characters and how they behave and being a character-driven reader I find these kinds of stories to be fun. I would recommend trusting the author and letting him take you on an exciting journey with these wonderful characters.
Overall, Unsouled is what I could as a solid first book that sets up the world, magic system, and characters. It has laid a good foundation for the upcoming series by setting things up for future books. I am invested in Lindon’s future and the possible roadblocks and curveball circumstances he will have to face. I am really invested in him and I want to know how he will adapt to his new reality. I gave the book 4 stars and am excited for book 2.
The series is typically compared to manga, anime, and games and I am not surprised by it, because it feels kind of like a game or an anime playing in my head while I was reading it. I believe the series is 11 or 12 books long and the 2 final books in this installment are yet to be released. Yes, it is a huge commitment, but the books are really short and easy to get through. It’s also quite addictive. I highly recommend picking these up in between heavier reads and it’s super fun so it’s a guaranteed good time. If you love reading book that have gaming aspects, skill progression or advancement you will enjoy this 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 defy his family’s rules…and forge his own Path.
Source : Goodreads