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Cradle #1

Unsouled

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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.

294 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 13, 2016

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Will Wight

47 books6,451 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,034 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
January 13, 2020
3.5/5 stars

A foundational start to a series that feels like the beginning of shonen anime in prose form.


I’ve promised many readers—my impatient co-bloggers included—that I’m going to read Cradle as soon as 2020 starts, and so here I am. I’ve been eyeing this series for quite a while now, it also has been recommended to me more than thirty times by more than thirty different readers. That number is not an exaggeration; I’ve received that many messages and recommendations from readers around the world telling me to read this series because they knew I’m going to love this series, and they weren’t wrong. I enjoyed reading Unsouled, and I know I’ll be binge-reading this series.

Unsouled is the first book out of—if I’m not mistaken, please correct me if I’m wrong—twelve planned books in Will Wight’s highly acclaimed Cradle series. The story follows Wei Shi Lindon, an Unsouled who’s not allowed to learn the sacred arts of his clan due to his deficiency. Due to his misfortune, Lindon has to use and scheme whatever possible means to gain victories over his obstacles. It’s a book that’s filled with resonating themes such as paving your own path, and the willingness to pour in extraordinary hard work to fight against all odds.

“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”


I love underdog stories; there’s always something satisfying about seeing a character who’s practically shunned by everyone becomes a respected individual. Unsouled—and most likely the entire series—depicts Lindon’s relatively slow but gradual rise to a higher level of power, rising from an underdog and, maybe, eventually becomes the strongest in the world through the progression of the series. Many shonen anime/mangas have utilized this simple premise and expand the premise into something much larger and complex; Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto is a great example of this, and it would be quite difficult for me to believe that Will Wight isn’t inspired by Naruto in the creation of this series.

The first book alone already has so many noticeable inspirations from Naruto, and I’m not speaking exclusively about the premise or the similarity in Lindon’s personality—especially his perseverance and determination—that resembles Naruto and many other shonen anime protagonists, the magic and the Asian-inspired world-building also felt like a homage to it. I mean, it has an intricate magic system that revolves around madra (pretty much chakra in Naruto); Elder that reminded me of the Kages in Naruto; the existence of numbered tailed-beasts (in a form of fox, too!) and also sacred art villages that reminded me of the ninja villages in Naruto. So many aspects, to me, felt like a great homage to the manga/anime and I loved reading about it. Plus, Will Wight has an accessible writing style that flows nicely, felt clean and well-polished.

“Fate is not fair, but it is just. Hard work is never in vain…even when it does not achieve what you wished.”


Admittedly, there were plenty of sections—particularly in the first half of the book—that felt very info-dumpy to read, and this hurts the pacing considerably. Also, Lindon’s characterizations still require more introspection and internalization in order for me to feel more invested in his journey. If you find yourself struggling through the first half of the book, I strongly recommend you to give the book a chance, at least until the 50% mark. The second half, in my opinion, was better than the first half, and it showed the potential of awesome things to come in the sequels.

Despite a few hiccups on the quality of the book as an installment, the good thing about all this is that Unsouled felt like a prelude to greatness, a necessary setup for the rest of the series to shine. When I read manga, there’s an incredibly high chance that the first volume won’t spark my interest in the series yet; I usually allow five—in some worse cases, ten to twenty—volumes before I finalized the decision to continue reading the manga series or not. I find this notion to be aptly applicable to Unsouled. If Unsouled signified the weakest installment of the series, then I know I’m going to have a blast reading Cradle.

“The disciple follows the master, but the genius blazes their own trail.”


You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
234 reviews3,009 followers
March 26, 2022
An enjoyable, quick read that gives this series a good start with much promise

I was pleasantly surprised by this book even though this first entry did not have the "epic" scale that I have heard often described by readers. You get a wonderful sense towards the end of the book at what this series is marching towards, and it leaves you salivating to get reading so you can march on this journey with the main characters. This book has a somewhat predictable arc though most of the book, but then slams you upside the head with an extremely unique twist that I absolutely loved.

Even though it follows the all too familiar fantasy trope of "growing of age hero story", it still gives you that wonderful sense of injustice where you desperately want the main character to overcome the challenges in front of them (though you already know they will eventually).

I highly suspect that this series is going to get better and better - because the foundation pieces are all there for a wonderful series.

Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,869 reviews31.2k followers
August 25, 2021
3rd Read,

The 9th book in this series, Bloodline, came out back in April. Reading Will's blog, his has finished the 1st draft of book 10, Reaper, this month and he hopes and plans on having the 10th book out by the end of the year, hopefully in November. I wanted to give the whole series a read through again before it comes out.

I do find, it's quite nice reading this and having a really good idea where the story is going to go and how Lindon is going to achieve his place in the world. It must be a little like an omnipotent being feeling out life. I can't wait for book 10 and I hope it's worth the wait.

These books read so fast. They are a joy to read. I do think this is a slow start, once you have read the series. It's tough to read Lindon in his homeland, but it does explain so much about his character and what drives him in his advancement.

Lindon figures out he has to forge his own path.


2nd REad
I just read Wintersteel and then went back and had to read the series again. I enjoyed the story again, but after knowing the rest of the series, the first book is rather weaker. It starts off so slow. I decided to change my rating to 3 stars.

A good friend recommended this series to me; she enjoys reading self-published and independent published works. I mostly read stuff from big publishers, but I trust her and I found the first book on Amazon for free.

It is a fresh take on fantasy. It seems to me to be a story of power growth. Our protagonist - Lindon tries to pass a ceremony from childhood into adulthood, but he doesn't have enough energy or power to do this. He is considered 'unsouled'. He is nothing in his village. We see him find ways of advancing himself little by little through the book and there is a promise that he can reach normal heights someday.

I must admit that I enjoy the other coin, when the protagonist is very powerful. Lindon must live by his wits. It's more interesting this way.

I feel like the story is talking a little bit about society. Often there are paths set out for people to follow and when people don't follow a certain path, we think them weak or useless. But often, they have a different path that they have to find themselves. I like the message. I am tired and not explaining my thought just right. It's easy to have societal expectations put on us. Realizing that those expectations are not the only way is powerful and difficult at the same time. It makes that person's path more tricky, but it can also be more worth it.

The magic system in the story was interesting. My favorite part was the deity in the story. I thought that was one of the most interesting characters in the story.

I didn't enjoy the format of giving a report to tell the history of the place. That did annoy me and I kept wondering what was going on. There was a lot that was happening, but it took some time for me to get invested in the story. Lindon is not my favorite character. He is ambitious and for a reason, but I didn't really relate to him so much.

I did think this was a great debut for a series and I thought it was inventive. I plan on reading the 2nd book and seeing where this goes. I have high hopes for it.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
421 reviews466 followers
October 24, 2019
A wonderful introduction, Unsouled is a promise of magic to come.

First and foremost, I want to thank my friend, TS, for recommending this series to me as many times as was needed for me to pick it up. You have the BEST taste in books and I endeavor to JUMP on any future recommendations. All hail the book recommendation Queen!!!

This story is set in a world with a strong eastern influence and is a fast, tremendously fun read that features a mix of martial arts and a magic system based around progression. I feel like that only describes the tip of the iceberg here, as everything about the world and magic system screams richness and complexity, so much so that I am still learning more and more several books into the series. More on that later.

The main character we follow is Lindon, a fifteen-year-old boy who has been classified as Unsouled, meaning without an affinity for magic. This is the worst possible outcome of the magical aptitude test that children of the Sacred Valley clan are subjected to and is almost unheard of. Lindon is shunned by his community, looked down upon, made to believe he is useless and worthless, and forbidden from trying to practice the sacred arts, ensuring he can never advance. But he does NOT. GIVE. UP. Through dogged will and determination, he fights for the opportunity to make something more of himself, scrapping and cheating and doing whatever he needs to, in order to be given the chance and privilege of practising the sacred arts.

The tale starts off as a slow burner and reads like your standard coming of age story, but there is a feeling that something is going to change and elevate Unsouled. And Will Wight does not disappoint. That momentous event takes place almost halfway through the book and made me do multiple double-takes. Though I was expecting something, I was caught completely off guard with what that something turned out to be. I would forgive you if you stopped reading before this, expecting great, but rather only getting good. Please do not make that mistake though. This event opens up the series and characters to countless new possibilities and results in Lindon’s determination to advance himself, being strengthened to entirely new levels; forged in the hope of opportunity and tempered in the shock of glimpsing the future. A future that will end everyone and everything.

*rubs hands in excitement

I cannot recommend this series enough, but surely I don’t have to - who doesn’t love an underdog that won’t give up? Paired with magic & martial arts, it’s a surefire winner. It’s so much more than that though, and the future of this series is looking extremely promising. Wight might just be onto something special here.

PS: Oh. Remember how I mentioned earlier how I am still learning more and more about the magic system in every new book of this series, even though this is the first one I am reviewing? Confession time: I could not stop myself from starting the next book immediately after this one. And the book after that. And the book after that. And the book after that. And...I binge-read the entire series in one go. Oh, you are in for SUCH a treat!
I LOVE THIS SERIES!
Profile Image for Anna [Bran. San. Stan].
260 reviews80 followers
May 8, 2023
Not gonna lie, if it wasn’t for my friend Aaron’s encouragement and explanations, I might have given up about 50 pages in. I have this annoying obsession not to miss anything vital to the world building and the mere snippets we get about the hard magic system were driving me nuts! I’m glad I hung in there, though, as I ended up really enjoying my first progression fantasy. It also delivered on the hero’s journey archetype, which usually really works for me. I will say, this universe already promises to become very complex indeed.

Though Lindon was basically the only round character, he was just amazing; his tenacity, resourcefulness, and courage to go beyond his perceived limitations reminded me somewhat of Kenton in White Sand – both are characters I am completely invested in and rooting for. What made me really mad, though, was the reaction of his clan to his shortcomings; any society that gives up on people and doesn’t provide extra care and education to those who need it, instead deeming them unworthy of their efforts, really pisses me off. Probably also because it’s sadly all too common in our society.

As for Lindon’s (lack of) power, its portrayal was nicely balanced with characters who showed us what upper level artists of different paths – especially Yerin – can do and I’m already looking forward to seeing Lindon’s competence level up and how the aspects of madra manifest.

I’ve been told it only gets better, so onward!

“May I ask, if you don’t mind… am I dead?”
A smile tugged at one corner of her mouth, a crack in the mask. “Do you not feel alive?”
He thought he did, but then, who could say what death felt like.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
698 reviews868 followers
January 13, 2019
I have heard great things about Will Wight's books. If Unsouled was just a taste of what the Cradle series has to offer, I will say those praises are well-founded.

Cradle is an Eastern-inspired fantasy with complex worldbuilding and a cool magic system that reminds me of the Chinese martial art genres of wuxia (heroic) and xianxia (immortal). The narrative follows a young man, Wei Shi Lindon, an Unsouled who was not allowed to learn the sacred arts of his clan in the Sacred Valley. There are myriad paths that a sacred artist can follow, utilising the core of their soul to employ and control the vital aura; forces of the natural world. This power from the soul is called madra.  Through various means of progression, which includes training, ingesting elixirs and spirit-fruits, a sacred artist can level up from different stages of madra mastery and strength from Copper to Iron, to Jade and then to Gold. There are also magical artefacts, or Treasures, which also range from those that can be wielded by the lower-ranked sacred artists to those that can only be powered by stronger madra.

Lindon was obviously not satisfied to be stuck at Foundation stage with the children and resolved to find a way to get himself on a Path to the sacred arts.  Admittedly, I was not wholly taken in by Lindon - due to his weakness he needed to rely on being cunning and even resort to cheating to get what he wanted.  I did appreciate his reasons for doing so because an Unsouled is treated in a most appalling manner.  It is highly reminiscent of the Eastern cultures where strength as a matter of pride takes precedence over basic human courtesy or decency. For example, if Lindon were to unintentionally 'disturb' a group of Iron sacred artists because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he will be punished for being a nuisance.

During a momentous event which determines whether Lindon succeeds in fulfilling his wish to learn a Path (through some rather devious manoeuvring), he was given a glimpse of an impending fate which portends the end of all things. Steeling himself with newfound resolve, and bolstered by the opportunity to gain even more than what he desired if he were to just remain with his family and clan, Lindon took an unexpected direction which defies the odds.

The story of the underdog defying the odds is nothing new. However, the magic system which takes its cue from a combination of Chinese spiritual and martial arts, and magical artefacts is exhilarating and refreshingly fun. I've also mentioned that there is an element of xianxia in this novel, as there are otherworldly entities of immense and immortal-like power which govern the cosmos. I was not expecting the narrative to take such a turn when I started reading this book, and admittedly, it was quite mind-blowing. With this additional aspect of the story, the series has a potential of epic proportions which I am absolutely looking forward to. Some of the action and fighting scenes, especially in the climactic section of this novel, can only be described as fantastically awesome (Avatar: The Last Airbender comes to mind).

I would describe Unsouled as a great introduction to a series which holds tremendous promise. I may not be fully invested in Lindon yet, but I am more than enamoured with the worldbuilding to keep on going.

Watch this space.

The self-published e-book is available for purchase, or for free via Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.

You can also find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Terence.
1,113 reviews345 followers
January 10, 2023
The young of the Sacred Valley come twice a year to be tested. Children the ages of 6-8 have the content of their souls evaluated to see what sort of sacred artist they will become in life. It's a test that no one is supposed to fail, but Lindon failed. He was labeled unsouled, powerless and unworthy of teaching in a society that power is as important as honor. Lindon isn't giving up though, he's determined to find a way to become a sacred artist.

Unsouled left me unsure of what to expect. It was clear that young Lindon had been deemed unworthy and would be treated practically as a cripple. It was clear that he'd strive to gain power, but short of that things were very different than I anticipated.

I don't know how anyone couldn't feel for Lindon. He's been deemed to lack the one thing that is valued in his society. He's seen as having no value. An elder, who has known him most of his life, told him to simply stay home. The reason being is, if a stronger member of another clan killed him, Lindon's clan would have to apologize for the inconvenience. As an unsouled Lindon isn't even permitted to marry out of fear he'd pass his defect on. Lindon doesn't quit though most of the world views him as trash. He's clever and hardworking.

Unsouled felt like a long introduction in some ways, but I think it's laying the groundwork for a strong story.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,007 reviews1,326 followers
January 25, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”


I have seen this series mentioned a lot as one of the best indie series out there. I always thought it was a long historical fiction series and I was not ready for that kind of obligation. Then my friend David got into the series and he liked it so much and he mentioned it has a great magic system and it turns out that it is a fantasy series after all and that’s when I knew I had to give it a chance and I am glad I did.

I had strong Naruto vibes from this series and then noticed that my friend Petrik mentioned that in his review, and since I am not as good as expressing my thoughts as him, I am linking his review here.

I think I now understand the success the series has because it is full of good elements. It has very simple but captivating writing, the books are short so it is a very good break from all the huge fantasy tomes, the characters are excellently written and the plot twist in this one was something I did not see which was a huge plus for me.

“The son of a cripple might be a cripple, but the son of tigers won’t be a dog.”


The story also takes place in a fantasy school (kind of) and that is one of my favorite settings which made this even more enjoyable. I think if I am going to criticize something then it is how fast sometimes it can be and some events needed more time to absorb.

Summary: I am keeping this a short review because I think it is good to go into the series knowing as little as possible. I enjoyed everything about this series and I am definitely reading the whole series now.
Profile Image for Carl.
27 reviews15 followers
July 22, 2016
Actually, I've stopped reading this book around 70%, because all its flaws were getting worse and worse every passing page. I've never, never stopped reading a book! But this simply... kept getting off my nerves for so many different reasons, I had to quit to preserve my sanity.
Needless to say, I'm very disappointed. I'm a big fan of Wight works, but this book just didn't have all the creativity I love about the author. Sure, the magic it's interesting, but the plot it's simply nonsensical and the main character is dangerously close to a full gary stu for my taste. Also, he's unbearable.
I mean, everyone of importance (even a literal celestial being!) aknowledge Lindon's supposed valour even if the only thing he's good at its cheating, and everybody who goes against him its a stupid, evil person and doesn't really count because Lindon beat them anyway. Also what Lindon want and what Lindon does it's, apparently, the center of the universe for no good reason at all. The aforementioned celestial being basically bring Lindon's back to life because...? She find her story soooo heartbreaking and inspirational? Am I suppose to believe this crap? As if Lindon's the only one who could catch the attention of a celestial being! But Lindon is just too special, I suppose?
Also, he's an Unsouled, he's supposed to have a major handicap, but so far be an unsouled only seems to serve the purpose to make his normal achievement seems so great. He doesn't even have some special ability to distinguish himself, he simply... cheats his way to the top. Which every other person could do, but apparently only Lindon have ever though of that.
Really, why am I supposed to care about this brat? Worst thing is so far there's not a real plot (and I'm faaar past half this book), it's just Lindon that wants to save his Valley from some nondescript disaster, and to do so he needs to become powerful. End of the story. Maybe there will be something more, but for now... nothing. Not even an hint of something more deep than this.
And maybe I'd have enjoyed a story this simple (I'm not a snob, I like simple stories, I do) if Lindon wasn't so unbearable. And again... why it has to be him? Because he's Unsouled? It's not even said, being an unsouled, as I said, doesn't even seems this big an handicap! It looks like Wight is saying "oh yeah and then Lindon must do this thing. Why? Because he's the main character, duh" with no other plausible explanation.
(Also this book keeps reminding me of a lot of animes I've seen and it's not really helping)
Profile Image for Wick Welker.
Author 5 books337 followers
January 11, 2022
Odd and not very fun.

This wasn’t bad and it’s actually quite original and imaginative. The lore and world building is based on chiefdom culture with a mix of a magic system that was pretty well explained. The fantasy sci fi cross over was surprising but not unwelcome. The overall prose was adequate.

My main issues are the inconsistent characterization. Lindon doesn’t always make a lot of sense. He’s very understandable in the beginning and is compelling to read. But by the end of the book his motivations have warped and he’s doing incredibly dubious things that make him downright unlikeable. The scattered POV use was weird and was used by the author randomly without really delving into the other characters. The plot line was totally bizarre. Very strange things come out of nowhere, completely alter the trajectory of the story without the narration really batting an eye. There wasn’t enough build up and cool off to process all the earth shattering things going on.

Overall not a bad a read at all. I just didn’t find it very fun and was a little perplexed by the story. I don’t think I’ll continue the series.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
354 reviews1,458 followers
Read
January 24, 2023
So, I finally made the dive into the highly renowned Cradle series by Will Wight. Advertised as 'levelling up' or 'progression fantasy', I thought, I need to give this a go. I'd never read anything of this subgenre before, so it was a totally new experience.

Unsouled was an entertaining and engaging read with twists and turns throughout that kept on surprising me. Some very distinctive characters who leap from the page, and a few explorations of the magic and culture of this fantasy world that was very interesting, especially knowing that Unsouled only brushes at the surface of that.

I have heard that Cradle does not hit its peak until the 3rd or 4th book. If I come to agree with that, then this promises to be a very exciting series. Unsouled as I said was highly entertaining from start to finish with a unique setting and an unguessable direction at times. I cannot wait to continue with this series.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
154 reviews2,356 followers
June 17, 2022
Is Cradle worth the hype?

If you have been following indie fantasy releases, you will have seen the Cradle series by Will Wight. To say that this series has become a major success is an understatement. Cradle has sold more than 1 million copies which is crazy. While I didn’t have this series on my tbr, I randomly picked it up a couple of weeks ago. Firstly, I had been told by almost everyone that Unsouled is not the best book in this series, so I didn’t have high expectations when I picked up this book. So what did I think?

Unsouled follows Wei Shi Lindon, an Unsouled, blocked from learning his clan’s secret arts due to his inadequacies. However, through a lot of scheming and cheating, Lindon is able to defy the odds, which will set him on a journey that will change everything.

I am a HUGE sucker for underdog stories. Is anything more satisfying than seeing an underdog defying the odds and gradually rise to power? Wei Shi Lindon has so many significant obstacles that he needs to overcome to earn his clan’s respect. In some ways, Lindon reminded me of Fitz from .The Farseer trilogy. Lindon is disdained because he is born Unsouled, something he has no control over. Wight did a terrific job making me feel invested in Lindon’s storyline. I was constantly cheering for Lindon and was fascinated to see how he would try and overcome all the barriers in his life! Moreover, Unsouled is filled with themes about destiny, overcoming challenges and identity.

However, I got slightly overwhelmed by the amount of info and world-building in the book’s first half. Wight is trying to introduce a lot of concepts early on. Moreover, while I love following Lindon, I still wanted to learn so much more about him. Hopefully, we get more insights into Lindon’s inner struggles and motivations in the upcoming books.

Overall, Unsouled is a decent introduction to the Cradle series. I look forward to reading Soulsmith soon.

Thanks to my Patreons Erin, Mel, Blake and Áron Sofus.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews255 followers
December 11, 2016
5 Stars

Unsouled, Cradle #1 by Will Wight lives up to the incredible high standards that he set with his The Travelers Gate Trilogy. As a result of my love for his trilogy I had very high expectations for this book and series and let me tell you, I was not let down. This is simply epic fantasy at it's finest. Will Wight deserves to be mentioned in the same sentences as the genre giant Brandon Sanderson. Both of these men excel in their fantastical story telling, character creating, and depth to their story lines. What makes both better than the rest is their ability to create freaking cool, kick-ass magic systems that not only are a pleasure to read and imagine, they also are crafted to feel plausible and real. I absolutely love that.

Unsouled is no exception. Wight has created a story that centers on the awesome magic system. Sacred Artists use their souls like magic in unique and awesome ways. The hierarchy and tiered system is really cool. The magic makes the story.

In this the first book we get to know our unlikely hero Lindon, an Unsouled with ambitions well beyond his means. Through his trials and tribulations we get to know the world, the magic, the hierarchy, and the incredible bigotry. I loved it.

No spoilers but I can say that this book was impossible to put down. I loved it. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre. If you have not read Will Wight, be sure to pick up his The Travelers Gate Trilogy.
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews602 followers
September 17, 2021
Buddy read with Snezana

Unsouled has been on my tbr for more than a year, I purposefully refused to read it because I thought it was another generic YA book, how wrong I was. This book is unlike anything I’ve read in forever, it’s so unique and addictive.

“Fate is not fair, but it is just. Hard work is never in vain…even when it does not achieve what you wished.”

This book is set in a world where everyone have a place in society, at the age of six or seven, children do a test that shows them which magic they are strong in, they follow the discipline till they become adults. Those that don’t have a strong specific magic are called unsouled. They are hated and revile, they are basically considered useless.

The magic has different levels, copper the lowest, followed by iron, jade, gold etc, so far we’ve met only three levels in book 1, I hope to see more in the subsequent books.

The writing and world building is so good, I love the writing, third person multiple POV. The world building is also great, I love it, the depiction of the world and magic system is something I haven’t read in a while.

Lindon the protagonist is an unsouled, someone without a magic discipline in a world that magic is everything. Life and everything is hard for him but he never gives up, that is something I love about him, he is dedicated and hard working despite all the obstacles he faces.

His sister Kelsa is my second favorite character in the book, despite having a magically deformed brother, she loves and defends him in her own way.

Lindon’s parents are also good people, even though the father obviously have PTSD.

Then there’s Yerin, the coolest ever, can’t wait for more of her in the coming books.
Profile Image for Para (wanderer).
359 reviews194 followers
July 5, 2019
DNF 44%

Tried it cause it was free, I wanted something light and fun, I still need a self-published book for the r/Fantasy Bingo square, and I know a lot of people who love it. I went into it with an open mind - from the positive reception, there was a chance of it winning me over - but it just confirmed that nope, that stuff's not for me. And that I should trust my gut, no matter how enthusiastic friends are.

Like Sufficiently Advanced Magic Unsouled is another book that's built around the magic system. People are divided into categories inside which they can advance to higher levels. Our protagonist is an Unsouled, meaning he doesn't belong into any of the categories and therefore only has very basic powers. His society detests weakness ("Resources went to strengthen those who were already strong, not to bring up the weak."), so he's shamed and belittled constantly.

Obviously, he slowly gets more powerful through wits and cheating and sheer determination.

It's definitely a quick read and I haven't read much Asian-inspired fantasy before, but I found myself bored. I don't care about magic systems. I don't care about videogame mechanics in books. The worldbuilding and the characters felt flat, the plot was incredibly predictable, infodumping after some chapters felt clumsy, and it felt like power-ups acted as a substitute for actual character development and personality, which...ehh. No thanks.

There really isn't anything to it except power-ups and a magic system. There's a certain subset of people who will find this sort of thing satisfying. I, alas, did not.

Enjoyment: 2/5
Execution: 2/5

Recommended to: those looking for a light quick read, fans of stories about underdogs becoming powerful and proving everyone wrong, LitRPG fans
Not recommended to: if you value character development or think power-ups are boring: don't bother, it's not worth it

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
Profile Image for David S Meanderings).
325 reviews86 followers
February 24, 2022
Update 9/29: Reread

One more week until Wintersteel! So cool to notice so many more little things during this reread.

“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”

I had almost no idea what to expect when going into this book. I knew it was Asian inspired and that a big part of it was the magic system, but that was about it. I started this book with no other expectations other than that I would enjoy it, and oh did I enjoy it!

My favorite part about this book was the magic system. This series has been described by a few reviewers, including Petrik from Novel Notions as in part being homage to shonen anime/manga like Naruto. I have never seen any of this type of anime nor read any of the manga and I think this contributed to my enjoyment even more. The magic system felt fresh, original, imaginative, and just plain fun. There were so many aspects to it, so much danger if you got something wrong. If you are the type of person that really likes their protagonist to “level up” in skill and mastery of their magic by sheer will and dedication, this book may be for you.

I also really enjoyed Wei Shi (Way-She) Lindon, or just Lindon as he is referred to throughout most of the story. He is the main protagonist and practically the only POV of the book, with a few random POVs mixed in there throughout the narrative. Lindon is born unsouled which means he does not have an affinity for any of the disciplines of magic that his people practice. He is an outsider among his own people and that makes it easy to immediately relate to and sympathize with him. This is the story of an underdog and if there is one trope I can always get behind it is the underdog/outcast rising above the expectations of the people around them. Lindon is also genuinely likable. Oftentimes as outcasts characters can be bitter, angry, and downright jerks, but Lindon is not this way. He remains kind and has a good heart throughout all the mocking and bullying that he endures. However, this doesn’t mean he lets people just walk all over him either. I would like to see some more aspects of Lindon’s personality and of course continued character growth throughout this series, but this was a pretty good start.

“The foundation of any Path is learning to accept the world as it is, not as you wish or even observe it to be.”

I have seen it expressed that the first part of this book is somewhat unevenly paced because of info dumping. This is something that I do have issues with when reading and typically bothers me quite a lot. However, in this book I didn’t really notice it until someone else pointed it out. The plot does move rather slowly for the first half or so, but it is a beautiful, slow burn and I never found myself bored or disinterested. There was always something interesting popping up, some new piece of the world or magic system to discover. I think more things could definitely have been shown versus told, but this is the first book in a 12 book series (7 books published so far in only 3 years) so I didn’t mind it one bit. I also read this via audiobook and I recommend that format highly for this book. The narrator, Travis Baldree, brought each character to life in their own unique way and made the journey through learning about the world and magic system so much fun.

This was a really strong start to what promises to be a fantastic series. At only 294 pages (a little over 8 hour audiobook), it was really to finish in what felt like no time at all. Similar to the Dresden Files, people seem to all agree that the series only gets better and I am so excited to continue the series immediately. In fact, I started book 2, SoulSmith, yesterday!
Profile Image for Dexcell.
169 reviews38 followers
May 18, 2023
“There are a million Paths in this world, Lindon, but any sage will tell you they can all be reduced to one. Improve yourself.”<\i>

Solid first book, wasn't really feeling it at the start, but it really picked up. I'm still confused with where the story is going with Suriel. Looking forward to the second one.

First reread: Really loved it more the second time around. I enjoyed all the foreshadowing all stuff he does early on that I didn't catch at first.

Second reread: Ah shit, here we go again.
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
780 reviews130 followers
September 26, 2022
Believe the hype. I didn’t think I would like it, but I devoured it in two days and it was fantastic. Will I read the eleven sequels? Nah, probably not (but maybe eventually?)

I love a good underdog story and this has that in spades. I love a good training montage too, and coming-of-age stories, and this is all that too. But what put it over the top was the super-story, an overlaid high-level event scale that hovers far above the main events and only lightly touches it in all the right places. It’s an almost-science-fiction element that is present from the book’s opening line, but then the story draws you and allows you to practically forget that element is there until it forces its presence back in with superb timing.

The twists in this book: so well-earned, I loved them.

My early immersion into the book was helped by my passing familiarity with cultivation fantasy. Without that, I wonder if the magic system would be harder to latch on to. I don’t think the book requires any foreknowledge of this subgenre, it builds its world skillfully enough that a newcomer should not get lost, but there’s no harm in googling “what is cultivation fantasy” ahead of time if necessary.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews153 followers
September 2, 2020
This was pretty cool. There are some really cool concepts and the characters are fairly interesting too. I felt that there were many things that could have been expanded on and perhaps made slightly detailed, so it will be interesting to see in what direction the sequels takes the series in. I want to say RTC but I honestly don’t know if I will get the time to get round to a review any time soon. 6.5/10
Profile Image for Lau ♡ (hiatus bc of finals).
369 reviews281 followers
August 19, 2022
dnf 51%

One of my goals this year was to try more indie fantasy…I’m starting to think I’d do them a favor by stopping trying.

***

The Clan protects its members. At least, those who have a soul and can follow the Paths to honor the Clan.

Lindon is only a kid when he discovers he’s Unsouled, which makes him useless in the eyes of his clan, a pariah among his family. But there is a determination on him that refuses to acknowledge his destiny.

If he can’t follow the Paths, he will make his own trail.


Unsouled might be the first book of a very long series, but it doesn’t feel like an introduction. I can see the appeal of a fast start full of information and action by sacrificing the paragraphs meant for characters, but it’s the complete opposite of what I actually like. For me to care about what’s going on, you have to make me care about the characters we are following. At the very least, show me they are realistic people and not cartoonish drafts of characters I’ve seen before.


Lindon’s underdog story was supposed to make it easy, but he is too soon forgotten as a secondary feature behind paragraphs of info-dump. The other characters didn’t make it easy either: I already knew them after reading a couple of paragraphs for how typical they were.


Still, I understand how someone who is into this genre and cares more about world-building and cool magic systems than characters may enjoy this one. It’s my first time reading progression fantasy and I have a feeling it’s not going to be a new favorite. If they are all like this, it promises to focus on the power of only one individual rather than an adventure shared by more characters where you can enjoy their relationship dynamics, which are the kind of stories I like the most.


Also, it might be the writing, my lack of interest or that I’m not into souls-related magic systems, but the scenes I was reading didn’t record as images in my head, which completely spoiled the action for me.


Overall, this series might be a hit for some people because it’s very different, the info dump would probably decrease as the story unfolds and the characters have eleven and a half more books to grow and prove me wrong. But since the action didn’t work for me either, I don’t see this being any more than a huge miss for me.
Profile Image for Jokoloyo.
449 reviews270 followers
August 6, 2019
This is a first book of a continuing series. So, the author made a promise the world building will be much more grander than what had been revealed on this first book.

The setting is heavily influenced with Eastern fantasy Xinxia theme, although there are some aspects that still fresh, like the storytelling in some chapters that as if the POV is reading from an artificial intelligence.

For now, 4 star.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
July 7, 2022
I've been hearing a lot of praise for this fantasy and I had to see it for myself.

First impressions? It's a coming-of-age fantasy with certain Mistborn vibes couches itself in the thoroughly fun LitRPG frame. The fundamentals are solid, but that's not what makes it REALLY fun.

I love how utterly useless the MC is and how utterly outclassed he is at every step. It promises a VERY large story arc, especially with the fate and broken fate reveal.

I'm totally down for this underdog story.
Profile Image for L.L. MacRae.
Author 7 books344 followers
August 19, 2021
Okay, I’m officially jumping on the bandwagon! I listened to the audio of this (and have already bought the audio of book two), which was brilliantly narrated. Excellent voices, pacing, humour. Easy to listen to and understand!

I’d heard an awful lot about the Cradle series before deciding on a whim to grab the first audiobook. I have a feeling that I’ll be joining the legions of people devouring each book one after another, then going back to re-read the series from the first book.

We follow Lindon, an “unsouled” member of his tribe - with no clear path to follow, he is treated as the bottom wrung on the ladder, unworthy of much beyond ridicule.

This is my first experience with progression fantasy. As a fan of anime, I definitely see the similarities, and I can see it being a style of book I can really get behind. My enjoyment levels when reading this were high!

I love the magic system (sacred arts), spirits (and remnants), the clear paths forward, focus on combat, and the very distinct characters. I love the idea of characters (or a village, or world!) believing in one thing only to realise they are a tiny part of a much larger whole - and what they believe might not be correct, or at least not the whole truth.

Overall the world building was fun, especially with how important the magic system is not just to the world, but to the people who inhabit it.

I did find that Lindon tended to compensate for his weakness by using “tricks” and I wasn’t a huge fan of the deception (I kept waiting for him to be severely punished, or at least feel bad about what he’d done), but considering a lot of the stakes get quite large quite quickly, I can accept it as a survivalist instinct.

The book took an interesting turn about halfway through. I don’t want to say more for spoilers, but it wasn’t something I’d imagined happening, and it really did change things quite massively. I’ll liken it to looking behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.

I’m still very much looking forward to reading the next book and hopefully enjoying the rest of the series also! If you love underdog stories, grand magic that definitely seems epic in scope, and a likeable protagonist, this is something you’ll enjoy!
Profile Image for Rob Hayes.
Author 35 books1,364 followers
May 27, 2021
So after interviewing Will Wight on the Wizards, Warriors, and Words podcast, it turns out he's not the evil android sent from the future to top all the charts I thought he was. He's actually a really nice guy. So I figured it was time to give Cradle a go as it's his premier series. Turns out... it's pretty damned good. At least book 1 is.

This is definitely a progressions fantasy with the magic system and levels within it clearly defined from the get go. It's about a young boy who has the world stacked against him, fighting against all odds to become stronger and save his home, despite that home wanting nothing to do with him. It's a classic. And by that, I mean I've watched a lot of anime, and this book has that overall feel. There is a lot of Naruto in this story. :D

Unsouled is not a perfect book in any way, but it is very moreish. I kept returning for another chapter, another page, and I finished the book in less than a week. That's good going for me.

So not perfect, but bloody good. I'll definitely be checking out book 2.

4/5 stars. If you like a young misfit main character facing impossible odds, and clear levels of progression, then this one is definitely for you.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,285 reviews395 followers
November 21, 2021
Turns out there is a genre of books called Xianxia and this is an example: a remixture of Chinese folklore/mythology with foreign elements and settings. Who knew?

Unsouled is a classic hero's journey set in a universe of competing clans, godly fighters and monstrous remnants, where the cultivation and control of life energy known as madra is the basis of civilization on the world of Cradle. Through various means of progression, which includes training, ingesting elixirs and spirit-fruits, a sacred artist can level up from different stages of madra mastery and strength from Copper to Iron, to Jade and then to Gold. Wei Shi Lindon, a member of the Silverfox Clan, is born an "unsouled" (i.e., someone unfit to harness the power of madra, making him an embarrassment to his family.) Lindon is unwilling to accept his lowly stature and is determined to do everything he can to prove his worth, find a path to becoming a sacred artist, by hook or by crook. Visited by a deity, he is shown another path, involving rescuing a famous swordman's disciple and leaving the Sacred Valley, which he does with his rare combination of grit and wit.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,431 reviews827 followers
June 25, 2020
This book surprised me in a good way. It starts out reading like many other coming of age fantasy stories, this one with an eastern oriental setting. Before long however, it becomes clear this story is going to be more original than I had thought. Linden , the MC is refreshingly different. He can be sly, he cheats, he manipulates. On the other hand, he is ambitious, motivated, determined, unafraid of difficult choices. I like the message of the story at the end about refusing to be limited by others’ ideas of what is possible, of your potential. I am internet o see where the story goes next.
Profile Image for Aria Kessler-Avington.
Author 2 books5 followers
June 22, 2016
Will Wight always manages to craft such intricate and tasteful magic systems, even when they initially threaten to overwhelm the reader with their ecstatic colour. House of Blades, for example, was initially off-putting to me when I downloaded the Kindle sample. The effect was of a simple, mousey librarian parachuted into the chaos and madness of a Warhammer flash point. Magical airbursts and organic monstrosities erupting around me, I hadn't a clue what was happening. Clapping the eBook shut in fear, it would be months before I downloaded it again and sank chin deep into the narrative.

However, download it this one did, and was captivated. What I'd initially mistook for simplicity of characterizations, I soon discovered was an economy of verse when it comes to defining his protagonists and villains. He paints them with clear, clean strokes, full of spartan definition and aesthetic. Instead of impressionist, baroque or rococo, they're artfully cel-shaded delights. His humor comes in swift, sharp jabs -- a wry delivery in haiku instead of drawn-out sonnets.

And his systems... if the author only worked for Wizards of the Coast or Games Workshop, he'd be head of development by now. So much of the fun in the Traveler's Gate series is partaking in the mechanics and architecture of his various magical disciplines, letting the author guide you through their chemistry and logic, witnessing how the pieces fit together.

In Unsouled, true to nature, there's an initially off-putting moment: The sensation that you might be reading a Naruto for grad lit majors. The prose is smoother, right out of the gate, and more refined than previous series debuts, showcasing how his work is becoming much easier to dive into for both fans and newcomers alike; but during the first few sections, my reader's presence (hovering over the shoulder of Wei Shi Lindon, the protagonist) kept tilting left and right, peering around for Sasuke, Sakura and Rock, as Hidden Leaf Village and chakra-chi analogues abound.

And then it happens:


The scope changes, and like those corporate trust-building exercises, you have to fall backwards into the author's arms, knowing that his world-building virtuosity and creative kinetics will be there to deliver you into a delicious new paradigm.

House of Blades proved that Wight can forge something different, but just as satisfying, as a recliner made of smelted broadswords. Unsouled is the beginning of something bigger, a riveting mashup architecture that is more Herzog & de Meuron and Gehry than van der Rohe and Wright. Granted, there are a few moments that struck as slightly askew: Regardless, this one here will be sleepless in Seattle until Book 2.

The first debut of the Cradle series gets a 4.5 star for being priced waaay too low for what the author is bringing to the table. Just lovely, through and through.

// aria
Profile Image for Zoe Artemis Spencer Reid.
490 reviews104 followers
November 29, 2020
“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”

That was unexpectedly good. It was not my typical fantasy, but I wanted to read something quick but good, so this was the series I chose. And it didn't disappoint. It read a bit like anime I guessed, not that I have much experience. Except from Attack on Titan, Akame ga Kill, Death Note and Detective Conan, I don't watch anime. Back to Unsouled, the concept was interesting and the world promised to be complex and vast. The story line itself was unexpected at times. One of my favorite thing here was the main protagonist. There is the fact that we always root for the underdog, people who determine to be more than what they are born as. But also because he was so cunning, and I just loved that in a person. He also didn't have victim mentality at all, he was arrogant enough to defy the world, but also very humble. That was great combination. Unsouled truly have good stuffs going, finger crossed for next books.
Profile Image for Richard Nell.
Author 8 books639 followers
July 22, 2018
Summary
Lit-rpgish/epic fantasy where a kid born weak starts powering up, and oh yeah maybe the world and/or galaxy and/or universe kinda needs him to hurry the hell up.

Reaction
Well-written, clever, and 100% has that more-ish pull that makes you kind of angry and sweaty until you buy the next book. God damnit Will Wight.
344 reviews7 followers
June 15, 2021
A solid start to the series. Probably somewhere around 3.8 stars.

Pros:
originality
interesting story
worldbuilding
structure

Cons:
prose
pacing (maybe just a bit too fast-paced)

Magic system was okay, served the plot. I will continue reading the series.
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