Book Review: Unsouled (Cradle #1) by Will Wright
Title: Unsouled (Cradle #1)
Author: Will Wright
Publisher: Hidden Gnome Publishing (self-published)
Page Count: 294
I listened to this on audiobook and, initially, I planned on rating this 4 stars, mostly because I felt Travid Baldree’s narration lifted the overall story, particularly through the infodumps. But even as I sit here typing this, I’m itching to get to the rest of this series. So for that, I’ve bumped it up to 5 stars. This story has got me hooked.
This Asian-inspired fantasy begins with Linden, a boy who is unlike any other in Sacred Valley. Unlike his peers, who all wear badges declaring the path their madra (think soul/spirit/chi/ki) will grow into, Linden has no path. He is unsouled. Powerless. A boy with no future. And yet for all his ineptitude, Linden is determined to find his own path and become a legendary sacred artist.
There are many things to like about this story. Its worldbuilding is unique, with a mix of Asian-style clans, martial arts schools, magic scripts, and supernatural techniques powered by madra that reminded me a lot of Naruto. We also get glimpses of a much greater, more science-fantasy universe with augmented beings who can control time and fate itself.
As a protagonist, Linden is an underdog we can get behind. He might be powerless, but he’s clever, thinks out-of-the-box, and most of all, is resilient as they come. If he’s knocked down 100 times, he gets up 101.
Plot-wise, while I always knew the general shape Linden’s journey would take, it was the how of it that kept me reading. A few unexpected twists also kept me on my toes, along with a desire to see how the greater universe fits in with Linden’s smaller one.
As I said earlier, I listened to this on audio, and Baldree knocked the narration out of the park. When I finished, it took all my self control not to snap up Book 2. If you love pacey, action-adventure fantasy with an underdog hero who steadily grows more powerful, this is absolutely worth a read.
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