The second book in the Cradle series, Soulsmith begins to introduce the world, more of the setting and give glimpses of the “wideness” that exists. We have met our protagonist, and we learned his pursuit or projected hero’s journey in Unsouled. Now Lindon has ventured beyond the boundaries of his known world and into a place where he needs knowledge and allies as much as his own power. Soulsmith picks up right where Unsouled left off, which is a style that the rest of the series follows, with each book leading right into the next without time passage or large narrative leaps.
After leaving the Sacred Valley with Yerin, our protagonists travel to the Transcendent Ruins where they meet the clans of the Five Faction Alliance and several notable characters who serve a much greater role in Lindon’s story. A site with a recent powerful spike in power and aura, sacred artists and dreadbeasts alike have been drawn to this ancient ruin. They meet Eithan, a powerful and enigmatic individual, the sinister exile Jai Long, Kral of the Sandvipers, and Fisher Gesha. After his advancement to Copper, Lindon begins his training as a Soulsmith, following in the footsteps of his mother. This book gives readers their first true look into the world of power, madra, and the sacred arts beyond the scope of the Sacred Valley. Again, Will Wight uses the protagonist’s inexperience to showcase and explore the world for the readers as Lindon learns and experiences things himself. Lindon is growing beyond what he understood while he lived in the Sacred Valley. Under his growing friendship with Yerin, his pursuit to save his home pushes him forward with unwavering determination. With the help of others, those of the outside world who are far more powerful than him, he might just have a chance. But for those few that might be willing to help him, there are just as many, if not more, who would be enemies.
This story is one of worldbuilding, both for the reader and Lindon’s benefit. He knows little about the ways of the outside world, that beyond his home in the Sacred Valley, and has much to learn. Through Soulsmith, introductions to groups such as the Jai clan, the Fishers, and the Sandvipers sect give hints as to the social and political hierarchies. There are rankings of sacred artists beyond what Lindon understands, where powers extend far beyond Jade and even Gold. Again, this hints at a power structure that extends to greater and greater heights. There are themes of class, honor, and family hierarchy that are demonstrated as having their places of importance, even out in a place at the edge of the Wilds. It is a place near the edge of civilization, or is beyond it from a certain perspective, which serves as a physical and metaphorical stepping stone for Lindon’s journey.
Wight’s craft and skill as a writer and storyteller are again given good display in Soulsmith. His craft at writing is good, though not great, and without the strength of the world he has created, there would be little to distinguish his work in these early books. It is easy to pick up, and the books are fun, short reads. They fit well within the YA Fantasy genre, whether it is an intentional decision, or stylistically due to Wight’s skill as a writer. Other authors might adapt a simpler tone or specific use of language for a certain character to reflect a character more accurately through language, but the writing in Cradle is consistent across characters. His decisions are impactful enough that I noticed it while reading, but his use of characters and this world have drawn me in regardless. There are almost points where I can see Wight’s singular focus in his storytelling, and what falls short as a result is the actual writing. From details in certain interactions and scenes that become strongly two-dimensional or one-sided, or when characters are only ever mentioned when they become relevant, rather than present. Which is the real shame, because the author’s use of his characters is excellent. It begins strongly in Soulsmith and continues through the rest of Cradle, the consistent and controlled usage of characters, without excessive characters that serve either the same role, or none at all.
Continuing in the style of the first book in Cradle, Soulsmith is worth a read if the themes and style of the story grabbed you. It gives a look into the wider world Wight has created, setting the early stage for where the narrative can go. It introduces some great and dynamic characters, as well as bringing motivation and immediate challenge for the protagonist who is focused on the long term goal. It does not bring the same excitement as the climax of Unsouled did, nor those of certain elements of subsequent books. Soulsmith serves as the bridge from the ordinary world, Lindon’s life in the Sacred Valley, to the extraordinary one, the lands beyond. As the unknowns become known, the story comes into view, but is noticeably more steady in its development, as is necessary for the lasting benefit of the series as a whole.
Soulsmith is written by Will Wight, and is published by Hidden Gnome Publishing.
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