Blackflame, book 3 of the Cradle series, is the point where the story begins to gain momentum. Not to say that the previous books didn’t have excitement, but Blackflame has the feel of a significant point in a larger series, rather than the previous books that felt as though they were building to that sort of moment. Coming into Blackflame, readers have met the main characters and have a foundational understanding of the world and the setting.
After the events at the end of Soulsmith, our characters travel from the Desolate Wilds to the Blackflame Empire as Eithan takes both Yerin, the Disciple of the Sword Sage, and Lindon, the naive outsider who has only just reached Iron, under his wing. This takes new significance after they learn about Eithan’s identity as a prominent member of House Arelius. Eithan takes over Lindon’s training in anticipation for his duel with Jai Long after killing Kral of the Sandvipers. Lindon has a year to prepare and train from Iron before facing a Highgold, or more than likely, a Truegold. Their journey takes them to Serpent’s Grave, a city built into and around the skeletal remains of an ancient dragon, in order to not only train Lindon, but to have him learn a new Path, one that promises power and destruction in equal, terrifying measures. It may perhaps be his only means to defeat Jai Long as the exile begins his own hunt of vengeance in search of power.
Blackflame was a fun read, and the book flew by quickly. Again, I found myself disappointed to find a few small errors and mistakes in the book, and finding imperfections in a book is a rough way to be taken out of a story. Whatever the reason for the errors, these should not be occurring in an established series such as this, especially one as popular as Cradle seems to be. As it has persisted through the first three books, I can only assume it is a compromise on quality throughout the series, but I won’t be addressing it again as part of subsequent reviews, though it has colored my overall opinion on the series.
The strengths of this book, and honestly the series as a whole, are the worldbuilding, the greater story I think the author is trying to tell; and the characters contained within. The strengths of his characters are put on display in Blackflame, both the intentional depths he has cultivated in the central characters and the details of the supporting cast. In both aspects, they are excellent. It’s likewise a shame when it is compared to the nearly uninspired writing. The world, the magic, the characters, and so much more of what Wight has created is wonderful, but the ways in which they interact and the way he crafts the story is by far the weakest aspect of the Cradle series, and is just as apparent in Blackflame. It is still a fun, entertaining story, but there is little in terms of the writing and storytelling craft that distinguishes itself.
The characters and their interactions with each other begin to define themselves as a strength in this book, creating more potential for that to develop in subsequent books. The bonds between Lindon and Yerin have grown, and we see those collide with Eithan’s strong personality, and later Cassias. There are hints of individual growth, both in maturity and their advancement in the sacred arts. One specific moment where this is put on display is the process where Lindon begins to actually understand the legacy of Blackflame, his newfound mentor, and what responsibility comes with the power Eithan is trying to cultivate in him.
If you enjoyed the first two books, or even just made it through them, then you should be encouraged that Blackflame is the point in Cradle where the narrative begins to step away from worldbuilding and introductions for the reader, and moves towards the heart of the story. From venturing into the Blackflame Empire, the revelations about Eithan, as well as the paths set before Lindon and Yerin, readers who are invested in those journeys will enjoy this book. The character relationships are growing in strength with the hope of greater strength within the story, and the story continues to be entertaining and a fun series to read.
Blackflame is written by Will Wight, and is published by Hidden Gnome Publishing.
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