Uncrowned begins after the revelation that Akura Charity has decided that Lindon shall train to represent the Akura clan in the Uncrowned King Tournament, potentially taking the place she had intended for Akura Harmony, whose death she attributes to Lindon. The various champions and chosen of the factions, families, kingdoms, and territories are gathered at the end of Underlord for the Uncrowned King Tournament. The book launches into character growth as the stakes for the tournament are laid out and a wider view of the world of Cradle is built. Each book in the series offers a greater look into the setting, and Uncrowned continues in that vein, but gives a look into the people and factions within the setting as well. The politics of the Akura clan, the hierarchy of the dragons, and the gathered might of the cults of the Dreadgods are all pulled to the forefront as the reader and the main characters gain a better understanding of the players and stakes in the new conflict.
At the start of the book, Lindon is taken to the home of the Akura clan home as Akura Charity sets him to training and preparing for the Uncrowned King Tournament. At the end of Underlord, Lindon is appointed to train to represent the Akura family in the tournament alongside Mercy, while Yerin, Eithan, and the Blackflame Emperor’s sister represent the Akura territories. Lindon’s relentless training takes center stage, his fervent desire and drive to do whatever is necessary in order to succeed. Augmented by Dross, they experiment with trying to reach Lindon’s new limits of potential, and nearly push themselves to a breaking point. Readers see a singularly focused individual, but also get glimpses of pieces of Lindon that make him human and relatable.
The actual tournament doesn’t begin until halfway into the book, as the first half is centered on Lindon’s training and building anticipation before reaching the actual progression of the tournament. Through the multiple rounds of varying challenges, different competitors are given their own chance at the spotlight, and the author makes use of offering brief insights into the various characters competing in the Uncrowned King Tournament. The startling revelation to the world that Longstrider, the legendary Monarch, still lives as he appears and takes charge of the tournament creates a sense of heightened stakes for the tournament on top of the implications that had already been building. Fates of kingdoms and empires were at stake, but for the Monarch who was living under the guise of being dead to return, it hints at something even greater and more significant. The climactic moment in Uncrowned comes in the powerful duel between two allies, prompting some surprisingly deep character introspection that previously had been missing from Cradle. The next books in the series constitute the final rounds and time in between for the remainder of the Uncrowned King Tournament.
Uncrowned has a markedly more well-written narrative, both in story and character interactions. This book drew the most out of me as I read it out of all the books in Cradle up to Volume 7. It carefully walks the line between explaining the story and showing what is happening. It doesn’t devolve into exposition or lengthy explanations, but the author is not averse to narrating in detail when appropriate. He does a good job of showing the dispositions and feelings of people, especially since more than half of this book takes place in locations where not only is Lindon the outsider, but it could also be described as outright hostile towards him. Readers get a strong sense of how alone Lindon is just by the nonverbals of the other members of the Akura clan during his training.
Regarding the Akura clan, there was enough foreshadowing that was interlaced within the narrative in previous books for Lindon and the reader to begin formulating a response to them based on how the rest of the Blackflame Empire saw them. Then Lindon’s experiences created his own perspective on the powerful family, from his friendship with Mercy to then being tasked with representing the family in the tournament by the Sage, and his further interactions while training and preparing.
Still at the beginning of a significant arc in the Cradle series, Uncrowned brings a welcome amount of character development and interactions as it ramps towards higher stakes. I enjoyed the growth the characters saw in this book, and it felt more complete as a narrative. The layers of interactions are well composed, as well as the varying interests of the different groups competing in the Uncrowned King Tournament. The start of the tournament was much better in its preparation, compared to other events in Cradle that seemed to be similarly anticipated and built up for a time. Where Lindon’s duel with Jai Long was underwhelming and felt wasted as a narrative point, the Uncrowned King Tournament plays a part in the greater story of Cradle and in the individual characters’ stories.
Uncrowned is written by Will Wight, and is published by Hidden Gnome Publishing.
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