A worthy sequel that expands on the worldbuilding and magic system, Soulsmith delivers on the promise of an engaging and fascinating story of epic powers inspired by Far Eastern martial arts.
Outside of the Sacred Valley in pursuit of advancement, Lindon came face-to-face with his destiny as he encountered powers beyond his imagination. The most powerful amongst the clans and Schools within the Valley are mere children compared to the dime a dozen Golds that can be found in the Desolate Wilds. As expected, and I don’t believe it to be a spoiler to say so, Lindon did manage to level up in his powers. How that happened, though, is the part where I will not deign to reveal. Safe to say, it was far from painless.
“The sacred arts are a game, and your life is the only thing you’ve got to bet. You want to move up? This is what up looks like.”
The introduction of two fascinating new characters, Eithan and Jai Long, was to me the best part of this sequel. In the first book, we only had Lindon’s POV for the bulk of the narrative and a few chapters from an otherworldly powerful being. The already complex worldbuilding had to be expanded as our main protagonist leaves the confines of the Sacred Valley into the wide, open world of Cradle. Given this, the added perspectives of new characters served to enhance the story.
Jai Long, an exile of the Jai clan – one of the strongest within the Blackflame Empire – was the antagonist with an empathetic backstory. Meanwhile, Eithan was an enigmatic and irrepressible personality whose motivations were never quite clear, and I could not tell whether he can be trusted or not. The impact of these two characters on Lindon’s fate made the story way more compelling.
Through the perspectives of the new characters, we were also given more insights into the political landscape of The Blackflame Empire and the intricate magic-martial arts system. Even though Golds can be found in abundance, there are three sublevels within Gold itself where the gulf between each level – Lowgold, Highgold and Truegold – is much wider than from Copper to Iron and then to Jade. Beyond Gold we even have Underlords who are the leaders of the most dominant clans within the Empire. Believe me when I say that the powers displayed by these sacred artists were truly spectacular – to the point of being almost over the top. For me though, that was half of the fun of reading this series so far.
These relatively short novels were addictive and easy to read, with efficient and immersive prose, and minimal errors as far as self-published books are concerned. Its narrative moved at a decent pace and was well-plotted with each book having a self-contained story. At the same time, there was also sufficient foreshadowing and development of a larger plot leading to more epic narrative threads to be told in future instalments.
Continue watching this space, as I foresee greater potential in this series.
Review originally written on 29 December 2018.
You can purchase the book from Amazon US.