Such insane power. Such insane fun. That, in a nutshell, is the Cradle series, and Underlord is its current pinnacle.
Underlord was everything that its title promised adoring fans (including yours truly), and so much more. The Prologue was so ridiculously epic it gave me goosebumps, and all the awesomeness that was the Cradle series came crashing down on me again. I tried to prolong the enjoyment by keeping myself occupied with things to do, to avoid finishing the book too quickly. Alas, it barely lasted 36 hours from the time I received the download from my pre-order.
This was the first time I had to wait for a Cradle book release and the experience of coming back to the world, and its characters felt wonderful. On hindsight, I believed that I might not have done sufficient justice to the previous five books which I’ve finished reading on a frantic binge. Having some time to absorb and digest each book fully could have made the initial read even better. Sidenote: I’ve upgraded Blackflame to 5-stars.
In each book thus far, Will Wight kept upping the stakes in line with the power advancements or upgrades of the sacred arts. The rank of Underlord transcends beyond Truegold on a whole new level of mastery altogether. Given this, the final step to becoming an Underlord cannot be achieved through hard training and spirit-enhancing elixirs alone. It comes from something even more profound and what ensued in this book hence was a level of character development that sealed my absolute investment for all the main characters.
Lindon is the main protagonist from the very beginning, but it took me quite some time to thoroughly warm up to him. I’m so glad that I genuinely enjoy his story now; a part of this was primarily nurtured by his relationship with his co-mentor, Orthos. Yerin remained as badass as ever, and I loved the touch of vulnerability which emerged from her character arc in this book. Meanwhile, Mercy finally had her backstory fleshed out, and it was fascinating. My latest favourite character had to be Dross – a unique entity that Lindon stumbled upon in Ghostwater, which turned out to be instrumental to Lindon’s progress. Dross injected even more humour into the story, which previously was almost monopolised by the melodramatic and irrepressible Eithan, who’s still a firm favourite. Oh, and how can I not mention the adorable Little Blue.
I cannot commend Wight enough for the worldbuilding and magic system he created for Cradle. While the story primarily took place in the world of Cradle, we get epic accounts of what was happening in the cosmos as supreme beings of power battle across the planets and stars. Within Cradle itself, one could appreciate the size and complexity of the world, with its many political factions, empires, clans and cults, all which some way or another were dictated by the most powerful sacred artists in the world, the Monarchs.
In the many years of reading epic fantasy, I have had my exposure to extraordinary sorcerous powers, but I have yet to come across one so well-conceived as a magic cum martial arts system. This statement excludes anime/manga and gaming since I cannot speak with any authority in this arena. The power of the sacred arts is unapologetically insane. But at the same time, there are also distinct rules behind these arts. I was astounded with the many different paths and techniques that the author managed to conjure. Don’t forget, each Path has its Striker, Enforcer, Ruler and Forger techniques, and each upgrade in rank unlocks even more techniques available to the sacred artist. And then, there are natural treasures as well as Soulsmithed constructs made from Remnants and bindings which harness vital aura. It was ingenious madness, and I had mad fun reading it.
Another sidenote: It could be just me being a mega-fan of Brandon Sanderson, I can’t help noticing several nods to The Stormlight Archive in this novel.
The ending of each Cradle book always alluded to an even more epic instalment to come, and Underlord was no different. Its Epilogue was the best in the series so far in building up for the next book, which is titled Uncrowned. What did differentiate Underlord from most of its predecessors was how well-balanced the narrative was. Amazing action scenes were a given, but we also had quiet contemplative moments between the characters. And while I laughed quite lot throughout the book, I also teared up during a particularly poignant scene.
By now, I’ve known and accepted that there will be many more books on the horizon to complete the arc that Lindon’s journey will take him, especially with Eithan’s grand plan in mind. I was informed that Wight mentioned twelve books in total. Strangely though, I am excited with this prospect, as I really cannot get enough of this series. The author had been able to churn out the Cradle books regularly. I surmised that he was able to do this by making each book relatively short (by fantasy standards), and just enough to wrap up the requisite plotline to ensure consistent progression and advancement for our characters to get the story to where it needs to be for a resoundingly epic conclusion.
If what I’ve described fit your idea of a great read, I highly recommend this series. Even though it seemed like we’re only halfway through, these books were quite short and so fun that rereading wouldn’t be a chore. At least, it won’t be for me. What I am suggesting is.. don’t wait to start Cradle because you are missing out on some seriously cool and awesome entertainment.
You can purchase the book from Amazon US.