Unsouled by Will Wight
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Cradle (Book #1 of 12)
Genre: Fantasy, Progression Fantasy, Xianxia
Pages: 294 pages
Published: 13th June 2016 by Hidden Gnome Publishing (Indie)
A foundational start to a series that feels like the beginning of shonen anime in prose form.
I’ve promised many readers—my impatient co-bloggers included—that I’m going to read Cradle as soon as 2020 starts, and so here I am. I’ve been eyeing this series for quite a while now, it also has been recommended to me more than thirty times by more than thirty different readers. That number is not an exaggeration; I’ve received that many messages and recommendations from readers around the world telling me to read this series because they knew I’m going to love this series, and they weren’t wrong. I enjoyed reading Unsouled, and I know I’ll be binge-reading this series.
Unsouled is the first book out of—if I’m not mistaken, please correct me if I’m wrong—twelve planned books in Will Wight’s highly acclaimed Cradle series. The story follows Wei Shi Lindon, an Unsouled who’s not allowed to learn the sacred arts of his clan due to his deficiency. Due to his misfortune, Lindon has to use and scheme whatever possible means to gain victories over his obstacles. It’s a book that’s filled with resonating themes such as paving your own path, and the willingness to pour in extraordinary hard work to fight against all odds.
“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”
I love underdog stories; there’s always something satisfying about seeing a character who’s practically shunned by everyone becomes a respected individual. Unsouled—and most likely the entire series—depicts Lindon’s relatively slow but gradual rise to a higher level of power, rising from an underdog and, maybe, eventually becomes the strongest in the world through the progression of the series. Many shonen anime/mangas have utilized this simple premise and expand the premise into something much larger and complex; Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto is a great example of this, and it would be quite difficult for me to believe that Will Wight isn’t inspired by Naruto in the creation of this series.
The first book alone already has so many noticeable inspirations from Naruto, and I’m not speaking exclusively about the premise or the similarity in Lindon’s personality—especially his perseverance and determination—that resembles Naruto and many other shonen anime protagonists, the magic and the Asian-inspired world-building also felt like a homage to it. I mean, it has an intricate magic system that revolves around madra (pretty much chakra in Naruto); Elder that reminded me of the Kages in Naruto; the existence of numbered tailed-beasts (in a form of fox, too!) and also sacred art villages that reminded me of the ninja villages in Naruto. So many aspects, to me, felt like a great homage to the manga/anime and I loved reading about it. Plus, Will Wight has an accessible writing style that flows nicely, felt clean and well-polished.
“Fate is not fair, but it is just. Hard work is never in vain…even when it does not achieve what you wished.”
Admittedly, there were plenty of sections—particularly in the first half of the book—that felt very info-dumpy to read, and this hurts the pacing considerably. Also, Lindon’s characterizations still require more introspection and internalization in order for me to feel more invested in his journey. If you find yourself struggling through the first half of the book, I strongly recommend you to give the book a chance, at least until the 50% mark. The second half, in my opinion, was better than the first half, and it showed the potential of awesome things to come in the sequels.
Despite a few hiccups on the quality of the book as an installment, the good thing about all this is that Unsouled felt like a prelude to greatness, a necessary setup for the rest of the series to shine. When I read manga, there’s an incredibly high chance that the first volume won’t spark my interest in the series yet; I usually allow five—in some worse cases, ten to twenty—volumes before I finalized the decision to continue reading the manga series or not. I find this notion to be aptly applicable to Unsouled. If Unsouled signified the weakest installment of the series, then I know I’m going to have a blast reading Cradle.
“The disciple follows the master, but the genius blazes their own trail.”
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)
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