Wintersteel by Will Wight
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Cradle (Book #8 of 12)
Genre: Fantasy, Progression Fantasy, Xianxia
Published: 6th October 2020 by Hidden Gnome Publishing (Indie)
Wintersteel was yet another immensely addictive, fun and fantastic continuation in the Cradle series, which just keeps getting more epic with each book.
We’ve arrived at the pinnacle of the second act of the series (on the basis that I’m breaking up the planned 12 books into three acts of four books each), and true to its sub-genre as a progression fantasy, everything about the story has been progressing to increasingly more spectacular levels. Looking back to the first book, Unsouled, I was just mind-blown by how far we’ve come, and also how brilliantly Wight crafted the gradual unveiling the scope of the story to such epic levels right now.
Even as the biggest book in the series by far, I made short work of Wintersteel as once again it was simply unputdownable. The story picked up immediately after the abrupt ending of Uncrowned, and while I think both these books make up one incredible arc that could have been better served as one volume, it would have to be much more than twice the length of the usual Cradle books. With hindsight, it was not an easy task for Wight to end the narrative where it did for Uncrowned as it took another 500+ pages to complete the entire arc for this epic tournament.
The worldbuilding, the scope of the story and the stakes have grown immensely by this instalment, as did the incredible action scenes which kept getting bigger, better and bolder. However, the progression is not limited to those aspects, as character growth and development were just as pivotal in advancement up the ranks. Once a sacred artist achieved Underlord, every step up to the higher Lord stages again require something more than power accumulation. It requires a deeper understanding or insight into the path of the individual sacred artist.
While Lindon continued to feature prominently as the main protagonist of the series, Yerin pretty much took centre stage in Wintersteel. This was a good thing for me as Lindon has never been a favourite and having too much him can get under my skin. Sure enough, there was a section in the middle of the book which I didn’t enjoy as much as Lindon’s greed and impatience to gain more power was emphasized again. Don’t get me wrong, I do empathise with his underdog origins which coupled with his desire to save his home contributed to this trait of his, but it still annoys me. What I did appreciate was how the budding romantic relationship between Lindon and Yerin finally had its payoff. Both of them also achieved rather unconventional advancement in their powers and it will be most interesting to see how it plays out in future books.
On to the one character which is my absolute favourite in the entire series. Wight always kept him at an enigmatic arm’s length in the narrative and that’s probably the biggest reason why he is such a draw as I could never get enough of him. So, the ending of the previous book held a certain promise – that we may see Eithan Arelius stop holding back (let’s face it, we all know he’s hiding his true abilities). That was the one thing that I was most anticipating going into Wintersteel. And the scene where Eithan finally “showed up” was as glorious as I hoped it will be. On top of that, there was also a bit more Eithan viewpoint chapters, which elevated my overall enjoyment and helped balance out my not-so-positive feels about part of Lindon’s story.
We are down to the final four books of the series, and it’s looking to be an insanely fun ride to the end. Not that it hasn’t been already, but I just can’t wait to see where Wight is taking this.