Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Uncrowned

 

Uncrowned (Cradle, #7)Uncrowned by Will Wight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every few years the Monarch's gather their strongest young underlords and have them battle in the Uncrowned King Tournament. These fights aren't simply a matter of pride, they determine what happens in each of the Monarch's lands going forward.

Uncrowned was a good book overall, but until the very end it didn't present the same weight to it as the prior books. The importance of the tournament is certainly mentioned, but it's hard to have a true understanding when the full balance of power hasn't been displayed. None of the books have put on display the tension betweens nations outside of the Dreadgod Bleeding Phoenix's attack. We are told the golden dragons are extremely dangerous and we witness a little of that in the book, but not enough to give the tournament the weight that Akura Charity tried to press into Lindon.

While the previous books focused significantly on advancement, this book focused on refinement. It starts early as Eithan and Yerin are sparring. He shocks her with his abilities and says, "People think that the way to improve your power is to push for advancement, but that's not always true. A child and a veteran swordsman, given the same weapon are vastly different opponents." That as much as anything is what pushes the book forward. Characters growing in skill rather than advancing.

Uncrowned while not being what I had anticipated, was still quite good.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Underlord

 

Underlord (Cradle, #6)Underlord by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The great clans of the world often measure themselves by the strength of their youth. Because of this a tournament is coming. The participants will be young Underlords. The Blackflame Empire has been ordered by the Akura Clan to prepare themselves. They have been given the opportunity to train in an Akura family territory that is rich with vital aura, but there is a catch. They will be competing for the training ground's resources and spots in the tournament against the Seishen Kingdom. Each faction must produce young Underlord candidates for the tournament or else. Worst of all, Akura Charity knows what Lindon did in Ghostwater and she's not going to simply let it go.

Underlord was undoubtedly the most sentimental book of the series to date. Some unexpected events hit me right in the feelings while reading this. Lindon, Yerin, and Orthos have grown so much since they were first introduced. Watching them change has been one of the best aspects of the story.

The advancement to Underlord also led to the strength of the story. Other advancements were strictly pushing the current limit to the point of bursting and then moving forward, but Underlord is different. Sacred artists must be at the peak of high gold, but they also have to open their soulspace and know the reason they practice the sacred arts. Not just a nice sounding reason, the reason they do it. It creates quite the challenge as only artists who know themselves can advance to Underlord.

I truly enjoyed Underlord and the depth of the series thus far. I can't wait to see what comes next.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ghostwater

 

Ghostwater (Cradle, #5)Ghostwater by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lindon, Yerin, and Mercy are once again under the employment of the Skysworn. They are still treated as disposable and as enemies by Skysworn leadership. The team is sent off to investigate the pocket dimension Ghostwater, created by the Monarch Northstrider. The pocket dimension is collapsing due to the rising of the Bleeding Phoenix. Lindon and Orthos find themselves trapped in Ghostwater while Yerin and Mercy struggle to save them.

Ghostwater is the book I've been waiting for. I felt like the story really came together for everyone. Lindon and Orthos are trapped without any clear means of escape. They are forced to rely on each other. Lindon has often been protected by plot armor, but he really grew and developed in this book largely thanks to Orthos. He wasn't reliant on luck in Ghostwater. Orthos really shined in this book. He showed off his physical prowess and took a mentoring role with Lindon. He had his typical lines regarding what dragons do, but he also taught Lindon much more mentally. He also called him on areas he was ignoring in his overall development. Orthos was simply stellar.

"Once, you were weak. That boy is long dead, but his Remnant still haunts you....Your weakness, Lindon, is thinking you are weaker than you are." - Orthos

Yerin and Mercy's story was more straightforward. We learn more about Mercy and Yerin continues to have more memories from her master's remnant.

The world as a whole expanded in this book. We see other factions such as the Akura Clan, the Gold Dragons, Redmoon Hall, The Beast King, and the Monarchs. All their plans are far from clear, but they are all intriguing in their own rights. They of course don't all get along even when they have truces with one another. Each of these factions seem to be stronger than the Blackflame Empire as a whole.

Eithan takes a bit of a back seat and even he gets to show off a bit. It's interesting to know that he doesn't want anyone to know the extent of his abilities, especially considering how powerful he is whenever he demonstrates them. All with a smile on his face. He loves to irritate his opponents.

Ghostwater has a really excellent book and I'm excited to see how the series continues from here.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Of Kings and Killers

Of Kings and Killers (The Elder Empire: Sea, #3)Of Kings and Killers by Will Wight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're all locked in the same burning house. It benefits no one to fight while the flames rise.
- Baldezar Kern

The flames in the Aurelian Empire burn high and hot as the Civil War between the Imperialist and Independent Guilds rages on. All the while the Great Elders led by Kellerac plot and hold a crack in the sky wide open. Humanity needs all their defenders, but they're too busy with the semantics of what the Empire should be going forward.

I believed from the beginning that The Elder Empire had a grand story to be told. I've really enjoyed all of Will Wight's stories except for The Elder Empire, but I've finally enjoyed a book in the series with Of Kings and Killers. My interest was peeked with one little quote towards the end of Of Dawn and Darkness. This single quote made everything occuring much more significant and that was just the beginning.

From the beginning I've found the Sea Side ie Calder's crew the more interesting bunch to read about. Shera and her friends are fearsome, but somewhat strange and dull. Calder and his friends had all the aspects of a family. For all Calder's faults, he loves his crew and he'd do whatever he can for them. They prove time and time again that they'd do the same for him. Calder is an interesting yet flawed protagonist just like his crew. The story also did an excellent job cementing Izaria Woodsman's importance to the crew through flashbacks. In many ways it was as though he was still around even after the events in book 1.

The Great Elders are terror incarnate and I feel like it was glazed over too often rather than emphasized until Of Kings and Killers. The reader gets a good look at the hell scape the characters are trapped within. 

I know Will Wight took a few years off between book 2 and 3, but he really brought a strong conclusion to The Elder Empire series with Of Kings and Killers. All the while leaving the door cracked to revisit the world, should he so wish.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Skysworn

Skysworn (Cradle, #4)Skysworn by Will Wight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blackflame Empire fears a user of the black flame path. Because of that the Skysworn imprisoned Lindon. Unfortunately his duel with Jai Long is still looming. Meanwhile Jai Daishou is desperate to find a way to destroy Eithan. He is so desperate that he's willing to risk the destruction of his clan and the empire in the process.

Skysworn felt like a transition book to me. The book begins with Jai Daishou searching for a way to kill Eithan while becoming increasingly desperate. We also see Lindon imprisoned and preparing to face Jai Long. Their duel takes place shortly afterward and then the tale moves on quickly. A new threat emerges that has been hinted at since the start of the series. The rest of the story is wrapped up in dealing with this new threat.

Skysworn does expand the world of the Cradle. We see more factions that make up the Blackflame Empire and learn about more powerful sacred artists nearby. All this raises the stakes and increases the danger. The more the readers learn of the Blackflame Empire, the greater the danger Eithan, Yerin, and Lindon face.

I wish I could get into more without spoiling things, but I don't believe I can. A lot of unexpected events take place as Skysworn prepares us for the future.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Blackflame

 

Blackflame (Cradle, #3)Blackflame by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eithan has offered Lindon all he could want. A powerful family and instruction from a master. Eithan unfortunately also left Lindon in a predicament. In one year's time, he has to fight the Highgold Jai Long. Lindon is prepared to do anything to get strong enough to win, he just may not realize what that means. Eithan once again has dangerous plans for Lindon and he's made sure to include Yerin as well.

Blackflame was a strong sequel. The scene shifts to the home of the Arelius Family, Serpent's Grave. The Serpent's Grave is also the home of The Jai Clan and they have declared a silent war on the Arelius family. Eithan has plans on plans, but the threat of the Jai underlord looms over everything. Eithan is continuing his training of Yerin and Lindon in attempts to maximize their potential. He just has no interest in doing things in a traditional way. As Eithan said in Soulsmith, "Nothing reaches its full potential unless it's threatened." It's a motto he fully adheres to. Lindon will either grow stronger or die under Eithan's tutelage.

Meanwhile Jai Long has his prize, the spear of the ancestors. He intends to use it's power to get stronger and get his revenge. With the help of the Sandvipers and their Truegold leader Gokren, he plans to start his plans for revenge with the clan who discarded he and his sister Jai Chen. Jai Long is a well written character. His motivations are clear and he's ruthless.

One especially enjoyable part of Blackflame was the study of techniques. More are put on display than ever before as Lindon tries to decide what path to follow with his second core. He's restricted because he needs something strong enough to defeat an opponent that will be undoubtedly stronger than him in a year's time. That leads to some unforeseen developments.

The characters were excellent once more. Yerin struggles with her advancement, Eithan's instruction, and trusting Eithan in general. Lindon is desperate to get strong enough to survive his upcoming duel with Jai Long. Eithan is well Eithan, in the best ways possible. He's equal parts flashy and calculating.

The book featured two especially interesting additions, Cassias Arelius and Orthos. Cassias was the former heir of the Arelius family before Eithan arrived 6 years ago. His personality is the opposite of Eithan's in every way and he disagrees with most of Eithan's choices. He also shares the amazing Arelius bloodline awareness ability. Orthos is the descendant of dragons and a majestic turtle indeed. He has the power of blackflame, but he's losing his mind due to it's power. Orthos is haughty, powerful, and hungry. He's often heard munching on anything he wants including stone.

Blackflame was a really enjoyable story and I can't wait to begin the next book in the series.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Soulsmith

 

Soulsmith (Cradle, #2)Soulsmith by Will Wight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the wilds Yerin and Lindon run into hordes of beasts and remnants. They follow where the beasts are heading to find ancient ruins that contain items of massive power. They also find an alliance of sacred artists who intend to mine it for resources. After what feels like a lifetime, Lindon has finally reached Copper. As Lindon tries to learn the skill of a Soulsmith, he finds himself the prey of a powerful group of Golds.

Soulsmith was a good time. Lindon advances only to realize that in comparison to the world at large, everyone from the Sacred Valley is incredibly weak. Lindon surprisingly finds that encouraging as he's seeking the power to save everything he's known.

The characters really come alive in this book. There is of course Lindon. He stands tall and looks vicious despite his weak skills. Yerin who despite seeming as though she only wishes to fight actually cares for Lindon. There are also some interesting new additions in Jai Long, Fisher Gesha, and the happy yet mysterious Eithan.

Jai Long is the typical angry genius. He has a backstory that makes it wholely justifiable. He's not evil, but he's certainly not good either. Fisher Gesha is a powerful soulsmith who Lindon and Yerin find themself working for. She's the typical gruff old master. Eithan from the start is clearly powerful even though he mostly appears to be looking for fun. These three really stand out among the rest of the new characters.

Soulsmith has me excited to see where the story goes. I really enjoy the way Will Wight crafts his tale and characters.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Of Dawn and Darkness

 

Of Dawn and Darkness (The Elder Empire: Sea, #2)Of Dawn and Darkness by Will Wight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Empire is leaderless, in turmoil, and fracturing in two. The Imperialists hope to hold it together with a new Emperor. Calder Marten is determined to be that man and the Imperialists are ready for Calder to be seated on the throne as soon as possible. The threats to the Empire didn't die with the previous Emperor and humanity needs every weapon it can get to defend itself.

Of Dawn and Darkness was a solid sequel. I made the decision to treat the companion books as two completely separate series since I didn't care for Shera. Whenever I continue I'll head to Of Kings and Killers rather than Of Darkness and Dawn. I may eventually read the other side, but the sleepy sociopath Shera isn't my cup of tea at all.

I find the story somewhat engaging and the characters somewhat interesting, but nothing about this series really grabs me. Bliss is probably the most interesting character, but even she is likely best in small doses. Her lack of understanding would get old if she was around more.

The biggest thought I find myself having is that everyone involved with the guild Civil War is being idiotic. Humanity has an opponent with power that dwarfs their own. Their best fighters have to take the power of the Elders into themselves to even have a chance. I don't understand why the people who want to defend humanity can't come to an agreement outside of murdering one another. They should always be training and inventing new ways to strengthen humanity to face the onslaught. If that means the Empire splits in two, then so be it as long as they vow to come to one another's aid. Everyone is too focused on gaining or keeping their power to have enough foresight to be fully prepared.

Of Dawn and Darkness is just good enough that it makes me want to see how the series ends.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Unsouled

Unsouled (Cradle, #1)Unsouled by Will Wight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The young of the Sacred Valley come twice a year to be tested. Children the ages of 6-8 have the content of their souls evaluated to see what sort of sacred artist they will become in life. It's a test that no one is supposed to fail, but Lindon failed. He was labeled unsouled, powerless and unworthy of teaching in a society that power is as important as honor. Lindon isn't giving up though, he's determined to find a way to become a sacred artist.

Unsouled left me unsure of what to expect. It was clear that young Lindon had been deemed unworthy and would be treated practically as a cripple. It was clear that he'd strive to gain power, but short of that things were very different than I anticipated.

I don't know how anyone couldn't feel for Lindon. He's been deemed to lack the one thing that is valued in his society. He's seen as having no value. An elder, who has known him most of his life, told him to simply stay home. The reason being is, if a stronger member of another clan killed him, Lindon's clan would have to apologize for the inconvenience. As an unsouled Lindon isn't even permitted to marry out of fear he'd pass his defect on. Lindon doesn't quit though most of the world views him as trash. He's clever and hardworking.

Unsouled felt like a long introduction in some ways, but I think it's laying the groundwork for a strong story.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Of Sea and Shadow

Of Sea and Shadow (The Elder Empire: Sea, #1)Of Sea and Shadow by Will Wight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Emperor is dead. Calder Marten and his crew have been hired to transport people to find a powerful relic. This relic can help to raise a second Emperor. Calder Marten has plans of his own along with powerful enemies standing in his way.

Of Sea and Shadow is the first book in the Sea portion of The Elder Empire series. I won't call it a trilogy as 6 books make up the series. 3 books from the prospective of the Sea featuring Calder Marten, his crew, and allies. The other 3 books are from the prospective of Shadow featuring Shera, the Consultants Guild, and her allies. It's all a reasonably complicated way to split what should likely be 3 books into 6 books. The idea is you have to read book 1 of each section, then read book 2 of each section, and so on. I read Of Shadow and Sea first and I was underwhelmed. The characters just felt flat to me.

Of Sea and Shadow fortunately had more enjoyable characters. Calder, Andel, Urzaia, Jyrine, and Bliss were all more interesting to me than Shera and the consultants. Calder has depth and reason for all of his actions. He's a complex character in a good way. I wanted to know more about him and I hoped he'd be ok. The others all seemed to have strong motivations for their actions as well. Bliss may be the most interesting character in the series overall. I was glad to see at least a portion of the story from her perspective.

So the dual novels to tell a single tale is not my idea of a good time. I've seen that sort of thing done on occasion and I've yet to see justification for two separate books going over one story. I will say that a lot of different information was presented between the two parallel stories, but in the pivotal moments I already knew where things stood with Calder from reading Of Shadow and Sea. It sucks some of the excitement right out of tense moments.

Of Sea and Shadow was better than Of Shadow and Sea, but not so much better that I can't wait for the next book. I do think that if I continue, I'll only read the Sea side.

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