Outside Sacred Valley, ancient ruins rise from the earth, drawing sacred artists from miles around to fight for the treasures within.
Lindon has reached Copper, taking the first step on the road to power, but the warriors of the outside world are still far beyond him.
To advance, he turns to the arcane skills of the Soulsmiths, who craft weapons from the stuff of souls. With new powers come new enemies, and Lindon soon finds himself facing an entire sect of Golds
“Sacred artists. Without risk, without battle, without a willingness to fight, you will stay weak. And weakness means death.”
I want to give a quick shoutout to the narrator, Travis Baldree. He continues to bring the world of Cradle to life in an engaging and immersive way and I will be continuing this series via audiobook in large part to his fantastic narration.
Soulsmith continues almost immediately where we left off last with Lindon and Yerin leaving the safety of the Sacred Valley and going out into the world beyond. I was so excited about this book because I believed the world was going to expand in this entry and that proved to be true. We learn much about the tribes outside of Sacred Valley. Each seems to have a similar culture to Lindon’s, but what separates each tribe is the path they take to power and the different techniques and advantages that those paths afford them.
Speaking of paths to power, I have continued loving the magic system that Will Wight has crafted. I think the biggest thing I enjoy about it is the breadth and scope of it. There are so many ways to become powerful, so many different techniques, natural “boosters”, and other intricacies that make this magic system so interesting to read about. Another aspect of the magic that I really like is that natural talent plays a part, but ultimately a sacred artist’s level of power and mastery of the magic comes from effort, force of will, and smarts. There is nothing that doesn’t feel earned here. Lindon goes through some very extreme things to advance in this book that made me really admire his dedication and strong will.
“These two weeks had been the worst in Lindon’s life, but half a month of agony was nothing compared to a lifetime of helplessness.”
One thing I hope improves throughout the series is Lindon himself. Specifically, Lindon’s character development. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lindon. He is the type of character that fits the stereotype of a younger brother and that is what he becomes to a few of the people around him. However, I think that his personality comes off as somewhat flat and boring at times. Lindon has grown up all his life being told that he was basically worthless and a shame to his clan. Other than a few instances where he uses that as fuel to dig deep and survive or improve himself, we don’t really get to see him emotionally wrestle over the fact that he was basically verbally abused and bullied for most of his life. I mean, Lindon at one point even thinks about how someone who is more powerful than him could just kill him in the street and no one would do anything about it because no one cares about the weaker magic users. It is quite unrealistic and a disservice to the character to not have him walk through those things with the reader. It was almost like he just shrugged it off instead of working through it organically. This is only the 2nd book in a 12 book series so I hope that improves, but that kind of bothered me.
A huge redeeming factor for Lindon’s lack of character development are the side characters getting more POV time. Yerin, who we were introduced to late in the last book and has now become Lindon’s friend and companion, is very interesting. We knew a little of her backstory from Unsouled and we start to get a few more glimpses in Soulsmith. Her complexity as a character continues to intrigue me and I am really looking forward to seeing where she ends up. Then we have Eithan. I won’t go too far into Eithan because I don’t want to talk about spoilers. Suffice it to say Eithan is powerful, mysterious, and brings a humor and light heartedness to the story that really elevated Soulsmith in my eyes. I can’t wait to get to know him more and see where his story goes as well. Last, but certainly not least, we have Jai Long. A man haunted and driven by the tragedies of his past. A master of the spear and a powerful sacred artist in his own right, Jai Long will stop at nothing to attain what he perceives as justice. These three added a depth and nuance of character that was sorely needed and I felt increasingly more invested and excited for the next installment as I grew to know each one of them.
“He drew himself up as though proud to be asked the question. “Young lady, I am the greatest janitor in all existence. I am the son of a janitor, last in a long line of janitors that stretch all the way back to the Sage of Brooms…and beyond!”
I really love the action scenes in this series so far. Fights in this series typically employ a blend of the sacred arts magic system along with martial arts and that has been a joy to imagine. There are so many obstacles to overcome and so many dangers in each fight that I was always on the edge of my seat and fearing for the characters’ lives.
Soulsmith was another fun, fast paced entry in the Cradle series that expanded the world and brought new, exciting characters into the mix. I have already started the next book, Blackflame, and plan on continuing to binge read the rest of the published books in this series.