There’s no doubt that Cradle series by Will Wight is considered by many as one of the best, if not the best Progression Fantasy series. Having been on Lindon’s journey from the get go, it’s [brilliantly done] ending does leave a hole that needs to be filled. So, I went on hunt for Progression Fantasy books similar to Cradle.
Now, from the get go what I realized was that there are a number of good books that will satisfy your craving, but many of them fall under the umbrella of LitRPG having stats and skill trees as part of the progression. I’m perfectly fine with this and enjoy the genre as much as any other, but I am aware that many of the mainstream fantasy readers are still not (at at the early stages) open to this.
So, this list is mostly books that either do not have or have a bare minimum of stats and skills trees. The blurring between the genre lines is quite grey, but these are books that I believe anyone can enjoy irrespective of whether they have read/liked LitRPG or not.
Note: This does not include widely recommended series like:
– Iron Prince by Bryce O’Connor
– Mage Errant by John Bierce
– Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe
They are great books on their own, but wanted to highlight certain other series to bring wider attention to the authors and their works.
#5 – Millennial Mage by J.L. Mullins
The Wilds relentlessly reclaim all things. Humanity shelters within their ever-dying cities. Mages create the only path forward.
Tala had to fight tooth and nail in the Magic Academy to forge a path to power that was her own. She knows it’s her duty to use that power to serve humanity, defending them against the creatures of the untamable wilds. However, she skipped a few steps in her education, like apprenticing to someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
Now, Tala has to balance learning as fast as she can with paying off the veritable mountain of debt the Magic Academy dropped on her shoulders for the opportunity; not to mention staying alive.
Even though she should only be a Mageling, the world considers her a Mage. Bless the stars she directed most of her magic toward survival.
Tl; dr Review:
Currently 6 books in series are out. This book has it all. A original magic system, a very cool world and some of the best character work in this genre. Tala is a great character to follow and her adventures are fast paced and will suck you in. This still being a #5 on this list just shows how close the books are and ranking mostly comes to personal preference. I won’t be surprised is others rank this higher.
#4 – Mark of the Fool by J.M. Clarke
The gods chose him. He said no.
After his parents died, Alex Roth had one desire: become a wizard. Through hard work, he was accepted into the University of Generasi, the world’s greatest academy of wizardry…
Fate, however, had other plans.
On his eighteenth birthday, he is Marked by prophecy as one of his kingdom’s five Heroes, chosen to fight the Ravener, his land’s great enemy. But his brand is ‘The Fool’. Worst of the marks.
Rather than die or serve other Heroes like past Fools, he takes a stand, rejects divine decree…and leaves. With his little sister, his childhood friend, and her cerberus, Alex flees for the university, hoping to research the mystery of the Ravener. He’ll make lifelong friends, learn magic from mad wizards, practice alchemy, fight mana vampires and try to pay tuition.
There’s one small problem. The Mark insists on preventing the Fool from learning and casting spells, while enhancing skills outside of divinity, combat, and spellcraft…
…that is, unless he learns to exploit the hell out of it.
#3 – Azarinth Healer by Rhaegar
Ilea likes punching things. And eating.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many career options for hungry brawlers. Instead, the plan is to quit her crappy fast-food job, go to college, and become a fully functioning member of society. Essentially – a fate worse than death.
So maybe it’s lucky that she wakes up one day in a strange world where a bunch of fantasy monsters are trying to kill her…?
On the bright side, ‘killing those monsters right back’ is now a viable career path! For she soon discovers her new home runs on a set of game-like rules that will allow her to punch things harder than in her wildest dreams. Well, maybe not her wildest dreams, but it’s close.
With no quest to follow, no guide to show her the way, and no real desire to be a Hero – Ilea embarks on a journey to discover a world full of magic. Magic she can use to fight even bigger monsters.
She’s struggling to survive, has no idea what will happen next, and is loving every minute of it. Except, and sometimes also, when she’s poisoned and/or has set herself on fire. It’s complicated.
#2 – Immortal Great Souls by Phil Tucker
Scorio will rise from the ashes to conquer the ten layers of hell.
Reborn without memories, Scorio learns that he is a Great Soul, a legendary defender of the ancient city of Bastion. That within the hallowed halls of the Academy and under the stern eyes of the underworld’s greatest instructors he will enjoy enormous privilege, rediscover unique and wondrous powers, and one day return to the millennium-old battle against their infernal foes.
Until he is betrayed. Singled out and sentenced to die for crimes he can’t remember, Scorio is hurled to his doom—and forgotten. But from even the dimmest spark an inferno may one day rage.
Clawing his way back from oblivion, Scorio vows to return to the Academy at any cost. To emerge from the ruins and within those golden walls defeat his elite classmates in a quest to ascend the ranks and change the course of history. For only then will he learn about his forgotten past, and why his enemies have rightly feared him since the day he was reborn.
#1 – The Path of Ascension by C. Mantis
Orphaned by monsters, Matt must power-up to save others from the same fate.
Matt plans to delve the rifts responsible for the monsters that destroyed his city and murdered his parents. But his dreams are crushed when his Tier 1 Talent is rated as detrimental and no guild or group will take him.
Working at a nearby inn, he meets a mysterious and powerful couple who give him a chance to join the Path of Ascension, an empire-wide race to ascend the Tiers and become living legends.
With their recommendation and a stolen Skill, Matt begins his journey to the peak of power. Maybe then, he can get vengeance he seeks…
I just finished the series out till now and binged the rest in RoyalRoad. Haven’t had time to write a full review yet.
Probably the closest I found to Cradle. Matt and Liz remind me so much of Lindon and Yerin as they are thrust into a world of where Tier 50s (read Monarchs) rule before they ascend to a higher realm. The macro-politics of the rulers make for an interesting backdrop to a fast paced and utterly immersive storytelling.
This is also the book which has the highest LitRPG elements in this list and big chunks of dungeon delving. I’m personally not a huge fan and skip read most of these, but still despite this (personal preference), it is a clear #1 for me in filling the hole left by Cradle.