Unsouled: Cradle Book 1
by Will Wight
Kindle Edition, 292 pages
Published by Hidden Gnome Publishing (June 13, 2016)
As of today, February 24th, 2018, Will Wight's Unsouled is free on Amazon as an ebook. You should go get it right now.
Did you get it? Good. This was a really, really fun book, and I can't believe Wight is just giving it away. Well, I guess I can, because I'm having a hard time not immediately buying the other three books in the series. I suppose they call this kind of thing a YA novel now, but I still think of them as juvenile novels, following Heinlein's classic formulation: a protagonist on the cusp of growing up, no sex scenes, a lot of details about magic/technology/etc., and some mildly didactic life lessons.
This book was marked as martial arts by Amazon, which I suppose it is. Unsouled has the same faux-Asian flair as Avatar: The Last Airbender. The last time I reviewed a novel with a martial arts theme was nine years ago, so I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into. As it turns out, I liked Unsouled quite a bit.
Unsouled is a fantasy book with a hint of Clarke's Third Law about it's system of magic/martial arts/self-improvement. For me, a large part of the fun of this kind of book is seeing how the author puts together his system. Wight's system, based on madra, vital energy, is as good as any I've seen. Internally consistent enough to make sense without breaking the suspension of disbelief, and still esoteric enough to make it feel like you gotta really work at mastering it.
The other thing that is really fun about a book like this is the way we get to see Lindon grow up. YA novels, coming of age, juveniles, whatever you want to call them, are a part of the great chain of becoming for many a young woman or man. I read many of them myself, and I suspect they helped me along the way. To the extent such books can help inculcate even a small measure of perseverance or self-reliance or the willingness to try just a little harder, then they have served their purpose well.
I enjoyed this book, and I would gladly give it to any of my own children for a bit of entertainment with a side of self-improvement. Highly recommended.