Reaper, book 10 in Will Wight’s Cradle series, is so good it reaches back in time and transforms events in the previous books, making you see things with new eyes. I think it would be quite fun to go back and read them all again in light of what happens here. I won’t give it all away, but I will at least say that I have a new appreciation for the phrase, “forced me to take out the broom”.
Long time fans should be quite pleased by this entry in the series. So, if you haven’t gotten into Cradle yet, let’s talk about why you might start.
I’d like to take a moment to appreciate Will Wight’s planning that must have gone into this book. Ten books in, and it all hangs together nicely. Wight doesn’t write at full pulp speed, but his pace of publishing with Cradle is quite good, averaging two books a year for five years. Tim Zahn has averaged a book a year for something like forty years. Tim Powers, of secret history fame, is only able to do what he does every three to four years. If you go back and look at the greats of the pulp era, what you mostly see are thematically connected short stories without any sort of grand story arc. That allowed a publishing pace that seems incredible now, multiple short stories every year, as many as one a month. Wight is currently occupying a kind of middle ground, along with Galaxy’s Edge, of trying to publish fun and fast while still having the kind of grand overarching story that has become the norm post Lord of the Rings.
Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are like this. On the other hand, some partial counter examples are Solomon Kane or Barsoom, which do hang together in a more straightforward fashion. However, what has become the norm for fantastic and mythic storytelling right now wasn’t so dominant back then, so Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote far flatter character arcs. John Carter and Solomon Kane are who they are, nothing that could happen will change that fundamental fact about them.
Lindon, on the other hand, starts as a child and grows into a man over the course of Cradle. By adding in the classic developmental aspect of the science fiction juvenile novel, Wight is able to do some of the currently fashionable character development. However, I think it is also important to note that Lindon’s character arc is a spiral, orbiting around the fundamental features of the young boy we first meet in Unsouled. He is determined to the point of obsession, willing to try new things, and definitely doesn’t fit it with anyone’s expectations. Even the physical locations of the story fit this pattern, there and back again to the same places.
In Reaper, there is a pregnant pause in the first third of the book. Following the events in Bloodline, Lindon, Yerin, and Eithan settle in to the Blackflame city of Serpent’s Grave and just live their lives for a bit. Happily ever after is not really something the world of Cradle allows for, but it is a well-deserved rest for our heroes. The only thing that is missing is an actual pregnancy, but would complicate the story Wight is trying to tell.
Events of course proceed apace, regardless of the temporary enjoyment of domestic bliss. Fate clearly has something in mind for Lindon, as the fates of Cradle itself and the wider universe in which it is embedded begin to merge.
Which brings me back to Wight’s planning. In order to get here, and have the payoff work the way it does, clearly took some work. Even without going back to the earlier books, I can remember hints of what was to come. Of the true monster lurking in Cradle.
I appreciate a job well done. Wight is of course, not quite done yet, but I think his track record speaks for itself. If anyone can successfully conclude an epic fantasy storyline today, I think Wight is a strong contender. Give up on never-ending fantasy doorstoppers, and embrace the authors who actually give the fans what they want: exciting adventures with real heroes who deserve to win.
Other books by Will Wight
Unsouled: Cradle Book 1 Review
Soulsmith: Cradle Book 2 Review
Blackflame: Cradle Book 3 Review
Skysworn: Cradle Book 4 Review
Ghostwater: Cradle Book 5 Review
Underlord: Cradle Book 6 Review
Uncrowned: Cradle Book 7 Review
Wintersteel: Cradle Book 8 Review
Bloodline: Cradle Book 9 Review
Traveler’s Gate series:
Elder Empire series: