Published in May 2017, Unsouled is the first in the Cradle series of wuxia genre novels by American author Will Wight. The narrative follows Wei Shi Lindon, a young man from the Sacred Valley, a place where magic and martial arts are facets of the same phenomenon. Among all the people in Sacred Valley, Lindon is the only one who fails a childhood test of magical aptitude, resulting in him being treated as an unacceptable burden on his community. Despite his marginalised social status, he still strives to be productive within his community, while avoiding drawing the attention of powerful cousins who resent the simple fact of Lindon's continued existence.

The action of the story picks up very abruptly, when the Sacred Valley is invaded by a being whose powers exceed those of the entire valley's "spiritual artists" - magician-martial-artists, that is - combined. A divine being intervenes on behalf of the citizens of the Valley, and Lindon learns that a cataclysmic event is fated befall the Valley within his lifetime... and only by leaving the Valley and training his untapped spiritual capacity, can his people and homeland be saved.

The setting is intended to resemble ancient China, including social norms of face and shame culture, strict social hierarchies even at the level of individual households, and intense competition for rank. The society is a strict magical meritocracy, where objective magical combat prowess is the only determining factor of an individual's social status. Gender, race, and other personal characteristics are completely irrelevant to an individual's social standing, and frequently so is age, as it has very little correlation to power in this story universe.

I've highly enjoyed the series so far, as I am a lifelong fan of wuxia films and novels. Those familiar with Journey to the West and the Dragon Ball anime series will recognise many of the narrative tropes present, including the gradual power creep and shifting priorities of the protagonist, as he advances his abilities and faces increasingly dangerous challenges.

The author maintains an active blog, as well as a subreddit following the series. The next book in this series is Soulsmith, followed by Blackflame and then Skysworn. At the time of this writeup, the series is not yet finished, and the next anticipated book in the series is Ghostwater.

reQuest 2018 - Could Estelore review a recent work that she enjoyed?

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