Overall, this book was good. Detailed thoughts about the conflict, plot, setting, characters, and writing style are listed below.
This book has three storylines that are each worth their weight in gold:
- Protagonist [Lindon] struggling to get stronger
- Conflict between the Jai family and the Arelius clan
- Conflict between the Blackflame Empire and Bleeding Phoenix dreadbeast
The first two of these subplots have been present since the beginning of the Cradle series, but this book is much more expansive than the prior books. Unlike the prior book which primarily focused on individual advancement of Lindon and Yerin, this book primarily focuses on larger world-changing events, with inter-family and inter-empire conflicts taking center stage. I would posit that this is a negative — although the beginning of the book has an exciting duel between Lindon and Jai Long, the latter portions of the books are filled with characters that are so overpowered [Monarch?] that it is difficult to empathize or understand the intrinsic motivations behind these larger-than-life figures. Such a situation is reminiscent of the anime Bleach — the beginning of the series is excellent since the characters are reasonably accessible, but at the end folks are splitting planets and punching volcanoes with nary a care.
As noted previously, this book has multiple storylines — besides the main three subplots noted, there’s also Yerin’s struggle to control her Blood Demon, Suriel’s search for Ozriel, and the namesake success of the protagonist and his partners in the Skysworn posse. Frankly, there are a ton of moving parts, and it can get very confusing — despite devouring the past three books in the series, I still didn’t understand what Suriel is doing and for what reason — in my mind, one could take out her whole struggle with Ozriel and the ilk with no ill effect to the book itself. Aside from the confusing sci-fi scenes, the plot flowed well and was very well paced — the duel between Lindon and Jai Long was well worth the price of the book, and it was a treat to see how the protagonist is growing physically but also socially / tagging along Yerin.
The world of Cradle has been fleshed out for the last three books, so there’s definitely a rich setting in place already. The floating city in Skysworn is a great change of pace from the deserts and Blackflame prisons in the past, and I absolutely loved the description of the Deepwalker Ape in the jungle with Truegold walking trees. If there was one thing I would change, it seems like there’s no description of any kind of food! Geez, every other sense is described in excellent detail — the sight of seeing massive creatures battle, the copper smell of blood in the air, the sound of the dreadbeast awakening, the touch of the hunger madra… but no taste! Understandably, it may be hard to squeeze a dinner / feast scene a la Redwall or Harry Potter into the book, but the protagonist has been working hard for three books, the least he can get is a some good food!
I have to say that the main protagonist isn’t as compelling as he was previously — certainly he has improved considerably since he was an unsouled in book one to his current Lowgold status, but he is still obsequious to randoms from the Kotai clan. Although the main character certainly has drive, I’m surprised that he still conforms to this behavior. I was also hoping to see him improve return home or form relationships with Yerin / Jai Chin, but perhaps that is yet to come. One character that I thought was excellent is the Orthos — his dialogue is fantastic and just what I’d expect from a giant fire-breathing turtle.
The writing style in this book was fresh and original — the fight scenes in the book were very well written, and the book was definitely a page-turner — I couldn’t put the book down when reading it. However, certain stylistic elements were a bit off-putting, especially the computer-generated blurbs and reports generated by Suriel (?). It would be nice to have a list of main characters given the complexity of the plot, as well as a table of the various ranking systems [Copper, Jade, Underlord, Monarch, Sage, etc.] and abilities — if Naruto can do a great job at this, I’m sure that this book can too 🙂
Overall, this was a great read. The book felt like just the right length, and the individual battles more than made up for the confusing subplots. There were still quite a lot of unresolved storylines at the end of the book, and I felt that the Bleeding Phoenix dreadbeast ending wasn’t satisfying, but I’ll still definitely be checking out the next book.