Follow TV Tropes

Following

Literature / Cradle Series

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cradle.jpg

"My organization has a name for this world, Wei Shi Lindon. We call it 'Cradle.' It is where we keep the infants."
Suriel, Phoenix of the Abidan
Advertisement:

Wei Shi Lindon lives in the Sacred Valley, an isolated place where sacred artists train to master the magic of the world and themselves. Unfortunately, Lindon is an Unsouled, a cripple who will never be able to be as strong as any other sacred artist no matter how hard he tries. He is barely above an outcast, his every deed spit upon or ignored. At age sixteen, the average child can easily defeat him in battle.

Everything changes at the Seven-Year Festival, when a rival clan summons their immortal Grand Patriarch from another world. As the Grand Patriarch is easily slaughtering his way through the most powerful sacred artists of the Valley, Lindon tries to help. He is defeated as casually as one might brush off a speck of dirt, but then time stops, a goddess descends from the sky and throws the Grand Patriarch in prison, and congratulates Lindon on his courage. Then she reverses time to before the Grand Patriarch's interference, reviving the dead and removing their memories.

Advertisement:

Lindon, however, is allowed to remember. He is allowed to remember that his home is destined to be destroyed in thirty years time—and he will be able to do nothing to stop it. Unless he leaves the Sacred Valley, travels to the outside world where even the strongest sacred artists in the Valley are little more than children. There, he can find the power to save his home.

A series of fantasy novels by Will Wight. The series consists of six books, the first three of which have been gathered into the "Foundation collection."

  • Unsouled (June 2016)
  • Soulsmith (September 2016)
  • Blackflame (April 2017)
  • Skysworn (September 2017)
  • Ghostwater (May 2018)
  • Underlord (March 2019)
  • Uncrowned (upcoming, October 2019)


Advertisement:

This series provides examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: The Arelius clan are janitors. Really, really good janitors, who are in charge of keeping a significant portion of the civilized world clean. Even before they had an Underlord as their Patriarch, they were an honored family in the Blackflame Empire. They also record all the secrets they hear for later use against their enemies. They've been doing this for generations, meaning they have more information than nearly anyone else.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: At every plateau of power, a sacred artist is practically undefeatable to anyone below them. Coppers can easily defeat Foundation, Irons can defeat Coppers, Jades can defeat Irons. There is a level above Jade, Gold, but there hasn't been a Gold in Sacred Valley in hundreds of years. And then Lindon finds out that the outside world considers Gold to be the first real level of the sacred arts—most people reach that level in their teens.
  • Anti-Magic: Pure madra, the type everyone is born with, disrupts other madra and is also great for working with soulsmith constructs. There are two major problems with it: There is no such thing as pure aura (meaning you can't cycle aura to restore your madra, you have to wait for your body to replenish it naturally), and pure madra can only affect madra. It has no effect on, say, someone throwing a rock at you. The vast majority of people outgrow pure madra shortly after they learn to walk, as they choose a Path with different types of madra and cycle those, which changes the composition of their cores. Lindon, since he was denied the right to study his family Path, kept pure madra much longer than normal. Once he split his core in two, he kept one pure when he used the other one to walk the Blackflame Path. Eithan also uses pure madra.
  • Anti-Mentor: Lindon soon learns that no one in the Sacred Valley has any idea what they're doing. Practically everything they do to advance their sacred arts is horrendously wrong, hamstringing their own development to the point that no one in the Valley has reached Gold in centuries. Their cruelty towards Lindon ends up working in his favor, as they refused to teach him all these things that would have seriously crippled him.
  • Artificial Intelligence:
    • Suriel has one called a Presence, which collects information from entire planets, predicts the future centuries in advance, and helps her manage some of her more difficult abilities. She occasionally has problems with it as it corrects her every time she makes a rough estimate.
    • The Ghostwater facility was the Monarch Northstrider's attempt to replicate a celestial Presence. It failed pretty utterly, but even the trash he left behind was invaluable to lesser sacred artists. A random speaker construct gains intelligence from being left in a pool for fifty years, and once combined with the rest of the pieces Northstrider left behind, is able to finish the project and become a true AI. Apparently the missing ingredient was that the Presence needs a will of its own, even if it just wants to serve.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Cradle has one rule: The strong can do as they like. There are strict rules of honor and the like, but even they mostly boil down to "I might piss off too many strong people if I do this." Everything is backed by threat of force. Eithan tries to rule more gently, but doesn't have much success, and has to throw his weight around.
  • Bond Creature: While it's rare, a sacred artist can advance to Gold by making a pact with a sacred beast rather than binding and consuming a Remnant. The specific reason why it's rare isn't mentioned, but presumably it's just that compatible Remnants are easier to obtain.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Most sacred artists are not shy about using whatever they have at their disposal, but special mention goes to Lindon. He will happily set up traps, gadgets, and whatever else he needs to survive when fighting above his weight class (which happens a lot). Other sacred artists, who don't like having trouble with someone lower than them, call this cheating.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • The Sacred Valley tests children to determine their affinity for sacred arts, and then they train only in those types of arts their entire lives. Yerin says she'd like to kill all the elders in the Valley for that garbage. In the outside world, you're considered a child if you haven't mastered techniques from all the types.
    • The Blackflame royal family cultivated Iron bodies that would improve the already incredible offensive power of the Blackflame Path. This backfired as the flames ate away at their minds and bodies; in a world where a sacred artist can still be in fighting shape at age one hundred, they were practically paralyzed at age sixty. Part of the reason Eithan gave Lindon an Iron body with such an overpowered Healing Factor was to handle the black flames.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The Blackflame Path, a sacred art stolen from dragons, which was used to build an empire. In a world where Asskicking Equals Authority and everyone challenges everyone, no one challenges the Blackflame sacred artists. Not only is it focused on offense to an insane degree, but the flames are not designed for humans; they slowly eat away at mind and body, resulting in the imperial family slowly dying out without any outside intervention at all. When Eithan admits that he plans to train Lindon in this path, Cassias starts screaming.
  • Death World: Magic is everywhere to the point that even random animals can use it, nearly anything that dies will leave behind a dangerous ghost, and the average person can punch through stone and will happily demonstrate on your skull. That's Sacred Valley, the safe and coddled place. Outside the Sacred Valley, not only are the ghosts and magical animals much stronger, but there are also horrifically mutated "dreadbeasts" that are just as dangerous as the rest but are impossible to tame, and even the random bandits are an order of magnitude stronger than the strongest people in Sacred Valley. And the rest of the universe considers this planet the safest in the universe.
  • Don't Split the Party: Yerin and Lindon spend most of Ghostwater separated, as Lindon is trapped in an interdimensional treasure vault and Yerin is stuck outside surrounded by the people laying siege to the place. They worry about each other constantly, and they both privately note that this is the most time they've spent apart since they first met.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Lindon and Eithan both often give their opponents the chance to surrender, and refuse to kill defeated enemies. Everyone always gets mad. Multiple people have sworn vengeance on Lindon for leaving them alive.
  • The Dreaded: The Jai Patriarch tries to hire assassins to kill Eithan. No one will take the job.
    Assassin: He doesn't just see you coming. He saw you when you got out of bed in the morning. [...] We'll take suicidal jobs, but this is just suicide.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Eithan often gives Lindon and Yerin bizarre orders that make no sense, such as locking Lindon in a room with monsters for two weeks. He will explain himself when pressed, and everything he does ultimately has a reason behind it. Yerin grudgingly admits that this isn't too different from how her master trained her; the difference is she doesn't trust Eithan enough to obey his seemingly random orders.
  • Eternal English: While Suriel speaking Lindon's language is justified by her Presence (Lindon even notes her accent shifting to one he's more familiar with), no explanation is given for why the rest of the world shares a language with Sacred Valley. The Valley only had minimal contact with the rest of the world for thousands of years at least, but somehow Lindon understands everyone perfectly. No one even comments on his accent being especially odd. Word of God says the Monarch remnant seen at the end of Underlord travels around the world to make sure language doesn't change too much.
  • Face of a Thug: Lindon looks like a troublemaker who starts fights for fun, and this only gets worse once he advances to an Iron body (which perfects his body and removes the last of his baby fat). While Lindon is a friendly man who would rather never fight anyone, every time he apologizes people think he is mocking them.
  • Fantastic Racism: Lindon's status as an Unsouled means he has no standing among his own people. He is allowed to live and eat, but little more. He is not allowed to learn any sacred arts beyond basic breathing techniques, he will not be allowed to marry, and anyone could kill him at any time if he annoyed them. Suriel does not approve of treating cripples this way, nevermind the fact that Lindon is nowhere near as crippled as Sacred Valley acts.
  • Flying on a Cloud: The primary method of transportation is the Thousand-Mile Cloud, a relatively simple construct that is basically cloud madra scripted to hold its shape. The rider feeds it madra, and it travels. Small clouds are only big enough for two people, but "cloudships" carry a building or two, and the Skysworn headquarters is an entire city on a massive cloud.
  • Healing Factor: Even the lowest of sacred artists can improve their healing ability by cycling madra through their body, but it gets really impressive at the Iron level. At that point, anything that doesn't kill you can be healed—and it takes a lot to kill you. Eithan intentionally gives Lindon an overpowered Bloodforged Iron body, which has an even higher healing factor, to the point that he can be back at full capacity in hours after a near-lethal wound.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Lindon, a Foundation-stage sacred artist who would have trouble fighting a skilled child, tries to attack the Grand Patriarch of the Li clan, who has been carving through Jades like grass. Lindon knows the attempt will kill him, but prays it will weaken the Grand Patriarch long enough for the Jades to take advantage. It has about as much effect as splashing a bucket of water at a mountain, and Lindon is slapped away. When Suriel arrives to fix everything, she praises his courage and lets him keep his memories so that he might be able to save his home from a coming disaster in a few decades.
    • The Jai clan patriarch insists on sticking with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, sending first Lowgolds against an enemy, then Highgolds, then Truegolds, and only if all of them are defeated will he finally fight himself. It would be an insult for him to fight directly before all his subordinates have been killed. Except in this case, their enemy is Jai Long, one of their own, and he has a spear that lets him consume Jai family madra to get stronger. By the time the stronger Golds face him, he is more than strong enough to defeat them.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: When Eithan drops Yerin and Lindon off to train alone for a few months, he warns them not to get "distracted." Yerin blushes and says she has too much self-control to do something that stupid. Eithan just bluntly says they're teenagers.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Eithan is the 11th-ranked Underlord in the Blackflame Empire only because he chooses to be. When he faces the Jai Patriarch and all his top men, he is only concerned at first that someone else might see. Likewise, he later curb-stomps an Underlord of Redmoon Hall in the two minutes Eithan's allies aren't watching.
    Eithan: No witnesses. Good.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Literally. Dross started out as a construct with some pre-programmed phrases he would speak under specific circumstances; he was little more than an automated greeter. He was annoying enough that someone tossed him in the Dream Water pool, which is used to sharpen the focus of mortal minds. After fifty years, he developed real intelligence and a mind of his own... but he was still stuck in the pool for five years until Lindon found him. He becomes a Presence on par with that of an Abidan's once he is able to finish the Monarch Northstrider's AI project.
  • Internal Reformist: Akura Mercy's family is one of the strongest on the continent, but she hates how they bow and scrape to everyone above them while demanding everyone below them do the same to them. She decided she would become the most powerful in her family so that she could change that. Her plan got derailed a bit when she had her Underlord revelation and realized that the real reason she learns the sacred arts is just so that her mother will be proud of her.
  • Loophole Abuse: The Blackflame Path is the Path the previous masters of the Empire used, and it is looked down on for being exceedingly violent and dangerous to both the user and everyone around them. But as Eithan points out, it's not actually illegal, if only because no one is stupid enough to actually use it. Lindon's dual cores and Bloodforged Iron body make him even better suited for the Path than the original Blackflames. He ultimately gets arrested by the Skysworn, but there's little they can do since he hasn't broken any laws.
  • Made of Iron: When a sacred artist reaches Iron level, not only does their strength and toughness greatly increase, but so does their healing. While in the Sacred Valley they considered every Iron body the same as every other, outside they know how to create improved and specialized Iron bodies that will making it easier to reach higher levels (it's one of the reasons the Sacred Valley's progression is so slow). The Sandvipers use the Bloodforged Iron body, which grants improved healing, by taking a single prick of sandviper venom and drinking a thimble of sandviper blood. Eithan gives Lindon a Bloodforged Iron body by having four sandvipers bite him directly and then drink all their blood. Lindon's body is ridiculously overpowered, to the point that he has trouble keeping up with it considering his madra supply.
  • Mana: "Madra" is the energy sacred artists use for everything, from the flashiest techniques to basic body reinforcement. It is made by cycling "aura," the natural energy of the world, through their bodies in specialized breathing exercises.
  • Master of None: The reason why no one learns more than one Path. Even if you could find two Paths with compatible madra and find someone willing to teach you, you'd still have to focus on them both separately. Instead of having two full-power Paths, you'd have two half-power Paths, which is deadly when there are such major differences in power levels in the world. Lindon finds a loophole by splitting his core (letting him use madra types that would otherwise conflict) and a Path that is relatively quick to advance and extremely powerful.
  • Moral Myopia: Due to the constant use of Asskicking Equals Authority, the vast majority of sacred artists are bullies who will do anything to get ahead, and then call an honor duel when someone else does the same thing to them. Lindon has, on multiple occasions, been called an honorless dog for the crime of not dying when someone much more powerful randomly attacked him.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: Advancing to Underlord requires a revelation about why you practice the sacred arts in the first place. Lindon's revelation is that he hated being the weakest, most useless person in Sacred Valley, and never wants to feel that way again. Yerin's revelation is that she hates losing people close to her.
  • Never Learned to Read: Yerin. She didn't have a chance to learn as a child, and once she joined the Sword Sage he didn't consider it important to teach her. At first she seems a little embarrassed when she tells Lindon about it, but later she jokes about it. Notably, she does have at least some basic understanding of scripts, something that is immediately relevant to being a sacred artist.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Lindon is shockingly kind and compassionate considering his upbringing, constantly worried about slaves and workers who are getting hurt by the titanic events he's involved in. His entire reason for becoming stronger is so that he can save Sacred Valley from a coming cataclysm, despite the fact that no one in the Valley except maybe his family cares for him in the slightest.
    • Eithan dislikes the constant dog-eat-dog nature of the world, where the strong bully the weak and everyone tries to fight everyone else. He has repeatedly forgiven major slights to his honor that he could have used as excuses to execute his enemies, and often uses his omniscience to make minor corrections to make people happier (such as moving a ladder half an inch so that it won't fall).
  • Not So Omniscient After All: Eithan's powerful bloodline ability, combined with his spy network (which has plenty of people with a lesser version of the same ability), means that he is almost never blindsided in any situation. When he is, the results are always extremely dangerous. The Jai Patriarch manages to trick him with a magic item that resurrects him a single time, with a bound Remnant to fake his death. This almost causes the end of the world, as Jai is desperate enough to gather a forbidden treasure that accidentally awakens a Dreadgod.
  • The Omniscient: The Signature Move of the Arelius family involves spreading out a wide net of madra that lets you see and hear absolutely everything in range. At minimum this is a dozen feet, but Eithan can cover a small city. It's considered polite not to acknowledge all this, though, resulting in Cassias relaying a message to Eithan that everyone knows Eithan heard.
    Lindon: You can see the future?
    Eithan: Better! I can see the present.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: When something filled with madra dies, it leaves behind a Remnant, the remains of its power. Weaker Remnants act completely at random, but stronger ones have some intelligence and are even capable of speech. Notably, Remnants actually get stronger the longer they last, rather than weaker.
  • Power Levels: According to Sacred Valley, there are five power levels: Foundation, Copper, Iron, Jade, and Gold. No one has reached Gold in centuries. As it turns out, the outside world considers Gold to be the first level of a real sacred artist; everything below that is for children. Gold is split into Lowgold, Highgold, and Truegold, the Lord level is split into Underlord, Overlord, and Archlord, and above that are the Heralds, the Sages, and finally the Monarchs. Monarchs are the strongest a sacred artist can be before leaving the planet; apparently Heralds and Sages have the choice to either stay and rule or leave and become even more powerful.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Elder Rahm of the Heaven's Glory school is perfectly happy to have Lindon as a student despite him being an Unsouled, makes it clear he knows Lindon cheated his way in but praises him anyway, and offers him a small but honorable job helping to maintain the smallest treasure vault. Lindon feels guilty that he has to rob him on the way out, and asks Yerin not to kill him.
    • Eithan is the highest ranking sacred artist around for quite a long time, but avoids exerting his authority as much as possible. He forgives slights to his honor, gives Lindon and Yerin plenty of instruction, and treats his subordinates well. He claims that his only goal is to have people who can walk his Path beside him.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Jai Long tells Gokren that Eithan distracted Kral long enough for Eithan's disciple to stab him in the back, and this was all unnecessary because if Eithan had just revealed his identity they would have given him whatever he wanted. What actually happened was Kral flippantly decided to murder Lindon (who was so far below Kral he could have been ignored completely), refused to believe Eithan when he revealed his identity, and attacked him. Then, after Eithan decided not to kill them all out of spite (which would have been well within his rights), he did him the favor of warning him that Lindon wasn't dead. Kral died facing Lindon head-on, and Lindon won with luck and skill.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Lindon and Yerin have a lot over the series, mostly of the subtle kind. Early on she makes an unbreakable vow to help him, but that quickly gets ignored when she goes above and beyond the call of duty. When they are separated in Ghostwater they are both extremely uncomfortable, not just because they are worried about each other but simply because they don't like being apart. And in Underlord Yerin says she wants to go back to Sacred Valley with him one day and meet his parents.
    • Lindon and Jai Chen get a bit. Not only does he heal her fractured soul, but it's implied that in the original timeline where Lindon did not leave Sacred Valley, she was the woman who he would eventually marry. Suriel even notes the oddity that they ended up crossing paths after the major Fate change.
  • Stealth Mentor: Akura Charity is annoyed at Lindon for letting her nephew die, but is not so petty as to kill him. Instead, she finds some extremely powerful people and has them fight him, knowing that this will improve his own advancement and make him more useful to her in the future. Even Mercy, who understands Charity's plans and how she works, finds this a bit cruel.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Absolutely everyone trains in the sacred arts, which result in incredible powers of attack and defense, a supernaturally powerful body, and even utility abilities like Forging items out of thin air. Since anyone can become stronger in every single way with dedication and practice, there is no reason not to learn the sacred arts. This has, unfortunately, resulted in a culture obsessed with strength, where little matters besides how good you are at fighting.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Eithan walks into the most secure Skysworn cells, including ones intended to contain someone exactly like him, multiple times without trouble. To make it even more annoying for the jailers, he brings along Yerin, Fisher Gesha, and a turtle the size of a car. He doesn't bother breaking out the prisoner, he just wants to make sure he has a chance to train while in prison.
  • Training from Hell: Standard practice for all sacred artists. The Sword Sage trapped Yerin in a ring of razor-sharp swords so close that every time she breathed she cut herself, and Eithan locked Lindon in a room with monsters for two weeks. Lindon isn't much better himself, constantly pushing himself even farther and doing the equivalent of training with weights on his arms.
    Yerin: Only storms can turn a fish into a dragon.
  • Un-Sorcerer: When Lindon was tested as a child in the Sacred Valley, it was determined he had no affinity for the sacred arts. He was named an "Unsouled," a cripple to be spat upon and ignored. He wasn't allowed to learn any of the sacred arts beyond some basic breathing exercises. By the time Lindon was sixteen, he was only barely strong enough to fight children. As it turns out, the Sacred Valley is full of idiots who have no idea what they're talking about. Lindon's "disability" is so minor that most cultures don't even have a name for it; he has to train a bit harder, but not that much harder.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Averted; when Lindon has a duel with a Highgold in a year's time, Eithan promises him that with training, he'll have a good chance of defeating a Highgold by then. After Lindon leaves, Yerin notes that Eithan didn't mention his opponent won't be a Highgold by the time of their duel, since he just got his hands on a weapon that gives him a Cannibalism Superpower.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Orthos the dragon-turtle does not like heights. This causes problems, as the primary method of transportation in the Empire is by cloudship. He spends most of his time tucked in his shell, ignoring everything around him.
  • The Worf Effect: Lindon and Yerin spend much of book 2 worrying about Jai Long and Kral, two Highgold sacred artists who could kill them both in a heartbeat. Then Eithan forces an entire room full of Golds to kneel merely by unveiling his core.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report