Have you finished both Cradle books too quickly? Do you wish there was something else you could read to scratch that itch? Are you sharpening your pitchfork right now because I'm writing something that isn't Blackflame?
Well, you're in luck!
Cradle was my humble, meager attempt to write a story in the xianxia* genre: a subcategory of Chinese novels that have grown popular on the English-speaking Internet over the last couple of years thanks to sites like WuxiaWorld and GravityTales (not to mention the hard-working, dedicated, good-looking fan translators who provide such works to lazy monolingual English-speakers like myself).
I've had a lot of people ask me if Cradle was inspired by these Chinese works, and I usually respond by saying "Absolutely!" and then listing my favorites. It's the reason why I chose to put Unsouled in the Asian Myths and Legends category of Kindle fantasy.
But after tonight, when people ask me these questions, I don't have to type out an answer every time! I can just link them back to this post! Behold, as my laziness sheds its skin to reveal its true shape!
IF YOU DON'T SEE THE REST OF THIS POST, CLICK "READ MORE"!
First of all, some basic information:
*In a nutshell: "xianxia" is a Chinese genre blending martial arts with magic and mythology in an often fantastic setting. This is the genre in which Cradle would fall. "Wuxia" is a similar genre with a greater focus on more "realistic" martial arts and a more historical (although not necessarily truly historical) setting.
For those sticklers among you sharpening your keyboards, I'm aware that this is an oversimplification and that there's lots of overlap between the two genres. But this is the gist.
Basically? It's magical martial arts. Even cooler than it sounds, if that's possible.
Often the protagonists start from the bottom, working their way up through a variety of adventures until they become God-King of the Universe or whatever. You can see why it appeals to me so much.
The stories tend to be very long and very light on description, with a focus on constant action. Sound good? Sound like something you might be into? In that case, here's a list of my personal favorites (in no particular order):
Against the Gods, Desolate Era, Coiling Dragon, Martial World, Spirit Realm, Heavenly Jewel Change, and Sovereign of the Three Realms, among others. I Shall Seal the Heavens, or ISSTH, is worth a mention because it's very popular and has a protagonist similar to Lindon...or so I'm told, but I haven't read it, so I can't vouch for the story myself.
Lots of these books are hosted (in English) on popular sites like WuxiaWorld and GravityTales, though many independent translators have their own sites.
And many wuxia/xianxia stories are originally written and released online at a rate of a chapter per day, which is...staggering. If I could do that with Cradle, you'd have a new book every month and change (depending on how long I made the chapters).
If you're diving in, which I do recommend, you should be aware of these three caveats, which may affect your personal enjoyment of the stories:
1.) Some of these stories treat women characters in a way that makes me uncomfortable.
Normally this is a sense you get from occasional lines in the work, like "Every woman likes to have a man to rely on," or something similar.
I don't have any idea how a Chinese reader takes lines like this--maybe there's cultural context I'm missing, or in the original language these lines mean something entirely different--but speaking solely for me personally, these sentiments make me uncomfortable. In part, Yerin and Suriel are my reaction against this tendency of the genre.
Not every story does this, and it's not always overt, but it's something to be aware of. If this is a particularly sensitive issue for you, I'd recommend going to Reddit's r/NovelTranslations or a similar community and asking for works to seek out / avoid.
2.) The English has its flaws.
Please don't treat this as any sort of dig at the translators, because they're all heroic avatars of diligence with stupendous haircuts. But any translated work is going to have elements that get lost in translation, and even the original versions of these chapters are often written in a single day. They have repetitive lines, typos, and unclear sentences in their original language, much less in English.
Bottom line: power through it. This isn't worth getting hung up on, IMO. Don't have a heart attack if you see a sentence ending in a preposition, or if someone says the word "actually" four sentences in a row.
3.) The main character is almost always brokenly overpowered.
This is rarely ever a deal-breaker for me, because I know what I'm getting into. But if you're diving into wuxia/xianxia novels for the first time, you should know you're not signing up to watch a guy become "moderately okay" at martial arts and then die in his sleep.
You're strapping in to experience an underachieving but humble young man stumble upon the greatest weapon in all existence and then use that weapon to carve out the hearts of dragons, get revenge on anyone who ever wronged him, and murder his way up the power scale until he transforms himself one step at a time into a literal god who extinguishes stars with a punch.
Cradle is my attempt at adapting the strengths of the genre while steering away from what I consider to be its weaknesses (although I don't promise flawless English). Lindon won't succeed every time, and sometimes he might regret it even when he does. Plus, he's not taking this journey alone.
But if what I've described sounds awesome to you, check it out right now! There's literally millions of pages of magical martial arts out there, waiting to be devoured. By you.
"...it slipped from the ship, splashing into the water below."
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