Now this is what I'm talking about.
I've seen Iron Prince, by Bryce O'Connor and Luke Chmilenko, called "Cradle meets Ender's Game."
Yep. That's what it is.
Imagine, if you will, Lindon going through the space combat training in Ender's Game using the level-up system from Solo Leveling. That's the pitch, okay? That's an accurate general vibe.
But that's just what gets you in the door.
This is a sci-fi setting, and what a setting. The authors had to have put in a truly staggering amount of work into making this world feel lived-in and complete.
This whole story is about a guy named Rei learning to cyborg fight using a super-advanced semi-magical weapon that bonds with him and gives him superhuman upgrades that he has to gradually unlock.
How does he unlock them, you ask? By working himself to death...and fighting.
There's combat, tons of combat, so much combat that you might be like "But Will, isn't that too much combat?" After I put up one finger to silence your beautiful mouth, I would whisper "No. And how dare you."
Because it really isn't. Each fight is tactical and crunchy, not to mention visually spectacular, but almost all the battles also teach you something about the combat system and the world, have high emotional stakes for the main character, and advance the plot in some way.
You know how some stories, including some stories written by me, have fights that are just there to BE fights and don't really seem necessary to the plot or the emotions of the characters?
That is almost entirely absent here. The authors go to great lengths to make sure that the stakes of each battle are clearly laid out.
Now, I did say almost entirely absent. I'll get to that. But you can afford one or two fights that aren't strictly necessary when you have so...much...page space.
Oh, did I not mention it's eleven hundred pages long?
This is a thicc one, ladies and gentlemen.
For being the size of the first three books of Cradle, it also has progression appropriate for that length. Rei starts buried beneath the bottom of the barrel and desperately claws his way to the top.
Only, of course, for you to realize that the "top" is really just the beginning.
Whenever I recommend a book, I try to be fair enough to share its weaknesses as well. I want you to hear my passion for the story, but I don't want you to think I'm saying it's perfect. No story is, so I'll get into the drawbacks in just a second.
Right after I reiterate that these were but tiny ticks on the back of a majestic tiger. Okay? None of these problems remotely held me back from giving this book my coveted golden W sticker of approval.
1.) While most of the fights are necessary, some aren't.
There are a few fights we watch that are just fights for the sake of fights. As a rule of thumb, when nobody whose name you already know is competing, it's safe to skim the fight.
2.) The technical fight descriptions can sometimes be too detailed.
Is this just a sub-heading of the first one? Maybe it should be 1a.
Anyway, even the great fights are described blow-by-blow. Which is for the most part to the book's overwhelming benefit, but some contests go on a lot longer than they perhaps should because we see every single blow.
3.) A handful of minor dialogue issues.
Now, I think the dialogue as a whole in this book is actually pretty strong. Characters come across as relatable but professional, motivated and educated, and convey their emotions clearly and believably.
But there are some times when a line falls flat here and there, some characters who sound a little too much like one another, frequent uses of lines like "dummy" and "jerk" to tease friends, etc.
Just enough that, collectively, I thought I'd mention them as a nitpick. Nothing that puts a fly in my soup or an angry wolverine in my hat.
4.) One particular romantic sub-plot between major characters.
I don't want to get to any spoiler territory here, but this was the only part of the book that I would actually call a problem, rather than something that could perhaps be tweaked.
Essentially, one of the main character's friends starts pursuing a relationship with the antagonist even after the guy has repeatedly assaulted the main character.
This would be like if Malfoy pulled a gun on Harry in front of the whole class, and the next day Hermione asked Malfoy out. Really soured me on that character for the rest of the book.
Those are the worst complaints I could come up with.
Were any of them deal-breakers? No. Not by a long margin. If I'm nitpicking about a romantic sub-plot that didn't even involve the main character, then my biggest complaint is but a gnat landing on the radiant mustache of God.
Incidentally, I enjoyed the main character's romance sub-plot. Mainly because his love interest is a cool person, I believe their chemistry together, and she does awesome things in this book with the promise of more to come in the future.
Here's my Pros list.
1.) Book good. Read book.
This is the sort of deep analytical insight you only learn after extensive education and a long writing career.
For real, everybody, this is a good one.
People keep asking me for series that are "like Cradle" and I'm like "Eeeehhhh...a lot of the stuff I enjoy isn't really like Cradle, and the books that are like Cradle I often don't enjoy very much."
Here it is. This is my new answer: Iron Prince is like Cradle, and it's really good, and you should read it if the premise sounds at all appealing to you.
Personal Bias Disclaimer: I shared this book when it came out a month ago on Facebook, because I thought the cover looked cool and I trusted Bryce and Luke enough to know that the book would at least be good. At that point, I hadn't read it.
Now I've read it. It's way better than I thought it was going to be.
I've met Bryce and Luke in real life a couple of times, and they're both stellar human beings with eyes of diamond and hearts of granite, so I do know them a bit and I do consider them my friends.
But uh...being my friend is not a guarantee that I'll like or review your book. It may be the opposite, honestly. I give pretty brutal feedback to my loved ones.
Asking me for my opinion is like dangling your bloody hand over a shark. I have way closer friends whose books I didn't recommend here because I didn't like their story enough.
If I don't love the book, I don't recommend it.
I love this book, so I recommend it.
That's Will Wight's patented one-step review test. "Did you love the book? If yes, recommend."
A lot of people wonder what I'm doing in times like these, after I've just released a book and I'm in the process of starting another.
If you're one of those people, I thought you might enjoy me walking you through an average day in my life.
I set my alarm for a random time in the middle of the night, often roughly around three o'clock. As soon as it goes off, I sit up abruptly and yell "AHA!" to startle anyone who might be watching me sleep.
I haven't caught anyone yet, but one day it will pay off. One day.
This is about when I wake up. I'd like to sleep in longer, but by this point the owls are all pecking on the windows to be let in.
I don't have a shower, but my house is below sea level, so I just sort of open a hatch in my bathroom ceiling and let ocean water gush in.
After that, I normally have the traditional Floridian breakfast: fried gator tail and an entire orange, skin on.
Now I stack a bunch of empty boxes on a portable plastic table from Wal-Mart, carefully balance my laptop on top, and get to writing.
I start the writing day full of energy, optimism, and ideas.
Realize the book is terrible. Every word is worse than the one before.
Remember that I only have two days left before some self-imposed deadline. Roll a leftover orange from breakfast across the keyboard until the letters randomly form words.
The orange has spelled out "LOOK BEHIND YOU," so I spin just in time to catch the machete descending on my head.
It's the salty mariner who tethers his house-boat next to my home. He has once again decided to test my reflexes to ensure they are sharp enough to survive what he calls "The Coming Flesh-Storm."
Lunch! I check the traps.
If I've caught a shark, then shark meat's on the menu. If it's a mermaid, then I get a wish, so I wish for veal ravioli. If the traps are empty, I usually go to Chick-fil-A.
Except on Sunday. If the traps are empty on Sundays, then I have to settle for grilled seagull.
I've been in a trance for two hours, and I snap back to discover that another page has been added to my book manuscript. Nega-Will must have taken over my body again.
He likes to slip in excerpts from the Necronomicon to get people to accidentally summon eldritch demons.
I remove any references to Al'meg'nidyyn and all incomprehensible symbols, then I read the rest of what he wrote.
It's pretty good. His Dross lines are great.
At this point, I like to take a break and exercise.
I wrestle for a while with the manticore staying in my spare room. She takes it easy on me and usually doesn't inject me with much venom.
This is about when I wrap up writing for the day. I print out all the new pages and slip them into the Creativity Incubator, which will take the nonsense I wrote and magically make it good.
For dinner, I either heat up some leftovers or strike one of the Gnashing Fruit from the Seven-Headed Tree with my javelin. Either way, I relax afterwards in my full-immersion VR tank that I bought on clearance from Area 51.
While I wait in the decontamination chamber to get into my sleeping chamber, I hypnotize myself to encourage drowsiness.
When that doesn't work, I have to give up on the decontamination process and get my mariner neighbor to hit me on the back of the head with an oar. That usually does the trick, and I get to collapse face-first in my bed already asleep.
So anyway, that's pretty much what I do all day.
Technically we're into Week 3 now, but since this is going to cover my reaction to the last two weeks, I'd say the title's accurate.
I can't tell you anything about the book you don't already know: Wintersteel was a huge success, it's the fastest-selling, highest-reviewed, and most-reviewed of all my books, in addition to being the longest, and it contains the secret of why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
I will therefore update you on my feelings. Here we go...
"Boy, that book launch was a lot of fun!"
This has been Feelings Update with Will Wight. Tune in next week to hear Will express hunger.
For real, though, I really enjoyed the days surrounding this book launch. The pre-launch stream was fun, if tiring--it's hard to switch hats that many times--and I've loved seeing you guys discuss and theorize and react to the book.
There was a lot more of that this time. Partially because there are more of you now than there ever have been before, and partially because there was a lot to discuss in this book.
It's still a bizarre feeling to see a bunch of fans tearing the book apart to peer into every little nook and cranny. It's one thing knowing that tens of thousands of people are going to read the story, and it's another thing to pop into Discord and see you dissecting every piece.
It's good weird! But it is...jarring. Like, I made all this stuff up.
So anyway, I had that awesome experience, and then I crashed into a quivering mess for a while as I am wont to do, and now I'm mostly reincorporated and back at the keyboard!
I really can't thank you guys enough. What a great adventure you've given me!
Boy, do I feel silly.
The day before Wintersteel came out, I put up a post talking about my fears and insecurities, and then a day later my book became the best-selling book on the entire Kindle Store. And has thus far stayed there for 24 hours.
There's just some kind of irony there.
I just have to say, the last day has been a blast. I was serious when I said I get really nervous before every launch, but this has been the most fun book launch ever. I'm reading all your reviews and all the discussion, and I'm both relieved and excited that you've loved the book so much.
And, frankly, I didn't realize how excited I would be to hit #1 on the Kindle Store. I never had that as a goal or anything; higher ranking makes your book more visible, which means more people see it, which is a great benefit. But we consistently hit Top 10 with Cradle, and I'm always very happy with that!
#1 is not something I thought was even possible, and for real guys, I was so excited. I cheered and shouted and jumped up and down and everything. My family dumped a bucket of Oreos over my head.
But the most fun part has been seeing how many people are enjoying the book!
This last couple of days has just been fantastic, so from the bottom of my heart: thanks, everybody! Thanks for reading the book, thanks for discussing the book with each other online, thanks for being so excited about it, and thanks for sticking with me!
I love you guys, and above all, thanks for reading!
P.S. The first seven Cradle books should still be free until the end of the day (October 7th), so if you know someone who wants free books, strike while the iron is hot! And the iron is hot right now!
EDIT: Please don't spoil Wintersteel in the comments, guys! I'll have to delete comments that give away clear spoilers.
All Cradle ebooks are free for the next three days! (Getting them for free SHOULD still give you a discount on the audiobook, by the way.)
10% off all Cradle merchandise sale with the discount code "DROSS" is still going on!
Release stream tonight at 9 PM Eastern during which I play video games and answer your questions! (Please no spoilers from those of you who've already read it, or I'll have to make you walk the plank.)
...and, of course, Wintersteel comes out tonight at midnight! If it isn't already out now in your time zone, of course.
Curse you, time zones, making my scheduling so difficult!
Now, on to your regularly scheduled blog post...
Before we begin, I'd like to address anyone who was looking for a physical copy of Wintersteel. The paperback is finally available to order, and if you order it today, it should arrive in most places on Tuesday.
We can't arrange paperback pre-orders or set it up so that we can guarantee delivery on Day 1, but we got Amazon's advice on the best way to get the books to people on October 6th.
They recommended putting it up three days in advance, and that's today!
Additionally, I'd like to invite you all to join me on my Twitch channel (twitch.tv/willwight) this Monday, October 5th, from 9 PM - 12 AM Eastern for my Wintersteel release...celebration? Event?
Anyway, I'm going to be streaming from nine until Wintersteel goes live.
Unlike previous releases, I won't be reading a scene this time. I couldn't do these early scenes justice. Maybe next time.
Instead, I'll be playing random games (most likely Subnautica, but maybe I'll mix it up with some Subnautica) while answering book questions and wearing a hat!
The hat was Twitter's fault.
Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, proceed for the behind-the-scenes content for Underlord!
As a reminder, I won't be covering Uncrowned behind-the-scenes stuff. At least not right now.
I'm not sure how much I can say without spoiling Wintersteel.
(If you don't see the rest of the post, click Read More!)
First off, the easy stuff.
I started off knowing that I wanted to give Lindon a training arc to get him up to speed with everyone else, and a pocket world arc is a staple of cultivation novels everywhere.
I wanted a pocket world that was distinct from anything I'd already done in Traveler's Gate, and I'm a big fan of the underwater aesthetic, so it didn't take me long to decide on an ocean's floor world as the setting.
However, originally the Ghostwater complex was a lot bigger.
Instead of a series of inhabitable domes at the bottom of the sea, Ghostwater was originally a tower with eight floors. Lindon was going to descend each one, the challenge and rewards increasing as he progressed through.
Every floor had a certain stage of advancement it was designed for, and a color of magical water with certain properties, as well as a theme that determined the nature of its wildlife.
After establishing all this, of course, I realized this was way too much. You could set an entire trilogy in a place with this much detail, so I compressed it down to three types of water and three locations.
Honestly, that was better anyway. Having one type of water that improves your spirit in every way is a lot more digestible of a concept than having five different ones that variously improve madra regeneration, madra capacity, madra purity, madra channels, etc.
With only three locations instead of eight, Lindon can spend longer in each place, and they can each have a more unique identity. Like the dream library where he ends up meeting Ziel.
It's still interesting to think about what could have been, though, so click Read More for the original structure of Ghostwater...and the original design of Ziel.
As I alluded to yesterday, I don't really have a whole lot of background information on my Skysworn writing process.
Quite frankly, I don't remember much about the process of writing Skysworn, so I'll just give you a few tidbits and then a deleted scene.
--The Winter Sage was originally going to show up in this book, trying to take Yerin.
--The middle of the book was going to revolve around a Soulsmithing arc for Lindon.
--The book was originally going to start with a Cradle myth coming to life: the Jester Twins.
Jester Twins: A pair of highly developed ancient dream spirits, one white with a black mask that has a white smile painted on it, one black with a white mask with a black frown on it.
The black mask gives gifts, while the white mask sets a price.
On new moons, the gift is cursed.
On full moons, the price is light.
When both masks are smiling, they give a gift for a price and an answer for an oath.
When both masks are frowning, they steal a prized possession and place a curse.
--The Blackflame Empire was going to be visited by these wandering Santa-knockoffs, and Lindon would go to them for a gift in order to defeat Jai Long, but the obligation that came along with that would have complicated his life throughout the book.
I don't remember if I ever came up with the specific nature of that complication, or if I abandoned this plot element as unnecessary too early on.
The Jesters were a device I planned all the way back in Unsouled and kept looking for an opportunity to use, but it felt weird to introduce a new legend and have it come into play in Lindon's life out of nowhere.
So it went unused, but I still like the image.
With that out of the way, here's the deleted scene!
(Click Read More. Click it, I said!)
I shared a full deleted scene from Blackflame yesterday, and today I just wanted to give you some backstory on why I have so much deleted / unused material for Blackflame in the first place.
Was it because I hated my first draft and started over? Did a complete copy of Blackflame fall through a crack from a parallel universe and cause me to re-think it from the ground up? Did a future version of myself travel back in time to stop me from writing my original vision?
Yes to all of the above, but also...
As I mentioned a few days ago in my Soulsmith post, I did not expect Cradle to be "the next big thing." It was supposed to be a low-effort side series I wrote in my spare time.
Although the phrase "low-effort" needs to be held in the most massive quotation marks you can find, because while that was the intention, I ended up putting way more time and effort into Unsouled than I promised I would.
It worked out, though, so it was totally intentional all along.
(Click Read More to read more!)
Here's an excerpt from a pretty interesting scene in Blackflame. I'll do a more in-depth explanation of some of the (many) things that changed over Blackflame's development in my next post, but for now I'll just tell you the minimum to set up the scene.
This is an alternate take on Lindon's ascension to Jade. It involves a new character: Lezaar, the Arelius family refiner, who is contracted to a small fire-lizard named Ketaarus. Lezaar was removed and his role in the plot largely given to Cassias, but I had already written out this scene as a sort of test run.
For your amusement, I have left this scene exactly as it was when I wrote it in 2017. My notes are in there, a bunch of typos are in there, and probably some stupid lines too.
It's not even a first draft, really, just a sort of speculative scene to get a feel for the character. None of this was ever made fit for human consumption.
Go easy on me! (And click Read More to read.)
This book has been out forever at this point.
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