I’ve Read Unsouled Three Times Now

Today I finished my third time reading the book Unsouled. And that’s really weird.

I don’t reread books often. I can probably count on two hands the number of books I’ve read twice. Three times? Only The Great Gatsby, which I’ve read about five times, and now Unsouled by Will Wight. First book in the Cradle series.

I gotta tell you. I LOVE this book. Unsouled is, in my opinion, the closest thing to a perfect pilot episode you’ll ever get in a fantasy book. The conceit of a fundamentally powerless character who still wins, still defeats his foes? I eat that stuff up. The extremely detailed worldbuilding with a distinct, fleshed-out culture in a cool setting? Love it. The way it builds into a huge mid-point reveal and an extremely dramatic climax… Fantastic.

All the seed-planting is particularly wonderful. It’s the first book in what turned out to be a gargantuan, twelve-book series. And you can tell some of it was just the author throwing out some details with an IOU of “I’ll flesh this out later ok” in his own notes, but also some of it was very specific set-ups for future story events and extremely :0 when you go back and re-read it.

Not everything works perfectly. There’s some moments that almost make my editor cap fly onto my head. But whatever, everything does that. I’d definitely give this book an 8/10, maybe even a 9, as a reader. But as an author? I give it an 11/10.

It’s paced like a movie, where every single scene is vital, every character and event serves a greater purpose and feeds directly into a pulse-hammering finale. As an author, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do for a big series intro, and for many years it’s served as my mental template for anytime I want to write a Book 1. No matter the genre or plot, I’m inspired greatly by Unsouled.

Unsouled Influence on Me

Of course, if you pay close enough attention to my books, you’ll probably see some real Unsouled influences in there. It’s seeped into my work more than anything else except Homestuck and Star Wars and probably Earthbound.

Some examples:

I was reading the book the first time right when I started Glory of Bowsette–the early chapters are an explicit but probably too quiet parody of the Lesser Treasure Hall scene, back when I planned for that story to be 7-8 chapters instead of, you know, 100.

Systemless’s War in the Pocket chapters (one of them seen here) were a loving rip-off (some might say “homage”) to Unsouled, and inadvertedly I expanded the story in gigantic ways due to them. I always wondered if Will Wight accidentally made Cradle such a big series because of that as well.

Cultivine takes a lot of inspiration from Unsouled mostly because I’ve never read a single xianxia or wuxia novel in my life. And The Gay Gatsby… Well, if you’ve read that one, I think it’s so obvious I don’t need to explain it.

With this newest read, it’s having an even greater influence on my next (and final) web novel.

Gratuitous Web Novel Tease

My next web novel, codenamed Really Big Story, is going to be the best thing I’ve ever written. And it won’t come out in the next 11 months, for sure. I don’t even know if it’ll come out in 2025.

But, I can tell you this–Unsouled has been my Bible for the project’s entire multi-year very quiet development process. The first 100,000 words of this thing are going to have to be absolutely pitch-perfect, exciting, and filled with teases to the rest of the series.

Someone close to me once talked about stories that go wide or long versus stories that go deep. Big franchises are usually extremely wide, while most web novel series go way too long. Stories with depth, however, are the ones that stick around, that grow fandoms and inspire true passion. The Really Big Story, if I can succeed, will go as deep as possible, as much as possible.

Rereading this book yet again is filling my brain with sparks of inspiration, with gasps of delight when I figure out a cool story thing I was stumped on for months. It’s made me so excited I’m writing a whole blog post about it. It’s at the point that I have to consciously do my best to AVOID some Unsouled elements so it doesn’t become an outright ripoff–I have a character I realized was Literally Just Yerin and that’s gonna be difficult to fix because I love Yerin a lot.

But as anyone who knows me has been screaming internally for the entire blog post, there is a hidden, tragic, horrible twist to this whole article praising one of my favorite books…

I haven’t even finished the Cradle series.

Rereading Unsouled Without Even Finishing the Series

When I read it for the first time in 2018, I was totally upended by moving to Japan and by the enormous shocking popularity of that Bowsette fanfic. A lot of things in my life changed dramatically at the end of 2018, honestly.

Way later in 2021, I reread Unsouled, loved it again, and went onto plow through the next two books, Soulsmith and Blackflame. I wasn’t quite as in love with the third book, but it was still a very good experience and finally got me reading again after the pandemic killed a lot of my habits.

And then… I stopped. Honestly no idea why; there were other amazing books I just sort of didn’t finish in that era.

So, in one of my greatest life shames, something I’m quite seriously legitimately guilty about, I still have nine Cradle books remaining. This series was a HUGE hit in my online friend circle. Friends basically BEGGED me to read Unsouled, and they were 100% correct that I’d love it!

So why haven’t I finished it yet?!

I get why OMORI, a wonderful Earthbound-like RPG, has taken me months to go through. That is emotionally an extremely heavy experience. But Cradle? These books are like 90,000 words each. I reread Unsouled in like three hours. I really want to get over this mysterious block and finish the series!

That’s why, next, I’ll just skip straight to book 4 and read Skysworn. As much as I liked Soulsmith and Blackflame, my memories on them aren’t murky. I’ll be OK to get to Book 4 and see as much of my boy Eithan as my heart desires.

With absolute certainty, I know I’ll have a blast with these next nine books.

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