Seeking summaries of Will Wight’s Cradle series? Need a recap of each book? You’re in the right place! See all Cradle-related summaries available on my website here. Obviously, these are designed to have spoilers. Don’t read any of the summaries if you are hoping to go in to the series without being spoiled! If you haven’t yet read any of the Cradle novels, I have a no-spoilers review of the first two books.
Quick Summary of Blackflame
After being adopted into the Aurelius family by Eithan, Lindon and Yerin find themselves aboard a cloudship heading to Serpent’s Grave. There, Lindon soul bonds with a giant flaming turtle named Orthos, a descendant of dragons and the last remaining practitioner of the Path of the Blackflame. He advances to Jade due to this.
Lindon and Yerin train on a course where he is meant to learn the three techniques of the Blackflame. He masters the Enforcer and Striker techniques with some help from the Sylvan Riverseed, who has been named Little Blue by Yerin. She can heal Lindon’s madra channels from the damage caused by Blackflame madra.
Jai Long and the leader of the Sandvipers, Gokren, are also out for blood. They are waging a guerilla war of vengeance against the Jai clan. Eventually, Jai Long reconciles with the Jai clan leader in exchange for medical care for his sister. Jai Daishou, the Jai clan patriarch, stages a coup against the Aurelius family – which nearly succeeds right up until Eithan reveals his Path, which is based on pure madra. Jai Long and Gokren confront Lindon and Yerin, but are ultimately fought off. Lindon advances to Lowgold, and Yerin advances to Highgold.
Lindon is taken into custody by the Skysworn because using Blackflame is considered a threat against the Blackflame Empire.
Suriel discovers a message from Ozriel stating that he has gone off on his own to attempt to change the way the Abidan deals with the chaos destroying worlds.
Detailed Summary of Blackflame
Now that the Aurelius family has arrived and the treasures of the pyramid have been retrieved, the encampment has largely calmed down and returned to business as usual. At the end of Soulsmight, it was arranged that Lindon would duel Jai Long, a Highgold, in one year’s time as recompense for killing the leader of the Sandviper sect. Under Eithan’s order, Fisher Gesha aims to teach Lindon all she can about Soulsmithing before they head out with the Aurelius family. Although Eithan asks her to accompany them as Lindon’s Soulsmithing tutor when they leave, she declines. He takes Lindon to an impromptu training area with wooden dummies, where Yerin awaits them. They train briefly until a member of the Aurelius family, Cassius, arrives. He updates them on the latest news: he was sent to retrieve Eithan to assist with some strife between the Naru clan, Aurelius family, and the Jai family.
The Jai clan has begun waging a guerilla war on the Aurelius family in a bid for dominance within the Blackflame Empire. Jai Long, however, has sworn vengeance on the Jai clan for turning him into a pariah and failing to help his sister, who has severely damaged madra channels. The damage is bad enough that Jai Chen struggles to breathe and move; she cannot survive without assistance. He allies himself alongside the Sandvipers, who want vengeance for their clan heir, Kral, who was killed by Lindon. Gokren, leader of the Sandvipers, promises to support Jai Long in his crusade against the Jai clan.
Jai Long begins his assault on the Jai clan, using the Ancestor’s Spear he retrieved from the pyramid to siphon their powers before killing them. He is reluctant to test it during battle, but is forced to when a group of Lowgold and one Highgold Jais attack him. It works beautifully, stealing a piece of their madra. He cuts the group down like a hot knife through butter.
Jai Chen begs Jai Long to stay with her rather than continuing his path of vengeance. She asks that they go West through the Desolate Wilds, where it is rumored that a hidden valley whose inhabitants are protected by a curse live. Ultimate, Jai Long wins the argument, but Jai Chen insists on going with Jai Long instead of being left behind as he had originally planned.
Lindon, meanwhile, discusses contingencies with Yerin regarding the duel. He proposes ambush, poison, etc… The poison, however, hits close to home for Yerin given that’s how the Sword Sage was killed. They agree it must be a head on fight. Eithan gives Lindon an opportunity to leave the Aurelius family to avoid the fight, but Lindon declines and Eithan promises to do whatever he can to help him win. They leave in the morning on the Aurelius family cloudship.
Despite her earlier protests, Lindon discovers that Fisher Gesha changed her mind and came along with them. She has a bit of a soft spot for Lindon – she wanted to make sure he’d do okay under Eithan’s harsh tutelage. Eithan and Fisher Gesha set both Lindon and Yerin to training. Yerin is particularly unhappy when she is ordered to clear their training course using only her Goldsign, which she has poor control over.
Eithan teaches Lindon a cycling technique called the Heaven and Earth Purification Wheel, which is both extremely taxing but also extreme rewarding: it is designed to increase the size of his cores. Yerin and Eithan fight over how to handle her Remnant. Yerin insists it has the wisdom and voice of her old master, while Eithan explains that those are echoes and she needs to break it down. Her Master is gone, but Yerin can’t accept that.
Eventually, the cloudship reaches its destination: Serpent’s Grave, a city carved from dragon bones. There, Eithan offers Lindon several Paths before they settle on the Path of the Blackflame. They go to meet the only surving descendant of dragons, a great turtle who overused Blackflame and went mad. They form a pact bonding their spirits together, saving Orthos from madness and advancing Lindon to Jade. Eithan secretly feeds the Sylvan Riverseed a large Pure madra scale and a bit of his soulfire, allowing her to grow into a being of pure, cleansing madra. Lindon’s training under Orthos begins shortly after.
Jai Long has also arrived at Serpent’s Grave. He continues his campaign of revenge against the Jai clan, killing a group of Lowgolds who had been harassing a team of Aurelius workers. He takes a moment to appreciate the irony of having helped out Eithan.
To further Lindon and Yerin’s training, Eithan has had the three ancient Trials of the Blackflame family restored. It has three parts, one for the Enforcer, Striker, and Ruler techniques of the Blackflames. Before they can enter, Cassius arrives to argue against it. Eithan incapacitates him and disappears. In a discussion after, it’s revealed the the course is meant for a team of five Lowgolds. He also has a rare moment of vulnerability, admittedly that he could be wrong in betting on Yerin and Lindon. Eithan takes Cassius to a control room where, if he chooses, he can make the course even more challenging for the pair. If he makes it so challenging they give up, Eithan promises to release them from the Trials and Lindon from his obligation to Jai Long.
In the first trial, a column is inscribed with the history of the dragons of the Blackflame Empire. They were brought down by a “great disaster” from the West – where Sacred Valley lies. It describes how they bonded with the remaining dragons to learn the art of the Blackflame. Finally, it ends in a single line: “The dragon advances.” There is a diagram showing him how to use the Burning Cloak technique with his madra. Yerin walks him through it. After activating the Trial, they discover that it is a course of constructs they must either bypass or battle through with a large “boss” construct at its conclusion.
Lindon and Yerin challenge the Trial every few days, cycling and recovering in between. Lindon has learned more about the Burning Cloak and has much improved in his fighting, keeping up handily with Yerin. Yerin, however, feels as though she is regressing. Her control over her Goldsign becomes more and more tenuous, but she refuses to absorb it completely lest she lose the Sword Sage a second time. Further, her unwelcome guest is becoming more and more restless.
Lindon discovers the changes Eithan made to his Sylvan Riverseed, and further finds out she can repair the damage Blackflame does to his madra channels. With this advantage, they can perform back to back runs of the course instead of taking days to recover. Yerin dubs her “Little Blue.” Finally, they defeat the first Trial – much to Cassius’ dismay. Normally the Enforcer Trial would not involve the Blackflame fighting – merely holding the Cloak while their team covers them and fights off the constructs. This makes Lindon and Yerin’s victory all the more impressive.
Before they tackle the Striker Trial, however, Eithan appears with news. Completing the Trials now comes with rewards. A pill for Yerin that will allow her to advance to Highgold without cracking open her Master’s spirit, and Blackflame scales for Lindon that could take him to Lowgold.
In the Striker Trial, the column holds a new phrase: The dragon destroys. In this Trial, they face distant constructs that throw spears at them when they move which must be destroyed with Blackflame. Lindon struggles with the Striker technique and finds it much more difficult to master.
Orthos finally visits them, expressing displeasure at Lindon’s progress. He shows Lindon the correct Striker technique to assist him. Unfortunately, Orthos still struggles with the power of Blackflame and this pushes him back toward madness. He retreats into the tunnels after showering the valley in Blackflame. Shortly after, they conquer the Striker Trial.
Jai Long has backed the Jai clan into a corner. He’s advanced to Truegold, and the pressure on the clain is building. Jai Daishou, the Jai Underlord, has decided to confront him directly. Jai Daishou has no heirs, and only a few years left to live. He quickly overpowers Jai Long, but offers him a deal. In exchange for help for his sister, Jai Long must swear a soul oath to return to the fold as a stopgap heir until a new Underlord advances. Jai Long accepts, and Jai Daishou reveals that he’s a planned a coup to overthrow the Aurelius family. He immediately sets it into motion. The city devolves into chaos with the Jai clan killing every Aurelius they can find.
Eithan hadn’t expected it. He’s angered that this was hidden from him. We learn one of his techniques: Hollow Armor, an Enforcer technique. His Path is not designed well for Enforcer techniques, but it works well enough. The Jai clan traps him with a boundary formation. He cuts through it like butter and begins a fight with Jai Daishou, revealing that he uses a Path of pure madra. He kills Jai Daishou… or so he thinks. Jai Daishou had one more trick up his sleeve: a relic carried in his spirit that lets him cheat death just once. He swears to himself that he will use his knowledge of Eithan’s Path to arrange his defeat.
Cassius abandons the Trials when evidence of the coup reaches him, running to protect his family. After confirming his wife is safe, he begins to attack the Jai Clan. Fisher Gesha, meanwhile, gripes about Lindon being off training and not even thinking about Soulsmithing before hunkering down in her workshop until the fighting stops.
Lindon and Yerin, meanwhile, are taking a look at the Ruler Trial. On its plinth, the phrase “The dragon conquers” confronts them. They translate the new technique as The Void Dragon’s Dance, but before Lindon can try it the lights and sounds of the coup attempt reach them. It’s also reached Orthos, and pushed him over the edge; he barrels out of the mountain, bent on attacking them. They incapacitate him and Lindon fetches Little Blue… but when they return, Orthos is already gone back into the mountain. The fight has damaged the course or the third Trial, and they move back out of the mountain and towards the city.
Before they can leave the valley, Jai Long and Gokren confront them. Orthos saves Lindon just before Gorken manages to kill him. Yerin, however, is finally forced to confront a hard truth during her battle: the Remnant she absorbed is not her master, and it’s actively fighting against her in her battle. She crushes it and absorbs it, advancing to Highgold. The fight turns in her favor, and Jai Long retreats.
Orthos pours Blackflame into Lindon, trying to stave off his own madness. Fortunately, Little Blue assists and Lindon survives. He advances to Lowgold. Gokren attacks them shortly after, and together they take out him and his party of Lowgolds.
Lindon reunites with Eithan, who reveals his Path to Lindon and the fact that he, too, has a marble similar to the one Suriel gave him. He sends Lindon to find Jai Chen, Jai Long’s sister. When he discovers her, he and Little Blue do what they can to restore her core. Jai Chen is shocked and grateful, able to move and breathe freely for the first time in years. Lindon asks her to pass on a message to Jai Long, saying that he would really prefer not to fight.
A patrolling Skysworn of the Blackflame Empire discovers Lindon and takes him into custody, citing that learning the Blackflame Path is a threat to the empire. Eithan meets with the Emperor and, rather than asking that he release Lindon… Instead asks that he make Lindon *fight*.
Zooming out once more to the cosmic scale, Suriel has her own challenges. On a dying world, Suriel discovers evidence of a battle between Abidan members and over a million people placed in stasis by Ozriel before he went missing. He left a message stating that he is attempting to act and change something relating to the Abidan and the chaos that ends world’s. He has left similar stasis facilities on each world that will be corrupted in his absence.