Seeking summaries of Will Wight’s Cradle series? 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 Unsouled
Lindon is born a pariah in the Wei Clan of Sacred Valley due to an abnormally weak soul. He attempts to prove his worth in an inter-clan tournament.
During the tournament, an ascended being named Li Markuth descends on Sacred Valley and kills everyone. Suriel, a member of the an ascended organization of beings called the Abidan, intervenes. She turns back time and makes it as if it never occurred.
Due to Lindon’s bravery, she deigns to show him his fate. On learning that Sacred Valley will eventually be destroyed by a great beast, Lindon teams up with Yerin, disciple of the Sword Sage, to leave the valley and become strong enough to save it. She leaves him with a small marble as a token.
The Sword Sage was previously poisoned and killed by the Heaven’s Glory school. Yerin advances to Gold by absorbing the Sword Sage’s Remnant. Together, they leave Sacred Valley after fighting their way through the members of Heaven’s Glory.
The epilogue reveals that Suriel is seeking a member of the Abidan named Ozriel, who possesses the power to end worlds that have fallen victim to an incurable (and infectious) magical corruption.
Detailed Summary of Unsouled
The children of Sacred Valley line up to be tested on the nature of their madra: enforcer, striker, ruler, or forger. When Lindon is tested, the water they use does not react. He is deemed to be Unsouled – a soul with no affinity, empty.
As he grows up, he becomes more and more desperate to find a way to strengthen his soul. Using rudimentary scripts he can channel a small stream of madra through, he hunts for a tree that is on the cusp of ascension for its spirit fruit. By eating the fruit, it’s possible his spirit will grow enough for him to reach Copper stage instead of being stuck at Foundation. He is caught by one of the younger Iron members of his clan, an enforcer named Teris. Teris’ temper gets the best of him, and he punches the ancestral tree, releasing its Remnant.
Teris takes a hit and runs away. Facing the Remnant alone, Lindon draws a barrier script on the ground and traps it. Noticing that the Remnant still has its spirit fruit, he distracts it with a flask of pure madra and jumps on its back, plucking the fruit. Unfortunately, he breaks his arm in the process.
When Lindon returns home, his family initially has no intent to giving him any of the fruit. After some argument, Lindon splits it with his sister, Kelsa. Shortly after, he is called to attend the First Elder of his clan. He is chastised for having interfered with Teris and for straying too far from the clan. The First Elder makes it clear that Lindon is the lowest of the low – if another clan had found him and killed him, his clan would have to apologise for the inconvenience. He shows some sympathy, and gives Lindon a mitigated punishment: feeding Elder Whisper, the clan’s ascended fox guardian. Teris, on the other hand, is sentenced to a lashing for cowardice.
Lindon tells Whisper of the Remnant and the fruit. Whisper implies that the path of the sacred artist is much longer than Lindon realizes, and encourages him to make his own path instead of adhering to that which his clan has set for him. After Lindon leaves, Whisper ruminates on the possible connection he senses between Lindon and a vast, dark, unstoppable creature that has haunted his dreams.
The next morning, Teris is publicly lashed for his cowardice. Teris’ family has one of their ten year olds challenge Lindon to a duel, which they know he will lose due to his lack of madra affinity, in a bid to save face. Lindon accepts, stipulating that it should take place in one week.
He uses that time to research ways to defeat her. In the archives, he discovers a scroll that details a technique called “The Heart of Twin Stars.” It details a method for splitting one’s madra core into two. It was developed as a counter to a technique called “The Empty Palm,” which thrusts pure madra into another’s core and disrupts their madra flow, leaving them temporarily helpless. He trains with his sister to develop his own version of The Empty Palm.
On the day of the duel, Lindon requests to fight an Iron of the clan instead of their ten year old. It is accepted, and Lindon uses his Empty Palm once before conceding after he has staggered his opponent. After, he speaks to the First Elder and bargains to be given Path scrolls if he wins against a copper in the upcoming exhibition match against the other clans. Several days later, Kelsa advances to Iron.
Suriel makes her first appearance, revealing that she is seeking information on a man named Ozriel, one of the Abidan. Shortly after arriving, she discovers that an off-world entity will be disrupting the exhibition match and intervenes. Lindon is killed by the entity in a vain attempt at attacking him, a man named Li Markuth – an ascended ancestor of the Li clan. Fortunately, Suriel’s power allows her to roll back time and adjust history such that it is as though the events never occurred. However, she chooses to approach Lindon prior to doing so.
For Lindon’s bravery in attacking despite knowing he would die, Suriel rewards him with knowledge of his future. While most of his life is happy, in old age the Sacred Valley is destroyed by a Dreadgod. Lindon asks how he can stop it from happening, and is shown some of the most powerful people in his world, Cradle. Included are Sha Miara of the Ninecloud Court, Northstrider, and the Eight-Man Empire.
In order to grow powerful enough to save the valley, Suriel informs him he will need to leave. She shows him a girl who can help him escape – Yerin. Finally, she provides him with a token she can use to check in on him, though he may not use it to contact her. Suriel rolls back time, reviving all who were killed in Li Markuth’s attack.
The exhibition continues as planned, and Lindon tricks his way into being accepted as a disciple of the Heaven’s Glory school in a bid to reach Yerin. Using his wits, he bypasses the entrance trial and earns the right to pick one treasure from the school’s lesser treasure hall. He chooses a set of boundary formation banners.
Lindon sneaks away from Heaven’s Glory school to find Yerin and join forces. Unfortunately, the school is bent on capturing or killing her; she arrived with her master, the Sword Sage, who was murdered by the Heaven’s Glory jade practitioners so that they could steal his belongings and treasures. Yerin is out for vengeance.
After fighting off a group of Jades, they return to Heaven’s Glory school undetected and break into the lesser treasure hall, whereupon they are discovered. While fighting their way out, they steal a parasite ring, a thousand mile cloud, and a sylvan riverseed.
Next, they had to the anscetors tomb where the Sword Sage’s Remnant lies. Unfortunately, a Jade Elder from Heaven’s Glory is waiting for them and ambushes them during the fight with the Remnant. Cornering Lindon, he threatens to destroy his core and cripple him for life. Fortunately, the Heart of Twin Stars technique allows Lindon to split his core at the last moment and save himself. He kills the Elder by throwing them both off a cliff and catching himself on the thousand mile cloud.
After defeating the Sword Sage’s Remnant and absorbing it into herself, raising her rank to Gold and giving her one saber-like appendage over her shoulders, Yerin jumps onto their thousand mile cloud, saving Lindon from the Elder’s Remnant below, and together they escape the Sacred Valley.
The Heaven’s Glory school, believing that no one can survive outside of Sacred Valley, assumes that Yerin and Lindon have returned to the Wei clan. They march on it with all remaining strength, intending to wipe it out.
The epilogue flashes back to Suriel. She meets with another of the Abidan, Gadrael, and they see a planet undergoing corruption and destroying another planet in its wake. Without Ozriel or his Scythe, they cannot destroy infected worlds. All of Abidan space is thus threatened.