I came across this series a while ago but didn't get time to start on it. Now I finally did and kind of rapid read though 1-8 book...Going to re read it to get a better grip on the universe and all the powers etc. It was self published series so I didn't think of it much first. I have had a few bad experience with them so I often keep away from them. When I started the first book Unsouled initially, it instantly reminded me of shonnen manga style story. It has a systematic magic verse that reminded me of Naruto in some ways. First 9 pages I wondered if the writer was inspired by Naruto or something like The Breaker series but soon I dumped both thoughts and simply got in to the story of this book itself.
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The first book is mostly the foundation of the series. It sets up the universe in quite a detail but seems relatively slow if you are impatient. Hero is barely starting his journey by the end of it. Second book solidifies the larger verse and by the third it simply grips. As we proceed and learn more about the world, different clans, we also learn they have their different sets of magics and different dangers and challenges.
The Earth is the Cradle and it's one of the many worlds in this universe. Sacred artists follow a thousand Paths to power, using their 'souls' to control the forces of the natural world.
Here are some spoiler from the first book of the series, Unsouled, this point on:
It starts with a typical underdog story. The hero lives in a small valley, where everyone practices magic according to their magical affinities. They do a S before starting to teach them Sacred Arts Path. Wei Shi Lindon is born without a specific affinity for the Sacred Arts. His madra fails to react in a test to see check his potential magic. Since everyone’s value in this community is based on how powerful of a Sacred Artist they are, Lindon becomes a sort of outcaste. He gets the badge which says "Empty" and call him Unsouled.
The village not only doesn't want to waste of resources on him they prohibit him from practicing any sacred art or letting him use any elixirs or fruits to help. Lindon tries everything he can from cheating to practicing the simple techniques which were taught pretest ( not the actual art) by himself. Village elder is sympathetic but tells him to simply fade in the background to avoid potential bullies. Lindon is of course, not happy with this situation. After a particularly bad encounter, Elder sends him to The White Fox who is one of the oldest creature and one of the founding fathers of the valley, silently hoping he might help Lindon. White Fox advises him to find his own path. Mind that Paths here are also specific type of magical traditions.
Lindon takes the advice to the heart but has no idea how he is suppose to make his own path. He cheats for a while. He works in the library of the village. He is not allowed to practice the sacred test. But he figures out if he only reads the scrolls or books without trying practicals they won't find out. He comes across a small mention of two techniques where someone used Empty Palm and talked about dividing their "core" where the madra is stored in the body, in two. No details are given and no one seems to have paid attention to it. Dividing the core is not going to help him but he learns Empty Palm with help of his sister. Empty Palm basically disrupts the madra of the opposite party for a few moments, giving Lindon a chance to succeed, if not "win", a few times.
Lindon bets with his elder that if he wins in upcoming festival where a few other schools would be participating, he will let him have White Fox Path book. Though it makes people more annoyed at him as they see it as cheating. It's bad enough that his competition are mostly children, him being the only person of his age still stuck at Foundation level.
, Sixth Judge of the Abidan Court makes her way in the village to fix a temporal divergence during this festival. During the course she watches as Lindon gives his life in what he knew to be a futile effort to stop a being who had transcended Cradle. She notices Lindon's peculiar condition and actions and ends up showing Lindon a glimpse of possible future and some of the most powerful monarchs out there as a reward of a sort. She is can intervene in fate within set parameters and allows him to keep the memory of this encounter.
Lindon now realizes that world is too big outside. And so are the dangers they will be facing in future which will end the whole valley itself. Now he has a choice to make. He can stay. If he stayed his future would get better and he would be able to live a normal family life and live for another half century till some thing destroys the valley. But if he wants to change that fate and save his home and people in future, he would have to get stronger himself. To go beyond, he must contact Yerin, a young girl around his age, whose fate needs an intervention. She is his ticket to get out..
It looks like I am putting out the whole plot but it's just beginning of the story. These books are action packed along with training sessions, tournaments, dragons, humans, biotechnological artifacts, magical beasts, demigods, sacred ruins to explore, different motivations and goals interesting enough characters and a coherent definite plot. The various details of the first book are important and come together later on so they must be paid attention to.
If you like this anime/gaming style story, I would say one should try it out at least once.