Book Review: Wintersteel

Wintersteel by Will Wight

Generally speaking, I almost never buy books the day they’re released. I also have very rarely actually enjoyed a self-published book. I tend to think I have only a certain number of books I have time to read, and so I’m fine having the wheels of publishing sort through the manuscripts out there so that I don’t have to.

So the fact that I bought Will Wight’s Wintersteel the very night it released, cleared my schedule to read it, and finished it two days later, says all you really need to know about the book. Wight has done a fantastic job marketing himself, often giving away all his current books for free because he seems to be just that confident that people will turn around and buy his later books at full price. It’s an approach that works for illegal substances, and it definitely works for the Cradle series, one of my favorite fantasy series to come out in quite some time

I believe I’ve reviewed at least some of these before, but the conceit is very straightforward. Think of a video game RPG. Final Fantasy, say. It’s all about leveling up your character, getting it able to do even more powerful things so that it can then go and fight more powerful monsters. You keep doing that until you beat the game, which basically means there are no more powerful monsters to find anywhere.

That’s the Cradle series. Each individual book is like an installment of a larger RPG, and his characters level up, gaining new powers and abilities so they can always face the next step. At some point, there’s going to have to be a big bad guy with no more bad guys after, but that point is not Wintersteel.

So why is a book that’s so straightforward so much fun to read? I mean, going into it, you know it’s not the final book, and so you’re almost certain what’s going to happen. The characters will level up, face adversity, and emerge more powerful than they were going into it. If playing an RPG doesn’t sound like a fun time to you, reading one probably won’t be any better. But to a guy who grew up pouring hours into Final Fantasy, reading up on all the strategies and figuring out how best to win?

This book is pure catnip.

Wight writes great action sequences. He manages to make all his characters have unique ways of fighting, so the action doesn’t just blend together. There’s always some new weapon or spell they’re working on, and you get a good enough grasp of how they all work that you can appreciate it when a character does something innovative to pull off a come from behind win. Are the characters the deepest ever? Nope. Are there sweeping themes that will leave you breathless? Definitely not. This is a popcorn book, plain and simple. You read it for the pyrotechnics and the fun.

It very much makes me want to write something like this.

In any case, if you’re looking for a way to escape the blah of the everything right now, and you like yourself a good RPG and a fantasy novel, then boy howdy is this series perfect for you. The only thing that I can critique it on is that it’s not finished yet, and so now I have to wait until the next book comes out. (There are two more planned for the series. One to come out in March, and one next September.) But I wouldn’t let that stop you from enjoying the 8 that are already out now. 9/10

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