If you haven’t already read the previous books in Will Wight’s Cradle series, you should probably do that before you read this review (we also have reviews for the previous books, to which I shall provide links at the bottom of this post). At that point you probably won’t need a review of Dreadgod to convince you to read the most recent installment, but I’m going to give you one, anyway. And if you are a reader of action-packed, fast-paced fantasy, and are not already following Will Wight, you should really start.
Dreadgod is similar in length to its recent predecessors, and just like those, it feels too short. Well, too short may not be the right description – too fast might be more appropriate. Wight’s writing in Cradle is dynamic and rapid, matching his prodigious and aggressive release timeline. That is not a bad thing, and is a key feature of his style, but I do often find that I wish he would slow down and develop his stories and ideas further, which is hardly surprising if you consider the other books that I tend to read. In Dreadgod we seem to bounce for one battle to another without taking time to get a clear picture of what is happening, to have much in the way of character development, or to understand how the next book is possibly going to conclude the series.
Yes, Dreadgod is supposed to be the penultimate installment in the Cradle series, which is just part of why I was taken aback by the ending. Despite seeing my percentages increase and the page numbers remaining diminish, I still ran into the end of the book at a sprint and was left looking for the rest of the track. Without any spoilers, I will simply say that it feels like the book only did about half of the plot things it needed to in order for the stage to be set for the last book. Then again, I don’t know what Wight might have planned, so I should probably stop second guessing him and just wait patiently for the next book to be released.
Pacing issues (which in this case are mostly a matter of personal preference) aside, I don’t think Dreadgod was as strong as some of the previous books in the series. After ten books of Lindon overcoming overwhelming obstacles and superior adversaries, it is hardly surprising when he finds ways of doing it again, and there was something less dynamic and engaging about his plans and struggles in this book. Not once does Wight convince me that Lindon is in any real danger, and by extension, neither are the other major characters. Given the nature of the “martial arts” magic system the Cradle series employs, I was always concerned that this would happen eventually as the characters gained in power, but the previous books managed to avoid that pitfall.
Almost, Dreadgod doesn’t feel like a fully-fleshed story of its own; more like an intermission between the previous book and the next one. Pieces are moved around on the board, plot points laid down for future developments, but there isn’t a complete plot arc for this novel. That would be a fatal flaw were this a standalone, but in the case of a series like this, it is more of a questionable decision. Given the length at which Wight is writing, I think there would have been room to make this book much longer, give a full plot, more character development, and delay the release by a few months. Then again, this style of series storytelling, where an installment is not necessarily a complete story of its own, is not uncommon, and neither is it wrong; you could even argue that the Lord of the Rings does something similar, as Tolkien always avowed that the trilogy was intended to be read as a single, long book.
While I’ve been largely critical of it so far, I would be remiss not to mention that Dreadgod retains most of the strengths exhibited in the previous Cradle novels, including a fascinating and evocative magic system, vigorous, vivid, and frequent action scenes, and a very gradual convergence of the two plotlines (which I can no longer call parallel plots, since then they wouldn’t be converging). It’s an astonishingly fast read, the kind of book that you pick up and keep reading and all of a sudden realize that you finished, and how did you already get to the end so fast? If nothing else, it certainly left me wondering how the final book is going to go.