Stone Soul is the second book in eden Hudson’s Path of the Thunderbird series. This novel, perfect for fans of xianxia and cultivation stories, continues the story begun in Darkening Skies. In fact, it picks up almost immediately after the first book left off. We get to reunite with some of the more interesting characters from the first novel, and Hudson continues some excellent world building. There are some elements of the novel that didn’t work quite as well for me, however.
Where Hudson’s novel truly shines is in the worldbuilding and magic. The Uktena tribe, whom we met briefly in the first book, takes center stage in this one. Their culture and philosophy of life is absolutely fascinating. It’s very clearly described and feels incredibly authentic. Their take on cultivation, bettering oneself, and working toward perfect is absolutely fascinating. The various magic paths in this story continue to intrigue. We definitely get to learn more about the way magic works in this novel, and especially about how different cultures perceive magic and work to better themselves. This is always one of the things I love in cultivation stories, and it certainly shines here. There are plenty of moments when we see characters growing, being confronted with an opposing viewpoint or perspective, and having to wrestle with it. I enjoyed the way character development and progression in terms of magic are linked together. There are also some excellent, tense, action-packed fight sequences. Hudson excels at making you feel like you’re in the middle of the action. I enjoyed both the elements of the novel that were more focused on philosophy and the more action oriented sequences.
There were a few things that didn’t work for me, however. While I enjoyed the philosophical elements in the novel, there were sections that felt like they became too expositional. Interestingly, for me these sections were rarely focused on the philosophical, and were more oriented towards communicating summaries of the story or that sort of thing. There is a lot of telling and explanation in this novel, when I felt like the story might have been better served by showing the events actually happening. When the narrative becomes expositional, it felt like things were bogged down. The bigger issue for me, unfortunately, was that we get a lot more Koida in this novel. In the first novel, Koida was probably my least favorite character. Since she is undisputedly the main character in the second novel, I had a harder time really investing in the main narrative. Thankfully, there were sections devoted to other characters, and Koida did grow on me a little toward the end, but overall I still find her a less than interesting character. In the end, it also feels like the characters don’t make much progress in this one. There isn’t a great deal that actually happens in this novel, and that was a little disappointing. Overall, I still enjoyed the novel, but these elements kept me from it being a complete home run.
Stone Soul is a fun cultivation story, which plenty of cool magic, interesting philosophy, and wonderful worldbuilding. For those who didn’t connect with Koida in the first novel, this one may be a slog at times, but the overall story and plot remain intriguing.
Review by Calvin Park
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