- STAR RATING: 5 stars
- PAGE LENGTH: 512 pages
- DATE PUBLISHED: May 2, 2023
- PUBLISHER: Red Tower Books
- WHAT SERIES? The Empyrean
- WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Fourth Wing
- HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Two, I believe
- CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Violence, War
- IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten, and The Serpent and the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent
Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros
Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.
But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.
With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.
She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.
Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.
Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.
By now, you’ve probably seen Fourth Wing all over the internet, being praised as the next big thing in fantasy romance. If you haven’t picked up the book yet, I’m willing to bet that you’ve either been interested, but a little apprehensive, or you’ve just plain rolled your eyes at the claims surrounding this book. Well, I’m here to tell you right now, that the claims are true. Fourth Wing is a fantastic fantasy romance, and one that I am going to be shouting about for awhile. Get used to it.
Fourth Wing is set in an extremely deadly war academy, where most of the students are training to become dragon riders. It sounds brutal, but that’s because it absolutely is. There are two options for the cadets in this academy — you either survive training and graduate, or you die. You can’t leave, you can’t drop out, you can’t give up. You keep going, or you die. Period. We see many many side characters die over the course of the novel. Yarros does not shy away from this, and I appreciated actually seeing the danger on page. Despite the sheer amount of death on page, Fourth Wing is so much fun. For those of you that love YA novels, this will feel familiar, but in a much more mature way. Our characters are all in their twenties, but they’re going to what is essentially a magic school. Some will argue that this is just a YA book with sex, but I thoroughly disagree. The themes, and maturity level here are much higher than that of YA book.
Our main character, Violet, starts out absolutely not wanting to be in the dragon rider cadets. She wanted to be a scribe, but her mother had other ideas. Violet is forced into the riding cadets, and that’s that. Unfortunately, she’s got a chronic illness that is deliberately kept vague — this worked for me, but I can see why some people would be frustrated that Yarros doesn’t go into more detail here. What we do know is that Violet’s bones are brittle, she’s smaller than everyone else, and that she’s almost constantly in pain. Why this works, in my opinion, is because Yarros herself has a chronic illness. Violet is not whiny. She does what she can, and tries to push herself, but there are a few times that she is forcibly stopped from hurting herself further. I liked Violet a great deal. She was incredibly determined, and did everything she needed to in order to compete. Violet is not a mary-sue in any capacity. She was not good at everything that was thrown at her. In fact, we see her fail more than once. This grounded her as a character, and made her infinitely easier to relate to.
MILD SPOILERS GOING FORWARD for romance: Now, as for Violet’s love interests we have two, because romance triangles are so interesting. (Okay, for real though, I do not see this as a triangle, because it becomes apparent very quickly into the book that Dain does not see Violet the way that Xaden does. Don’t get your undies in a twist, triangle-haters.) We have Dain, Violet’s childhood best friend. He’s a year ahead of her in training, and he is rigid in his rule following. He doesn’t do anything to help Violet if it could be considered even as bending a rule a bit. He is constantly telling Violet she can’t do something, that she’s unable, that she’s weak, etc. He does this in the mindset of trying to keep her safe, but it comes across as extremely condescending, and Violet catches on quick. I did not like Dain.
Opposite of him we have Xaden, who is the son of the man who tried to lead a rebellion against the empire/ruling people/whatever. What does matter is that Violet’s mom executed Xaden’s dad. Got it? Okay. There’s some angst there, obviously. Xaden is, of course, extremely powerful, extremely handsome, and extremely interesting. He’s the leader of her section of cadets, so he’s also a couple of years older than her. He sees Violet right away, and does rather a lot to help her, but in a sort of backhanded way. Xaden is fully okay with bending/twisting rules. He breaks them himself, after all. BUUUUT, the last thing I’ll say about the romance is this — if you like the way that Rhys and Feyre fell in love, than you will adore Violet and Xaden. They have the snippy, flirty, fighting sort of conversations that end with a looot sexual tension. SPEAKING OF THAT, there are at least two steamy scenes. They are well done, not extremely explicit, but there’s enough detail there that this bumps the book way out of YA range.
Now, quite obviously, Fourth Wing features dragons. We see three really up close, but there are quite a few dotting the pages. I do wish we learned more about them in this book, but what little we got definitely has me hooked. I don’t want to spoil anything that goes on here, but I really really liked the decisions that Yarros made here. There was an obvious choice that got subverted, and I am grateful for it.
In case my rambling above didn’t make it obvious enough, I really really loved Fourth Wing. It was refreshing, bright and new, and just perfect. I cannot wait to get my hands on Iron Flame, which is comes out in November. If you like fantasy romance, you will adore this book. Please pick it up soon!
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