Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

May 5, 2023

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.

It’s been a few months since we last indulged in some old-school fantasy. Time to remedy that particular oversight. This week’s review is Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. Strap yourself in folks, this is a tale of majestic dragons, wild magic, loyalty and betrayal. Sounds good already, doesn’t it? Splendid news then that it absolutely is.

When we first meet Violet Sorrengail, it quickly becomes evident just how strong-willed and determined she is. Her mother, a famed general, has decided that Violet is going to be a dragon rider irrespective of how dangerous that journey may be. Violet isn’t keen. She had hoped for a life of quiet academia, but it’s made clear she has little choice in the matter. If your mother runs a school for dragon riders you are going to be a dragon rider. Fortunately, our heroine has a stubborn streak about a mile wide. If she has to be a rider, then Violet will show everyone just how good she will become at it.

Violet’s nemesis, while trying to navigate the trials and tribulations of her new life, is Xaden Riorson. From their first meeting, Xaden seems hell-bent on making Violet’s life miserable. The school is a violent uncompromising place, the last thing you need is a target painted on your back.

Of course, it turns out the dragons are a headstrong bunch who have little interest in bending to the will of humans. Dragons decide who will be their rider. This offers further complications for Violet when her and Xaden’s fates become inextricably linked. I’ll be honest, it’s not a huge surprise when we discover where their relationship is going, but it’s handled well and it’s a heck of a lot of fun getting there.

As a warning to the more delicate amongst you, I should probably mention there are a handful of sex scenes in the novel. Things get most definitely adult in nature. As I vaguely recall this is what tends to happen when groups of young adults are confined to specific areas for any length of time. It’s enough to make an old man like me blush…didn’t stop me reading on mind you.

I liked the magic system in Fourth Wing. If you survive your training and are bonded to a dragon as a rider, you’re imbued with a signet power. This could be anything, defensive or offensive in nature. There are riders wielding all manner of abilities, everything from manipulating shadows to controlling the elements. Part of the narrative explores Violet’s journey to discovering, and harnessing, her power. There is an emotional component that ties into the skills Violet has access to. This weaves together the relationships and events in the main narrative nicely. You are left in little doubt as to the motivations that lie behind the character’s actions.

If I had one minor gripe it would be that I wanted more of everything; the dragons especially. The book builds to an epic battle. It’s a fast-paced, frenetic affair, and I loved how the author conveyed the chaos of events unfolding. There is a visceral, bloody tension to it all that was just brilliant. More aerial shenanigans please!

To recap then, tumultuous relationships  political chicanery secrets lies love loss and just about enough dragons. Works for me, I’m sold.

The internet reliably informs me that Fourth Wing is the first book of The Empyrean. I may be wrong but I suspect things are going to get considerably worse for Violet before they get better. I do hope so, her enemies won’t stand a chance.

Fourth Wing is published by Piatkus and is available now. I’m already looking forward to where Violet’s story leads her next.

My musical recommendation to accompany this novel is the soundtrack to the first season of House of the Dragon by Ramin Djawadi. I think it is suitably epic in scope and manages to effortlessly capture the fearsome grandeur of all things dragon related.

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