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Fourth Wing  by Rebecca Yarros

Violet Sorrengail, the youngest daughter of Navarre's commanding general, takes after her late-father; She's a soft, small, quiet woman, living for knowledge and books, and fully trained to join the Scribe Quadrant where she can hide amongst the history of her nation and the stories shared with her by her father. Instead, mere months before her induction, her warrior mother decides "all Sorrengail's are riders". Before she knows it, feeble, untrained Violet is facing an impossible challenge: surviving the Basgiath War College's Riders Quadrant with hundreds of other cut-throat candidates striving to become dragon riders.

Overwhelmed and underqualified, Violet has to not only survive grueling physical trials --learning to fight other cadets who will literally murder to reach the top and participating countless endurance exercises designed to kill off the weak --but she must do so as the daughter of the woman who brutally murdered the rebellious families of countless classmates, all permanently marked as traitorous. This feat becomes infinitely more difficult when Xaden Riorson, ruthless son of the leader of the rebellion and eldest of the marked cadets, becomes her commanding officer, giving him full control over her very life. Not to mention the looming fact: dragons don't bond with the weak; they turn them to ash.

As Violet fights for her life, she comes to realize that everything she's ever known -- from the 600 year long war being held at bay to the trajectory of her college career and future to who she defines as friend and foe -- is being reevaluated, for better or worse.

Much like other avid readers, I can't help but imagine Basgiath War College as similar to Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series with a few deviations. However, Basgiath is training for war, so while magic obviously permeates the setting, it is very militaristic. So, while it is a familiar environment in individual aspects, it is also unique in the meshing of military, college, and fantasy worlds.

Character-wise, it's hard not to root for Cadet Violet Sorrengail. She's the underdog pulling through every obstacle by the skin of her teeth, utilizing her only real edge-- her high intellect and "scribe mind" -- while she painstakingly builds on her shortcomings to match her classmates. She is willing to challenge her superiors, specifically Xaden as their relationship complicates more and more, and her mother who is only ever portrayed as seeing her as a weakness. Any reader who has felt the sense of accomplishment that comes with succeeding at something they had little faith in completing empathizes with an underdog character, not to mention the fact that the target audience of the book is Violet -- the book-loving, slightly sex-crazed intellectual young woman. So, naturally, I -- as the self-proclaimed book-loving, slightly sex-crazed intellectual young woman who enjoys the thrill of accomplishing something challenging -- enjoyed her. I also enjoyed Xaden, again in the same ways expected of anyone in the Violet demographic. Of course, the sexy, older, forbidden "tall, dark, and handsome" is classically alluring.  Beyond that, though, he is a complicated individual with such an odd demeanor, especially regarding her. I would be very intrigued to read more from his point-of-view, because of the multi-faceted, self-conflicting, weighty whirlwind that he is lost in in his mind. My true favorite character, however, is Tairn. That dragon is NOT what I expected.

In terms of point of view, I do appreciate the inclusion of underlying commentary regarding the "right and wrong sides of history" and how important perspective beyond the individual self becomes. So sure, most seem to pick this book up for the similarities to young reader favorites like the Eragon books or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, or for the dark angsty slightly-more-adult-than-YA forbidden romance, but the background messages about a person or group's moral compass in regards to major historical events is a fascinating and profound inclusion highly applicable to any point of time in our history. It gives this book more cultural depth than many other adventure fantasy romances, which I highly appreciate. It will help to preserve the cultural relevance of the story as the novel ages.

This is a very easy, fun read. Though the content has shadows and emotional depth and adventurous thrills, it is more entertaining than heavy. It's an excellent segue read for the relatively new New Adult age group -- the new level in between Young Adult and Adult, so 18 into early 20s -- as the characters are the target age group and there is a spattering of adult scenes intermixed with themes often found in Young Adult novels like angsty romance and adventure in an educational setting.

Fourth Wing is a great palate-cleanser for those in the midst of dense reading (whether it be serious or heavy adult reading or thought-provoking books being studied for class) as well as a great option for those getting into reading for fun. Readers of Eragon by Christopher Paolini, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will find this series refreshing as it draws in similar aspects of each into one comparatively more adult fantasy. Many also find Yarros' writing comparable to Sarah J. Maas and Stephanie Garber.

At the time of this review (March 2024), Fourth Wing is number two on the New York Times Bestsellers List and the sequel, Iron Flame, is number three, though both have reached number one since release. The Colorado author Rebecca Yarros (a local author to me) expects The Empyrean series to span five books in total, so keep an eye out for new installments!

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

Review Coming Soon

Onyx Storm by Rebecca Yarros

Publication Date: January 21, 2025

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