Fourth Wing took the reading world, well mainly BookTok, by storm and the second book in the Empyrean series, Iron Flame, came out in early November. I finished it in about a week and am only now sharing my thoughts.
As always, if you're new to my reviews, thanks for stopping by and checking it out, but from this point onward, you can anticipate spoilers and my own thoughts about the book and some theories that I have. I'm posting this after reading through the book only once, though I do hope to do a re-read to see what I may have missed.
Summary: "Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College - Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.
Now the real training begins, and Violet's already wondering how she'll get through. It's not just that it's grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it's designed to stretch the riders' capacity for pain beyond endurance. It's the new vice commandment, who's made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is - unless she betrays the man she loves.
Although Violet's body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else's, she still has her wits - and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.
But a determination to survive won't be enough this year.
Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College - and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end."
During the first few chapters of the book, I was getting very irritated with how self-centered Violet's thoughts were in regards to Xaden's secrets. She couldn't get over the fact that he didn't tell her everything and continued to refuse to tell her everything. I'm not sure if it's because of who I am, or if I'm just a non-caring partner, but if I was in her shoes, I would understand why. We found out what Dain's signet is and how dangerous it could be, so why does Violet think that know everything would benefit her? Not only that, I don't think it was fair for her to continue to keep holding it against him. It was extremely frustrating to read through those moments because it felt like it was never-ending and they just kept going in this odd cycle.
The introduction of the venin and wyvern in the first book has definitely made this story line interesting because during the entire read, I found myself wondering who is venin and who isn't. It was tough to keep track during the first read, which makes it tempting to re-read it to really comb through the details. I think that Dain's dad is/was a venin and a part of me believes that Lilith could have also been a venin. I also believe that Nolan has been working with or experimenting with them for a very long time because he was able to bring back Jack Barlow and I feel like he needed to "take" power from something, or somewhere, else to be able to repair his soul. Since venin lose their souls to the power, wouldn't you be able to also use the power to build a soul? Like a vicious cycle?
Though Andarna was in the dreamless sleep for most of the story, once she reappeared, I knew that there would be something special about her, because you wouldn't put a character like hers in there for only comic relief. I knew that she would be playing a larger role in the story, but I didn't think it would happen so soon. I was thinking maybe book 3, but now I think we will find out what Violet's second signet is in book 3.
There were just so many clues and tidbits sprinkled throughout the book it was hard to enjoy the read while also trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Then we have Xaden's entire storyline and geez. I really don't know if I can handle the fact that Xaden has become a venin. I know he did it to protect Violate, but goddamn it Rebecca, why does it have to be him?! I saw a lot of videos on Tik Tok with the theory that the enemies to lover trope isn't about Violet and Xaden, but it's actually Violet and Dain and Xaden will become the enemy that they both fight against, but I cannot and will not read anymore of the series if that's where this is going.
The reason why I can't see Xaden as the enemy because of who he is deep down. When it comes to the venin, they are portrayed as individuals who didn't know when to stop drawing the power and wanted to feed on it continuously. Their focus has and always was power, this is why I have a hard time believing that Lilith was a venin - she didn't seek power like the others. Instead, her main goal was to keep her children alive. But what was she willing to do to keep her children alive? Maybe it was keeping dark secrets that could change the entire Navarre history? Maybe it was keeping the father's real cause of death a secret? Who knows, but regardless, Xaden's focus has never been power. His focus was showing the real truth and now it's also keeping Violet safe.
Another reason why I have a very difficult time believing that Xaden would become the bad guy is because him and Sgaeyl have such a strong bond and connection because he's a direct descendent from one of her previous riders. So hwo could she break that bond without it breaking her? I think it would become too messy and it would cause Violet to break as well, which would then lead to Tairn breaking because both his mate and rider would be reeling from those emotions/loss.
I didn't give this book a full 5 stars because I feel like it's still not the best book that I read. Is it a good and compelling story? Yes. Am I utterly obsessed with Xaden because of the way Rebecca built his character? Yes. Do I love Andarna and her new-found teenage moodiness? Yes. But, the actual technicalities of the book leave me feeling like it could have been written a little better.
The timing was still a little weird for me and there were some things that I didn't quite feel comfortable with when it came to character relationships. It made reading some of it kind of cringey and reminded me more about high school drama than a war college. But at the end of the day, I guess college is almost like a glorified high school?
However, where this book redeems itself is the re-readability. I definitely think that this and the first book are easy re-reads and you will discover more during the re-read. And as much as I would like to re-read both books simultaneously, I don't think I will be doing it for a bit. I'm still reeling/recovering from the entire Xaden thing. This book literally put me into a month-long reading slump.
As always I would love to know your thoughts about the book and what you think will be happening next!