“A dragon without a rider is a tragedy. A rider without a dragon is dead.”
I'm not one to brush past a fantasy book. Although Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Lord Of The Rings are some of my lifetime-favourite reads, there have been very few misses. And then . . . there’s the bottom-of-the-barrel Twilight. series.
Fantasy books are my safe haven, so I’m very careful about those I add to my book pile. So, when my Instagram algorithm — which currently only gives me book recommendations — sent rave video reviews for Fourth Wing, I knew I had to check it out.
Written by Rebecca Yarros, Fourth Wing is the first book in her Empyrean Series. It has magic, dragons, adventure and a war college — all my favourite things in one book. Yes, please.
This is Yarros’ first time writing fantasy and the book has been out of stock in bookstores worldwide. Hard to believe, but when I popped into 4 bookshops around Dublin, every single one just says SOLD OUT! That only made me more curious — come on, a sold-out book with a 4.7 rating on Goodreads. It had to be outstanding!
I finally received my copy and dove right in. And let me just warn you…
So if you’re thinking of giving this book a try... stop reading this review and pick up the book!
The thing with fantasy is that you have to relinquish your hold on the “real” and immerse yourself in the rules of a whole new world, a new system, its history, and how magic works within this realm. Depending on the writer, this strange new world can be either ill-defined and hazy or highly detailed and very well explained. Yarros lays out the parameters very quickly so you know precisely what’s allowed and what isn’t in Navarre. From the start, it's established that humans simply do not understand dragons. The reptiles have their own laws, rules, and history that we’re yet to explore.
Yarros gets you hooked right at the get-go. It's all about Violet and how mom expects her to live her life. It's been decided that Violet will walk the parapet and join the rider's quadrant. For someone who was at a massive disadvantage due to her height and health, she manages to beat all the tasks set out for her. And successfully become a rider of not one but two dragons — the only person in history to have two dragons.
Let's not forget the cool signets you gain once you bond with a dragon. Being able to wield lightning — I’d be happy with that.
The characters are super multi-dimensional and you find your favourites right from the start. There’s Violet, obviously, a young girl trying to survive and prove herself. She beats everyone's expectations while growing into a strong female character. Her friend group: Ridoc, Sawyer, Rhiannon and let's not forget Liam — the guy who diligently protected her until the end, and turned into one of her closest friends.
On the other hand, you have Xaden, one of the wing leaders at Basgiath. He’s put forward as a traitor's son who seeks revenge on Violet because her mother had his father executed. But it turns into so much more. With their dragons being mates you ask the question, did their friendship — and eventual romance — blossom naturally, or was it due to the stratagems of their dragons’? It’s a slow burn that tracks the typical enemies-to-lovers format and you love every minute of it.
Then there are the siblings. Mira is a top-notch rider and although Brenden is dead he still plays a huge role in Violet’s success at Basgiath.
The book is only as good as its heroes and villains. And Yarros gives us some really cracking villains. Jack Barrow, the guy who tries to kill Violet from his first introduction, Dain who’s somewhat a friend but has his own ideas about what needs to be done. And, of course, all the thrilling challenges outside the castle walls.
Apart from the characters and dragons, what makes Fourth Wing truly special is the plot. There are traitors whose children all bear a mark that sets them apart. They aren’t treated right but they stick together due to Xaden’s sacrifice.
Beyond that intriguing slow-burn romance, the overall plot has you wondering what's happening outside of the walls of Basgiath. But it’s within the college walls where all the drama happens.
The final war game — if we can even call it that — is when everything unravels and you finally put the puzzle together. The Venin do exist! And he’s alive. Wow, I totally never saw that coming.
It's a total page-turner and one you will not put down. The epitome of gripping, Fourth Wing is packed with breadcrumbs for you to follow. While reading it — in one weekend! — I kept thinking this is so fantastic I’ve got to tell all my friends to give it a read.
While I swore to keep this review short, I could go on raving about Rebecca Yarros’ spectacular Fourth Wing until the sequel comes out. November can’t come quickly enough. In the meantime, I’m in my third reading and living vicariously through Violet’s awesome adventures.