I will continue to post reviews (though likely a little less formal/formatted) and potentially other posts if inspiration strikes. I will be focusing on my work as a bookseller and applying to grad school, but there are parts of this I enjoy too much to fully let go. That said, it's quite possible that things will shut down for real a year from now when I (hopefully) am back in school, but that's a later Isabel problem. For now, let me yell at you about the book no one can shut up about!
Author: Rebecca Yarros
Release: May 2, 2023
Publisher: Red Tower Books
Series: The Empyrean
Review: 5 Stars
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.
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I am in love. This book was so good and I won't be surprised if I'm not able to read anything else for weeks because this is on replay in my head. I stayed up until 3am reading it, read at every break at work the next day, and then promptly finished it as soon as I got home. The romance is obviously top tier. Slow burn, lots of pining, and one of my favorite romantasy tropes: sexytimes so good that characters lose control of magical abilities. Me and hyped up books don't always get along, but Fourth Wing is worth every word of praise.
The disability presence in the book was really amazing, as it's not often present in fantasy. Violet has a fantasy version of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective-tissue disorder with a number of presentations. Violet experiences regular joint pain and her joints will dislocate or get injured much easier. As someone who also has joint issues, her experiences really rung true for me. Additionally, a scribe Violet is friends with is Deaf and Violet uses sign language to converse with her. Along with capital R representation, I love to see little ways that disability is incorporated into a world.
Another fun note is the background queer presence in the world. As far as I know, both Violet and the love interest Xaden are straight. However, this seems to be a world built as queer-accepting by default. Violet's best friend Rhiannon is noted as dating men and women. At least one character uses they/them pronouns. Neither of these things are remarked upon as being out of the ordinary or looked down upon.
I saw someone note that aspects of the world building (such as being able to kill other students) isn't exactly logical, but exists just to make things more dramatic. I can definitely see that, but it doesn't bother me much. There actually were some plot/world building things I had questions about (the conflict seems very simplistic) but Yarros had some exceptional plot twists that answered those questions. Of course, now I have a billion more questions, but that's more to do with the giant cliffhanger she left us with.
Needless to say, I am counting the days until Iron Flame comes out. November can't get here soon enough. I'm still kicking myself because I almost got one of the sprayed edge first editions at work, but let it go thinking we'd get more in. So I will be making sure to preorder book two for that sweet sweet artwork.
Having fostered then adopted their youngest daughter who is nonverbal and on the autism spectrum, Rebecca is passionate about helping children in the foster system through her nonprofit, One October, which she co-founded with her husband in 2019. To learn more about their mission to better the lives of kids in foster care, visit www.oneoctober.org.