Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, #1) by Rebecca Yarros
Publication date: May 2, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Violet Sorrengail is a 20-year-old woman studying to be a scribe in the land of Navarre when her mother, a high ranking general in the country’s military, decides it’s more important that she follows in the family’s tradition of being a dragon rider. This despite the fact that Violet’s petite size and poor health make her completely unsuited for dragons. Fourth Wing is about her first year at the rider academy, a college where she must train to be a soldier and ride a dragon. It’s a world especially dangerous for Violet as her mother is loathed by many of her classmates for executing their parents for treason.
I’ll leave the plot there, mostly because that’s as far as it goes. Which is not to say there’s no action. There is, lots of it. This is a militaristic society and that’s all Yarros shares. There’s no real sense of the enemy, the history, no world building outside the college and the military outposts. The dragons and their intense relationship with riders supply the fantasy element. They are in control, choosing their rider and bonding with them in a way that gives the human special powers. The humans depend on the dragons.
I need to amend that a bit. There is other action in Fourth Wing, but again, not of the variety that enhances the narrative or moves the plot along. Instead, Violet’s internal dialogue consists solely of wanting. Literally. Wanting to see another classmate without his shirt on. Wanting him to throw her up against a wall. Wanting to feel him…you get the idea. I have no problem with sex in my fiction, although I prefer more of the fade-to-black, less-is-more variety. This becomes full-on graphic sex. To the point, I’m left questioning the novel’s designation as fantasy and not romance.
Fourth Wing is getting rave reviews, but even though I’m new to the fantasy realm it’s not one I would recommend to someone looking to explore the genre. If you’ve read (or watched) The Hunger Games or the Divergent series, you already get the gist: misfit girl who ends up kicking ass (always love that), society under attack from mysterious outsiders, dark political history, and misdirection as to who’s a friend and who’s an enemy.
Where the novel stands out is for anyone wanting extra-spicy romance set in a fantasy world. Fourth Wing is great vacation reading entertainment with a shocker of an ending. Beyond that, won’t be checking in to see what happens in the next two novels.
Want to immerse yourself in a fantasy world? I recommend Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
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