In Navarre, all adults are conscripted into a stint of service at age 20. They can serve as healers, scribes, infantry, or riders. Dragon riders that is. Only the strongest, or craziest make the cut and become riders. Many die during training without ever even meeting a dragon. But it’s worth it for the chance to bond with a dragon and fight for Navarre because Navarre has been locked in a 400-year war with the evil Poromiel and their griffon fliers. Violet isn’t strong or daring like her older siblings. She had always assumed that she would be a scribe when her time came. But her mother has decided that being a scribe is beneath a Sorrengail. Most people train their whole lives to become riders, Violet has had six months of prep but it doesn’t matter. She is going to become a rider or die trying in Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros.
[Warning: My review of Fourth Wing contains some spoilers!]
Failure is not an option for Violet Sorengail
Violet Sorengail is the daughter of the commanding general of the Navarre army. Both her older siblings have already become riders (like her mother and generations of Sorengails before that). But Violet has always been small. And thanks to an illness her mother had when she was pregnant, somewhat fragile. Not rider material. So she has spent her life preparing to be a scribe like her father.
But then her mother suddenly decides that being a scribe isn’t good enough and orders her to enter the Rider’s Quadrant instead. Violet is sure that she’ll die before she even reaches the school but when her mom gives an order that’s that. So off she heads to the Rider’s Quadrant on Conscription Day. Amazingly, she completes the first challenge and makes it into the school. But the danger doesn’t end there. Everything about training is meant to simulate what a rider actually faces in battle. And cadets who aren’t up to the challenge often die. And yet, no one sees a problem with this.
Making it worse, cadets are almost encouraged to kill off anyone that they see as a weak link or a threat (yes, literally kill). And that’s all before the cadets prove themselves worthy to meet the dragons, who might just incinerate them at any time if they don’t feel the riders are worthy. The pressure on Violet is intense, to say the least.
A special enemy in Fourth Wing
Besides all the challenges that every rider faces in the Quadrant, Violet faces an extra challenge. About six years ago there was a rebellion in Navarre. The leaders of the rebellion were executed but their children were allowed to live. However, they were marked with special relics (think magical tattoos) that identified them as children of the rebellion. They were also forced to enter the Rider’s Quadrant at conscription instead of being allowed to choose a quadrant. The orders for the executions, relics, and forced conscription were all issued by Violet’s mom. Which means they’re only too happy to vent their anger by attacking or killing Violet.
One of them in particular, Xaden Riorson, scares Violet. He is the son of the leader of the rebellion and is a presumptive leader of the children of the rebellion. Violet was warned about him before she ever even arrived at the quadrant. The only problem is, from the first time Violet sees Xaden, she’s so attracted to him she can’t think straight. As time passes she becomes more and more convinced that he’s bad for her, but she can’t stop falling, even to save herself.
Oh my god, the heat
I have read fantasy books, I have read romance books, and I have read erotica books. Fourth Wing takes the best of all these genres and mixes them together to come up with something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Violet’s struggle to become a Rider and her eventual bond with her dragons makes a great fantasy story. There’s a fantastic twist or two along the way to keep it interesting.
Her dance with Xaden and Dain is a classic romance. The boy next door that she’s crushed on forever but has never seen her worth and the dangerous new man who pushes her to discover her true self. The push and pull she feels towards each is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. And when Violet and Xaden finally do come together, their connection is nothing short of electric.
Even better, Yarros manages to write about it in a way that feels real and natural instead of flowery or gross. Her entire style hits that perfect balance and it feels like how people really talk and think. There is swearing, which makes sense, adults swear, but it’s not so much that it overpowers what’s being said. There’s talk about sex, but not in a fake way. When I was reading I thought “Yes, this is exactly how I talked about sex with my friends when I was this age”.
Yarros makes her characters very authentic and it makes for a great read. This is the story that we didn’t know we needed. It’s not just another romance fantasy, it’s a better romance fantasy.
Eagerly awaiting more from Rebecca Yarros
Fourth Wing is just the first book in an intended series. It left off with a nice twist and plenty of uncertainty for Violet and Xaden. The entire book hinted that things in Navarre weren’t quite right. Those in power are hiding things and the truth is being controlled by those telling the stories. After a few big reveals at the end, Violet has to rethink everything she’s ever been told.
I am very interested to see how the story plays out moving forward. It’s a romance so some things are going to happen eventually with her and Xaden, but I can just imagine the intensity of the dance until they get there. The political side of the story has more play and is more interesting because it has so many directions it can go. It’s the meat of the story with the romance adding some exciting spice to the mix. Write fast Yarros, write fast.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is available now! Will you be reading this novel? Let us know on Twitter or on The Cosmic Circus.