Last November Rebecca Yarros introduced us to Violet Sorrengail and the dragons of Navarre with her hit novel Fourth Wing. This November, she takes us back there as Violet and Xaden try to manage having a real relationship while leading a revolution and finding a way to destroy the venin that are coming to destroy everyone. All that and a teenage dragon. So strap in like Violet on Tairn and get ready for a wild ride in Rebecca Yarros’s latest novel in the Empyrean series, Iron Flame.
[Warning: My review of this book contains some spoilers!]
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A whole new world in the aftermath of Fourth Wing
Fourth Wing ended with Violet’s whole world turned upside down. First, she is betrayed by her best friend. That betrayal leads her, Xaden, and their war games group to be purposely sent on a suicide mission. During that attack, she comes face to face with deadly creatures that shouldn’t exist. Venin and the wyvern they create kill some of her friends and nearly kill her. In fact, the only reason she lived is because Xaden rushed her to the base of the revolution to be healed.
She lives thanks to the very talented mender that they have. Who also happens to be her brother. Her supposedly dead brother. So in the course of a few days, she learns that everything she’s ever been taught about her country is a lie, dangerous mythical creatures are real, enemies are allies, and her dead brother is alive. Everything has changed.
Iron Flame picks up right where Fourth Wing left off. Violet is reeling from all the discoveries but a decision has to be made. Either the group of riders that were sent off to die return to Basgaith to protect the remaining marked riders, or they stay with the revolution and open up hostilities with Navarre. They decide to return in the hopes of keeping the revolution secret for a little bit longer but it isn’t easy.
Violet is persecuted by a new school head, Varrish. He’s a little too interested in Andarna. But Andarna is in a deep sleep after the battle at Resson and can’t be disturbed. When Violet tries to shield Andarna from Varrish his punishments are beyond sadistic. If Andarna doesn’t recover soon he just might kill Violet to try and reach her.
And Violet is all alone in her fight with Varrish. Xaden graduated when they returned and was assigned to a faraway outpost. They only get to see each other for a few hours each week, and that’s only because Tairn and Sgaeyl are a mated pair that must see each other. And they spend most of that time fighting as Violet grapples with the scope of Xaden’s secrets.
In addition, she’s pulling away from her friends because she’s afraid of them being caught up in her drama and getting hurt. Plus she’s struggling with PTSD from the battle at Resson. Violet needs to find a way to trust the people who care about her if she has any chance of surviving her second year.
Iron Flame gives Violet some new problems
Fourth Wing was all about Violet proving she really was tough enough to be a rider. Sure, she uses her brain too, if she didn’t she’d have never made it. But she spends all her time thinking about getting physically better. In Iron Flame she still has to fight and be strong, but it’s her brain that 100% saves the day. It looks bad for the entire continent as the Venin attack at the heart of Navarre. But thanks to some astute observations, dogged determination, and deductive reasoning, Violet comes to a very important realization just in time. This doesn’t mean that everything turns out sunshine and lollipops but it does save countless innocents and give them time to regroup before the inevitable next battle.
On a more personal level, Violet has to learn to trust. Her experience so far with Xaden has left her on very shaky ground trust-wise. And having her brother lie for so long about being dead. And her mother (and everyone in power in Navarre) lying about what was really happening outside their borders has done a number on Violet. She is afraid to trust anyone, even her own judgments. She spends most of Iron Flame feeling inferior and uncertain because of it.
Tairn tries to reinstill her confidence in his way but it doesn’t work. It’s something she has to find for herself. Learning to trust her friends is a different but related problem. As she slowly begins to trust her squad with her secrets we see her become stronger. When she finally starts to trust herself she becomes powerful once again. Now she just has to decide if she can ever trust Xaden again, or if maybe animal attraction is all they have left.
Another intensely hot adventure from Rebecca Yarros
Fourth Wing had so much chemistry between Violet and Xaden that I contemplated keeping it in the freezer before it could combust. Iron Flame has some of that same heat, but there’s a lot less of it. Violet and Xaden don’t get a lot of time together at first. And even once they do get more time, Violet is so caught up on her trust issues that it kills a lot of the heat. It might not be as sexy to read, but it is more real.
Just like in a real relationship Violet and Xaden move past the initial heat of chemistry and have to find out if anything real can be built. Violet isn’t sure it can be and she’s trying to decide if she can accept a relationship based on need instead of love. Xaden on the other hand loves her unconditionally and is willing to accept anything she will give. Watching them try to find a balance and being unsure if they’ll make it was exciting and frustrating at the same time. And I loved every minute of it. Especially when they managed to get it together and that same sizzling heat from Fourth Wing came blasting through the page again.
Like Xaden’s feelings for Violet, I love this series. The evolution from a hot love story to a growing relationship saga is difficult to accomplish but I think that Yarros manages it nicely. Following Violet as she unravels Navarre’s secrets is exhilarating. Truth is the most important thing to Violet, which is why trust is so important to her and why trust is so central to Iron Flame.
If you’ve already read Fourth Wing then make sure to settle down with Iron Flame and enjoy yourself. If you didn’t read Fourth Wing, what’s wrong with you? Go read them both, start today. You’ll thank me.
My Rating: 10/10
Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros is available now. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on reading this novel!
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