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‘Fourth Wing’ Review

Soaring Above Expectations
Photo courtesy of
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Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros was one of those books I just couldn’t put down, and I know many others felt the same way. I originally saw the book on TikTok, where the hype grew to the point that, with the second installment of The Empyrean series out, both books have been sold out nationwide. 

Fourth Wing is a fantasy book that focuses on the main character, Violet Sorrengail, as she enters Basgaith War College in Navarre. She has trained her whole life with her father to enter the Scribe Quadrant, those that record history. Instead, with her father’s passing, her mother now forces her to enter the Riders Quadrant where she trains to become a dragon rider. Violet enters unprepared, making her more vulnerable than her peers. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it is made for readers unfamiliar with the fantasy genre. This was Yarros’s goal when writing this work and was executed well with her use of modern language and great world-building. 

Often, it is hard to immerse yourself in a new world and figure out how to pronounce the names of people, places, and objects, and understand the systems of magic in place. The names in this book are relatively easy to sound out and Yarros does a great job of explaining the world. 

From page one, I was reeled into the world through Yarros’s tactics of having the protagonist think about the world to stay calm as she was performing difficult tasks. This was a strategy I have never seen implemented in a novel, it was very creative. 

From beginning to end, Fourth Wing was full of thrills and left me on the edge of my seat. Each stage of challenges she must face have readers wondering if she will survive. There are also other questions: will Violet bond with a dragon? Can Violet trust the friends she makes? Why are there increased attacks on Navarre? 

The novel is full of subplots that are as compelling as the main one and they all connect together and help build Violet’s character, as well as the other characters, too. I often found myself not knowing what would happen next, but when it was eventually revealed, I realized Yarros left multiple easter eggs. 

Many of the characters have very diverse backgrounds, including a nonbinary character, people of color, and a chronic illness. It is a breath of fresh air to see how much representation is in this book. I find that many books, especially fantasy, lack the diversity present in Fourth Wing.

Throughout the book, we know something is wrong with Violet; she has weak bones and often has to pop joints back into place. It isn’t disclosed in the book, but Yarros has said in interviews that Violet has the same disability as her and her sons: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which weakens your connective tissue. This adds yet another layer of representation to this text. 

Violet’s character is multidimensional; she is more than the circumstances she is placed in, more than her disability, and is generally very well-rounded and lovable. Yarros doesn’t make Violet a character that overcomes extreme odds every single time. Readers get to see relatable struggles as Violet fails and learns to adapt in order to succeed. Even when her choices are questionable, Violet supports them with strong logic given the circumstances she is placed under. 

The side characters add so much to this story and Yarros does a great job of keeping them present throughout the story. I hate when side characters are only brought into the scene to help develop the plot. Thankfully, Yarros doesn’t do this and instead develops these characters outside of our main characters. 

At the beginning of the story, readers see Violet’s family’s dynamics. With her father and brother dead, Violet’s sister, Mira, and her mother are her only family left. Violet’s mother is the commanding general of the dragon riders of Navarre, which places strain on their relationship. This fraught relationship is prevalent throughout the books and guides many of Violet’s decisions. 

From the very start, Violet’s motivation to enter the Rider’s Quadrant is not only intrinsic but extrinsic as she wants to prove to her mother that she is capable, despite her mother having little faith in her. 

Violet’s relationship with Mira is endearing as Mira quickly fills the big sister role of protecting Violet. Mira does everything in her power to prepare and support Violet as she enters the Riders Quadrant and while she is completing her first year. 

Despite her brother being dead, Yarros maintains his presence through a journal he wrote, creating another supportive sibling figure in Violet’s life. 

The friendships Violet forms throughout her first year at Basgiath are also portrayed well. All of these characters are fleshed out and none of them are present solely to serve Violet. For example, Violet’s best friend, Rhiannon, works towards earning a leadership position throughout the novel. Readers see her participating in class and excelling on the sparring mat. We also get to see her relationship with her dragon and just generally how she is developing as a person outside of her relationship with Violet. 

Another one of my favorite characters is Ridoc. He is one of those characters created for comedic relief, always having a sarcastic comment to add. But Yarros develops this in the best way and often has all of the characters banter together, which is much needed to diffuse the violence prevalent throughout their schooling. We also see Ridoc’s own development outside of being the sarcastic side character. 

Speaking of violence, there were many attempts to kill Violet, and a lot of death and murder attempts. This is one thing I did not like about the book. I felt that death was too normalized and there was a bit too much of it. I mean, they read a death roll every single morning at formation, which is a morning assembly of everyone in the Riders Quadrant. Not only that, but there were so many people who wanted to kill Violet, that it was sort of crazy. 

Throughout the book, Violet tries desperately to avoid murdering anyone and gets physically ill when she inevitably does. Other than this guilt for being a killer, there isn’t much criticism for the number of murders that occur daily, just periodic realizations at minimized class sizes. 

But this sheer amount of death never phased any of the characters, they just accepted it for what it was. I just felt that with that many deaths, there should have been a bit more focus on it. But at the same time, I do understand that it is a war college and they’re training in very dangerous situations. 

I’m a sucker for a good romance in fantasy novels, and I especially loved the enemies-to-lovers plot this book has. The lovers have a slow burn that Yarros plays out very well. Yarros also took a creative spin on the ‘close proximity’ trope. Their circumstances force them to care about each other and make readers want to root for them. 

I won’t go into the portrayal of dragons in the book for spoiler’s sake, but I will say this: the dragons are one of my favorite parts of Fourth Wing

The hype around this novel is completely warranted, Yarros creates an excellently compelling story that reels readers in. I recommend this book to every person who will take the time to listen to me! 

Overall, I rate this book a 9.5/10!

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