#WyrdandWonder Book Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Series: Book 1 of The Empyrean

Publisher: Red Tower Books (May 2, 2023)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros from Red Tower Books is the first “New Adult” book I’ve picked up in years, a category which, I’ve rediscovered, feels a lot like a label for Young Adult just with more mature themes. In other words, expect many of the same genre tropes but with a lot more sexy-times. Still, as the inaugural publication of Entangled Publishing’s new romantic fantasy imprint, I don’t think you can get a more perfect book that exemplifies everything the publisher is going for, featuring a world of dangerous adventure and action, a darkly sensuous romance, and a gritty protagonist who is determined to forge a stronger version of herself by testing her limits. Oh, and did I mention dragons?

The story follows 20-year-old Violet, an unassuming and petite apprentice scribe who had happily consigned herself to a life of research in Navarre’s sprawling archives. But her mother, the famed General Sorrengail of the kingdom’s elite dragon riders, has other plans for her youngest. She has declared that Violet will become a dragon rider as well or die trying—which, with the high mortality rates among new recruits, can be taken quite literally. Still, no one tells the formidable general “no”, let alone her own daughter. Reluctantly, Violet finds herself joining the hundreds of candidates entering the academy this year, all of them hoping to survive the grueling training and live long enough to bond with a dragon.

Despite coming from a military family, Violet immediately feels put of place and unprepared. Everyone expects great things from a Sorrengail, but among the other cadets, her small frame and brittle bone and joint condition quickly get her marked at weak—and weakness is not something to be tolerated. Dragons themselves prize strength and ferocity, so when a significant portion of candidates die each year, it’s seen as a necessary process to cull the unworthy, since only the best of the best should be bonded. While Violet may not have initially aspired to be a dragon rider, neither does she want to die, so she decides to use every skill, trick, and connection to her advantage.

Still, even that might not be enough when her very own family name is a strike against her. Violet’s mother was the general who snuffed out Navarre’s last rebellion, putting all the traitors to death. And although the rebels’ children were spared, they were also forced into military service. One of them is Xaden Riorson, the son of the separatist leader who has also risen among the ranks of the Riders Quadrant, becoming one of their best wingleaders. Because of his history though, he harbors a deep resentment towards the Sorrengail family, and by extension, towards our protagonist as well. But while Violet knows better than to get involved with Xaden, whom she is convinced is out to kill her, fate keeps pushing them onto the same path. Gradually, she begins to see a different side to her enemy, just as she also learns to develop a new passion for dragon riding.

First of all, the hype is real. I can see why a book like Fourth Wing would be immensely popular, especially amongst its target audience, even though it is by no means breaking any new ground. Both the fantasy academic setting and the hate-turns-to-love romance are tropes that have been done to death, for instance, not to mention dragons are a perennial favorite. That said, Yarros has somehow managed to take all these familiar ideas and present them in a fresh and entertaining way. Of course, I had a few gripes, mainly to do with some of the predictability in the plot and inconsistencies with the world-building, but taken as a whole, the author clearly knows what her readers crave, and she has written a book that delivers it in spades.

From the beginning, this is a story designed to sink its talons into you. Violet is an every-woman’s heroine—humble, likeable, but purposeful. Life has thrown her a curve ball, and her reaction is pragmatic: to come out of this ordeal alive, she will need to bond with a dragon, so that is exactly what she sets out to do. The trials she and the other rider candidates are put through are brutal, with the very real possibility of death lurking around every corner. It’s a scenario that reminds me a lot of Kettral training in the very excellent Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series by Brian Staveley—recruits are put through the wringer daily, and the competition for a dragon is cutthroat and fierce. Even though Violet is our main character and we know she will survive when many others won’t, the danger still feels very real and immediate.

In terms of relationships, Violet makes friends and alliances early on and encounters just as many who are hostile towards her, but I’m sure what everyone wants to hear about is the romance, which I have to say was expectedly cheesy—though to be fair, not eye-rollingly so. For example, a love triangle situation that feels shoehorned in early on gets shot down pretty quickly, thank goodness, but manufactured drama is still drama (gotta fill that unnecessary angst quota somehow). Predictably, Xaden is also the super hot, mysterious and brooding bad boy who comes out on top to steal Violet’s heart, but Yarros clearly has enough experience creating sexual tension and chemistry that it still made the forgone conclusion of them being together satisfying.

Then there was the aspect of world-building, likely a secondary component in the case of Fourth Wing, but it was still robust enough to impress the heck out of me. It’s the dragons who steal the show in this one, and while they don’t really come into play until after the first third of the novel, let’s just say it’s worth the wait. They’re highly intelligent, and as multiple characters from the book like to remind you frequently, it’s the dragon who chooses their rider and not the other way around (which is why it’s so nonsensical that Violet later on becomes the target of unbonded cadets hoping to kill her and steal her dragon…like her dragon won’t have a say in the matter if that happens? But I digress). The author also gives just enough context into the overall conflict in Navarre to keep readers focused on the dragon riders’ goal, which is to ward its borders against constant attack from a neighboring kingdom whose warriors are armed with their own unique mounts. It’s a relatively straightforward scenario which admittedly won’t hold up to much scrutiny or nitpicking, but like I said, for a book like this, it’s enough.

All in all, I had a really good time with Fourth Wing. While the book might not be presenting anything too new for regular readers of fantasy or romance, Rebecca Yarros nonetheless creates something refreshingly enjoyable by blending the two genres. It’s the immersive writing that truly elevates this novel above other similar offerings which I hope to get more of from the sequel, and needless to say I’m excited to continue the series.

26 Comments on “#WyrdandWonder Book Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros”

  1. Thank you for a thorough review, Mogsy:)). I’ve treated myself to the audiobook, so I’m looking forward to tucking into this one. I keep reminding myself when I get to the romantic nonsense that I’m not the target audience for this sub-genre, but I do hope the will they/won’t they stuff is dealt with without too much drama. There are some authors who handle this side of things with unerring skill in my opinion – Lindsay Buroker comes to mind – so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Rebecca Yorros falls into that category!


  2. Ooh nice! I keep hearing good things about this one so I naturally added it to my TBR pile! It sounds like my kind of read, if a little familiar to another series I read but with differences! Hoping to get around to this one sooner rather than later–the story of my life! Lol! Great review!


  3. I’m about halfway through and loving it. It definitely has a YA feel to it, but she’s such a good writer, and I’m loving the dragons so much, I don’t even mind those tropes😁

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent review! I heard the hype surrounding this book and I ended up preordering it (after my request for an e-galley was rejected). I’m glad this book lives up to the hype. And, thank you for mentioning that the audience is New Adult (it’s not always easy to tell). I can’t wait to read this book!


  5. Oh so they’re part of Entangled. I’ve been seeing this everywhere. And I hope they do well. While I’m not sure I want to read it I’, glad it tuned out well in spite of some of the predictability. Dragons done well are nothing to sneer at 🙂


    • Yep, so they’re going to have an imprint now that specializes in fantasy romance. I don’t always read this genre, but I hope they do well too. I like to read romance sometimes and it’s nice to have options!


  6. I’d never heard of New Adult before. Probably not something I’ll seek out but I’m always glad to hear about someone enjoying a book, especially with dragons. 🙂


  7. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 05/14/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  8. I agree with your regard of what New Adult is.
    I really wanted to like this one as much too (so it’s make sense for me to get a copy because I love the cover), but I stopped reading after the first chapter. I think I’ll read two more before deciding whether or not to DNF.


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