Monday, October 23, 2023

All Things Halloween Review of Fourth Wing

Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, # 1)

By: Rebecca Yarros

Publication: May 2, 2023

528 pages

Genre: New Adult, Fantasy, Dragon

Source: Personal Kindle Library

( Goodreads | Amazon )

*Note: The above link to Amazon is an affiliate links. Affiliate links support giveaways for Somewhere Only We Know readers.

Goodreads description--Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

One Sunday, I was visiting blogs, which I don't get to do very often, and stumbled upon one that caught my eye. I can't remember the exact wording, but the blogger stated they didn't enjoy a book that was getting a ton of buzz and love. However she worded her comments piqued my interest, so I looked up the book on Goodreads and decided almost instantly that it sounded like something I would like. I added it to my wish list, and Husband bought it for me for my birthday. I still put off reading it for a while because I needed to focus on review books first. I finally found time to pick it up, and I have to say that I didn't want to put Fourth Wing down. We never have lazy days where we just let the kids watch TV all day, but Husband wasn't feeling well, it was 101 degrees outside, and I was enthralled. So I read every chance I got that first day and read about 80% by midnight. I needed to sleep because I knew that was too much to finish at a reasonable time for me. And I finished the other 20% the next day.

Fourth Wing has everything you could want from the first release in a new fantasy series. You have a flawed leading character--Violet is fragile. Her bones break easily, her joints and ligaments are weak as well. She is short. And generally not physically strong. She is, however, brilliantly intelligent. She spent her entire life training to go to the scribe quadrant. But her mother, one of the nation's top military leaders, decrees that Violet will enter the dragon rider's quadrant instead.

The rider's quadrant is a vicious school of tests and challenges that will end with more cadets dead than alive. Often times the tests kill the cadets. Just as often, the other cadets will do the killing. And what deaths remain are likely from the dragons themselves! Unique schools like this are why series like Harry Potter, Vampire Academy, Divergent, Red Rising, and even Throne of Glass have been wildly popular and universally loved.

And I mean dragons! The appeal of these mythological creatures is fascinating. Perhaps because they're imaginary, we love the different iterations of dragons throughout various literature and media. Fourth Wing's dragons are some of the best I've come across, from the varieties and their discerning qualities to their ability and willingness to bond to humans. Plus, the bond enables a psychic connection with their riders. These dragons are so well done. I applaud Rebecca Yarros for her imagination and vivid depictions in bringing them all to life.

The friends are an interesting variety as well. There are friendships that form almost instantly, those that have spanned entire lifetimes, those that form unexpectedly, and even ones that form begrudgingly. The personalities differ as much as the dragons and the abilities they bestow upon their riders. Violet's older sister, Mira, warns her against forming friendships in the rider's quadrant. Allies are important, but friendship can often be a liability. Plus, when cadets are dying more frequently than surviving, forming friendships means saying goodbye to people who have shared pieces of their hearts with you and vice versa. But Violet doesn't survive the rider's quadrant by following the path others have established. She must survive by her own instincts and her own journey through the tests and trials.

Speaking of abilities, Rebecca Yarros also did an excellent job creating a wide range of abilities since there are so many different characters. None of the signets were too similar to each other. And I loved the intrigue of wondering what new talent would be gifted to the next cadet. She even forms opposite sides of a coin without it appearing to be mirror talents.

The enemies were fierce. We start off with Violet being warned by her sister Mira to steer clear of Xaden Riorson because he will kill her as soon as he gets the chance as revenge for what her mother did to his father in executing the king's justice for his father's rebellion. Violet meets him almost immediately. Nearly the same time, a brutal new cadet sets his sights on her as an easy target to weed out the weak links. Only Violet embarrasses the new cadet, and he swears revenge that he will kill her. And he's not the only person she ticks off during her first year. Xaden is hard to read. He forces Violet into his wing since he's a wingleader. He bounces back and forth between giving her advice that will help her survive, ignoring her completely, and sending others to her in ways that could be construed either for or against her.

Of course, the driving questions are about whether Violet will survive each challenge she's faced with. If she does, will a dragon want to bond with her? At least until you get to a point where you have answers to these questions, and then you want to know what will happen next. I can't reveal those questions to you as they'd be spoilers.

Favorite quotes:

-"They choose for reasons they don't see fit to share with us." He pushes off his desk. "And not all strength is physical, Violet."

-You are not attracted to toxic men, I remind myself...

I had to laugh at that one.

-"One does not live a century without being well aware of the space one takes up."

-"Justice is not always merciful."

-"I know you just want to keep me safe,...,"I whisper. "But keeping me safe is also keeping me from growing, too."

-"I will hate you for this." "Yeah." He nods, a flash of pure regret crossing his face as he draws away. "I can live with that."

-"Andarna is my favorite."

-"You can ride me when the flesh rots off my bones, wingleader."

-"Whatever you feel is natural. Allow yourself to feel it, but then let it go."

-"...if we let fear kill whatever this is between us, then we don't deserve it."

-"One generation to change the text. One generation to choose to teach that text. The next grows, and the lie becomes history."

I was so disheartened when I finished Fourth Wing and went to go purchase Iron Flame only to find that it wasn't released yet. The unique school setting where the cadets die more often than survive. The friends. The enemies. The romance. The DRAGONS. All of it was exactly what I look for in a series. Now, I will say that once the characters leave the setting of the school and undoubtedly have to face the corrupt government, things have the potential to go south like series such as Divergent and The Hunger Games. We shall see if The Empyrean series can survive the traps that other series before it fell into or will it thrive similar to series like Red Rising and Throne of Glass. That being said, Fourth Wing gets 4.5 Stars. Have you read Fourth Wing? What did you think? Let me know!

This review is part of my All Things Halloween event--a month of fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, mystery/thriller, etc reviews and books.

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