Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is the flaming hot fantasy romance book set at a war college with magical dragons, and it has absolutely taken the book world by storm. This post shares a review and summary of Fourth Wing to help you decide whether to read it or to assist you during or after reading it.
I don’t think I’ve seen anything like the Fourth Wing phenomenon since Harry Potter. The first edition actually sold out everywhere, and copies are being scalped for hundreds and thousands of dollars on re-sale sites! The praise was also been really widespread, including my own, as I normally don’t read fantasy and/or spicy romance, and I absolutely loved this book.
When it comes to Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, we have a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right into a full Fourth Wing synopsis and review, based on my detailed highlights and notes of this book. There are some spoilers in my Fourth Wing plot summary, and I have done my best to mark them accordingly.
Fourth Wing Summary
The general premise (no spoilers in this part):
In Fourth Wing, Violet Sorrengail is a 20-year-old resident of the fictional land of Navarre, and she’s about to enter Basgiath War College in the Scribe Quadrant, like her father, studying books and history. But, her mother, the Commanding General, has other plans and orders her to seek entry into the elite (dragon) Riders Quadrant, which is extremely dangerous and deadly.
In fact, as the first sentence of Fourth Wing warns, the day on which entry is sought (Conscription Day) is the deadliest. And even if she makes it through, as her rigid mother Lilith, confident older sister Mira, and strategic older brother Brennan did, only a fraction will live to graduate.
A bit of background about this fantasy world (no spoilers in this part):
This book takes place on one fictional Continent with two kingdoms. These kingdoms were at war for 400 years.
Navarre is the larger kingdom, which is mountainous and produces ore, timber, deer, and elk.
Basgiath War College is in Navarre. There are Four Quadrants: Riders, Healers, Scribes, and Infantry. There are three squads in each section (Flame, Claw, Tail), and three sections in each of the four wings. The highest ranks in the quadrant are wingleader and section leader, which are generally held by the most elite third-year students, but exceptional second-years can also rise in the rankings.
Everyone else is ranked as a cadet before Threshing (always October 1), which is when the dragons choose a human rider with whom they bond.
Dragons speak only with their bonded riders, and the bond creates both a relic, a magical symbol of honor and power that marks the rider’s skin, and a signet, or special power in the humans, like mind reading or manipulating metal: “The stronger the bond and the more powerful the dragon, the stronger the signet. A signet is a combination of our power with your own ability to channel. It reflects who you are at the core of your being[.]”
In the kingdom of Navarre, Tyrrendor is the largest province, and it is the only province to attempt secession 627 years later. After this rebellion, the officers were executed and their 107 innocent children were marked with the rebellion relic by the dragon who carried out this order of the King, and conscripted into the Riders Quadrant to either prove their loyalty or show their service through their death.
Poromiel is the smaller of the two kingdoms in the Continent, consisting of arable plains and marshlands, textiles, fields of grain, and gems. Gryphons from Poromiel (half-lion, half-eagle creatures that don’t tolerate altitude)also channel powers to riders (called fliers), like dragons do.
The two Kingdoms of Navarre and Poromiel are bound by the Trade Agreement of Resson, signed 200 years prior to the time of Fourth Wing. Per this Agreement, trades are made in Poromiel four times a year at the Athebyne outpost on the border of Krovla and Tyrrendor (the South central part of The Continent).
Also important to know about are wyvern — folklore. They are similar to (but bigger than) dragons. They have “two feet instead of four, a mane of razor-sharp feathers streaking down their necks, and a taste for humans.”
Wyverns’ riders are called venin, who are creepy former humans with distended red veins spidering around their red eyes. “Fables say venin created [wyvern] to compete with dragons and, instead of channeling from them, channel power into them.” When a venin is killed, all of the wyvern it created are also killed.
It’s Conscription Day, and Violet will now attempt entry into the Riders Quadrant, not the Scribe Quadrant for which she was prepared. Violet herself is pale, petite, and frail, with silver-tipped hair. She has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (this is implied but the author has confirmed it), which is a connective tissue disorder, so she’ll have to fight extra hard not just to succeed, but also to survive.
First, the conscripts must survive walking across a parapet (a bridge), on which many of them die. There, Violet befriends new cadets like Rhiannon Mathias, and she also has her long-time friend, Dain Aetos, to look after her. Dain is a second-year leader whose father is an advisor to Violet’s mother.
However, many other people, like the powerful Wingleader Xaden Riorson, who’s basically described as tall, dark, and handsome, have it out for her, and revenge may be deadly. He, and many of the others, are only there because of the fallout from their parents’ rebellion, after which Violet’s mother executed them.
As it turns out, Xaden’s father also played a part in the death of Violet’s brother. So, Violet and Xaden definitely start things off as enemies.
Without giving too much away about what occurs after Conscription Day, I’ll generally note that what follows are deadly physical challenges, like the Gauntlet, a vertical obstacle course guarding the Vale (where the dragons live), designed to test the cadets’ balance, strength, and agility.
Thereafter, of course, there’s also Threshing (when the dragons choose a human rider with whom they bond. when the dragons choose a human rider with whom they bond), tactical training like Battle Brief, and preparation for and participation in Squad Battle.
After Threshing, things change between Violet and Xaden, as they are forced to bond due to unexpected circumstances. As their bond grows, so does their romance slowly burn until the spark fully ignites in magically steamy ways. However, Xaden’s graduation day is approaching, and it’s unclear where he will be sent next.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming more and more clear that all may not be what it seems (or what Violet has been told) and attacks are on the rise at the border…
Fourth Wing Ending Explained
There was an attack in which people died, and Xaden is called to a mission beyond the wards that protect them. He wants to bring Violet because of the extremely strong mated bond his dragon, Sgaeyl, shares with hers, Tairn. Liam also joins them with his dragon, Deigh.
Gryphon riders attack Violet, and it soon appears Xaden has been trading with them. It seems everyone is really a traitor.
Further, venin attacked a village and are heading towards them. They want material that powers the wards and keeps everyone safe. Hence, they are the real enemy.
Violet is angry, but Xaden makes up with her. However, he realizes Dain has been reading Violet’s memories (his signet) and is going to tell his father about Xaden’s activity.
It’s now clear that they’ve been sent past the wards to die. Xaden is left with a choice to abandon either the village under attack or his command. They battle the venin, and both Liam and Deigh sadly and tragically die. Tairn is attacked, and Violet is stabbed as she and Xaden kill the venin.
Xaden realizes Violet was poisoned, and she remains unconscious for three days. When she awakens, she finds herself in Aretia, which was burned to the ground after the rebellion, but is being rebuilt. Violet’s brother Brennan walks in and welcomes her to the rebellion.
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Fourth Wing Review (No Spoilers)
“Fourth Wing is an absolutely wildly bestselling phenomenon that truly has it all, from an immersive (yet easy-to-understand) fantasy world to a cutthroat academic environment, the ever-looming threat of war and death, a complex and loveable heroine, a complicated family, deep friendships, a believable enemies-to-lovers trope, a swoon-worthy hero, shocking plot twists, magic, dragons, and even more.”
Is Fourth Wing worth the hype?
The answer to that penultimate question is a resounding yes. Fourth Wing is an absolutely wildly bestselling phenomenon that truly has it all, from an immersive (yet easy-to-understand) fantasy world to a cutthroat academic environment, the ever-looming threat of war and death, a complex and loveable heroine, a complicated family, deep friendships, a believable enemies-to-lovers trope, a swoon-worthy hero, shocking plot twists, magic, dragons, and even more.
Let’s talk about some of the pros of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros in more detail. First, I have to say that I am neither a fantasy reader nor a spicy romance reader. I only decided to pick it up after seeing other readers like me (readers of the classics and literary fiction) rave about it. It gave me so much “fear of missing out” especially since I was late to the Harry Potter party!
Well, I am SO GLAD I got in on the ground floor of the Empyrean series. This is just one of those books that really hits every nail on the head, making it so widely readable. I think it’s because Yarros seems to have channeled so much of herself into this storyline. (She’s a lover of dragons and history, and she has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, like Violet.)
I’m usually hesitant to read fantasy because I’m very logical, so made-up worlds and words can be especially difficult for me to grasp. But, I found Fourth Wing to be fairly easy overall to grasp. It may be because it’s written more like a Young Adult novel and, thus, is easier to read.
And, I’m usually hesitant to read romance because I find spiciness to come across as cheesy and unrealistic. (Again, I’m very logical.) But, Fourth Wing is only spicy in two chapters and the romance really builds to a place where it feels more realistic than two people just tearing each other’s clothes off.
The “enemies to lovers” trope is also more believable than usual, as both Violet’s and Xaden’s families have suffered a tragic loss at the hands of the other’s family. There may be nothing more likely to create an enemy than that. Further, there was a believable reason why they were forced to come together.
Lastly, while Xaden is a bit of a caricature, Violet is extremely complex and likable. It’s hard not to root for her finding love and survival, amidst her circumstances. It’s nice to see her brain and her courage matter more than her physical strength.
For the more literary readers, Fourth Wing also offers a very complicated family, lots of references to books, and a really meaningful overarching theme that history may not be what it seems, or what has been told and re-told by those in power over time. I’m really excited to see where this theme heads next.
And for ALL types of readers, Fourth Wing has constant life-or-death suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat, a cast of characters (including dragons) with colorful personalities, magic that feels utterly escapist, a few shocking plot twists, and an absolutely epic ending that leaves you wanting more.
What more can I say?! I give it five out of five stars and rate it one of the best books of 2023, in my humble opinion.
But because no book is perfect, I wanted to round out my review of Fourth Wing by noting a few things that didn’t work for me.
First, I didn’t like how the reader was led to believe there would be a love triangle trope when there really wasn’t. I wish we knew from the beginning that Dain was just a friend because it felt distracting to think he was more than a friend, only to have him be just a friend after all.
I’ll also say that, while the fantasy world was generally easy to understand, the sheer volume of characters named was also distracting. It seems there were dozens who were mentioned once, then never again, so I never knew which ones I had to try my best to remember versus which ones we’d never hear of again.
The volume of “F words” was also a bit distracting to me personally. I really wished there was a bit less of both that and the steamy romance chapters so that more teens could read it.
And, while I loved Violet’s disability representation, I also found it to be unrealistic at times as it was written. I wanted more background and specific details as to how she was able to cope and overcome her physical challenges. Since she is smart and courageous, I thought we could have seen more of this sprinkled throughout, as we did in some parts.
Lastly, I also wish we learned much more about the enemy and the history behind what has brought them to such a fierce battle. But, I also think we will likely learn a lot more about that in the coming books.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is the first book in a series of fantasy romance books about a war college where some students become dragon riders and obtain magical powers. Its tropes are enemies to lovers and forced proximity. And, its overarching theme is how storytelling affects history.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is steamy in only two of thirty-nine chapters: thirty and thirty-two. The two spicy chapters depict open-door romance scenes with graphic sexual content.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros became popular because it made fantasy reading easy and fun for a broad audience. Readers especially love how the book incorporates talking dragons, magic, and an enemies-to-lovers romance trope.
Yes. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros ends with an extremely shocking plot twist that is also a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting to learn more in the sequel.
Yes. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros has some minor LGBTQ storylines, but they are not a major part of the plot.
In Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, Violet has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is a five-star read, one of my favorite books of 2023, AND a massively bestselling phenomenon for many great reasons. It truly has it all, from an immersive (yet easy-to-understand) fantasy world to a cutthroat academic environment, the ever-looming threat of war and death, a complex and loveable heroine, a complicated family, deep friendships, a believable enemies-to-lovers trope, a swoonworthy hero, shocking plot twists, magic, dragons, and even more.
I hope you found my Fourth Wing summary and review helpful to your own magical reading experience.
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