My Thoughts on Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, Book 1) by Rebecca Yarros

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is the first book in the Empyrean series. I learned about this book through TikTok and while I made a vow not to start any more unfinished book series, I didn’t want to risk spoilers and was curious about this story. And let’s just say I was blown away by this story. It is classified as romantic fantasy, but it is an epic fantasy at that. I seriously loved this book as I couldn’t put it now. Literally, I pulled an all-nighter to finish it. I’m going to be giving my thoughts with some light spoilers, but quick review: this is seriously one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I found little fault with it and I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.


Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from New York Times 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.

Book Details

  • Published: May 2, 2023
  • Page Count: 528 pages
  • Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Thoughts on Fourth Wing

There will be some spoilers, but I’m not going to be sharing anything that happens in the last quarter of the book. Or most of the major plot twists. So, if you want to read this book for yourself, you can without having the main juicy details ruined for you.

With that being said, even though I tried to go into this book completely spoiler free, there were a few things I knew in advance. The first being that there were two dragons in particular: one black and one gold. And that at one point, the small golden dragon was strapped to black one. Most of my spoilers came from drawings of those two dragons together, and that was enough to hook me into breaking my vow on starting a unfinished series. Oh, and that Xaden was the love interest not Dain, and that several individuals were comparing Dain to Tamlin from A Court of Thorns and Roses. Meaning I kind of was rooting against Dain from the start, but also the main character is blown away by Xaden from the straight, so it’s not really a secret that she’ll end up with him. It’s more a matter of how are they going to bridge the gap between them. Since his father killed her brother, and her mother killed his father.

There are a lot of characters and dragons to keep track of in this book (with many of them dying), and a lot of action packed into the story. But I never felt like I was super behind in the way of world building as it’s dished out throughout the tale, and somewhat avoids info dumping. Some of it comes across like reading a textbook on the world, but that’s because the main character is reciting it to calm her nerves during intense moments. So, we get to learn about certain elements while in the midst of action like facts about the kingdom, types of dragons, and more.

As the book description for Fourth Wing says, Violet was trained to be a scribe. Basically, this world’s version of a historian, so she has spent her entire time memorizing every detail imaginable. But her mom decides she’s going to be a rider, something no one believes she can do as Violet gets injured frequently. She’s small and fragile, but she has tenacity, cunning, and compassionate. Not to mention insanely stubborn, so despite her best friend (Dain) trying numerous times to smuggle her over to the scribes she sticks through training.

Immediately after we learn that Xaden has a navy blue dragon, I knew Violet was going to end up with the black one and/or the golden one. I just wasn’t sure how that was going to work out. If she ended up with the golden one, I thought the black one was going to tag along to make sure the golden one stayed safe as I knew it was protective of that dragon. And I was kind of right. Violet ends up defending the golden one (Andarna) when several cadets attempt to kill the smallest dragon, which Xaden ends up witnessing though he can’t interfere. However, his dragon (Sgaeyl) ends up calling on her mate… you guessed it, the black dragon (Tairn) and he ends up bonding with Violet due to her protecting Andarna. Not only does he bond to Violet, but Andarna does as well. But due to the bond with Tairn, Violet ends up linked with Xaden and Sgaeyl as well. So, if one of the pairs dies, the other will as well. Forcing the two to team up, and Xaden to become protective over Violet.

Later, we learn that while we knew Andarna is a feathertail, that actually means she’s still a child/hatchling. She’s literally two years old. So, she’s not supposed to bond with anyone yet, let alone leave the Vale. The area dragons come from. Which is why no one has seen a feathertail in over a hundred years. Since children aren’t allowed to leave the Vale. But Andarna is on that border where she’s allowed to leave, and after hearing about Violet was curious enough to check her out. Due to the fact, Andarna is still a hatchling, she can directly pass her powers to her rider, though we’re warned they are temporary as Andarna is still growing and it will likely change later.

While the powers with Andarna are unique, she’s not the only one with powers. Riders through channeling powers of their dragon, can wield a signet. Meaning they have a unique power of their own:

  • Xaden can manipulate shadows.
  • Dain can read memories of individuals through touch.
  • Mira (Violet’s sister) can make wards.
  • Brennan (Violet’s brother) is a mender (can heal pretty much anything).
  • Violet through Tairn can wield lightning and temporarily through Andarna stop time.

I could go into more as there are countless more pairings, but I’m not getting into that here. But I did find it interesting to see how the abilities play out, as each is unique to the rider not the dragon. Xaden keeps secrets, so shadows help him with that. Dain needs to know everything, so he has the ability to see memories. Mira needs to protect, so she can ward. And so on and so forth. Violet on the other hand is a balance in nature. She gets an insanely powerful ability, but has limits due to her body. And it’s linked to strong emotions.

The rest of the book focuses on Violet learning how to use her ability, fly on her dragon, and learn how to fight without poisoning her opponents beforehand. Not only that but we learn more about the discrimination of the marked riders. A group of children who were marked due to their parents rebelling against the government. Though Violet doesn’t know exactly why they rebelled. Only that there was a disagreement that resulted in all the children of those parents being forced into the rider quadarant when they came of age. And that her brother was killed during the attack and her dragon’s previous rider had attempted to bring her brother back from the dead but died attempting to use that much power. We also learn that their commanders and professors aren’t sharing the full scale of the attacks happening near the borders after Violet sees one of the missive that isn’t reported on during the Battle Brief.

So, there are cracks in the foundation of the military/government. Something involving the marked riders, but I didn’t know to what regard. If they were trying to restart the rebellion, or if there was something else going on. Not to mention, we didn’t know what the rebellion was about in the first place as Violet didn’t know the whole truth. After getting a message from her father in a book of fables, I kind of guessed where it was going. But I still was surprised by how those events played out. And I’m curious as all hell what’s going to come in the next book.

I don’t give out 5 stars easily. I almost never do. I think the highest in the last few years was a 4.5. With that being said there’s still a few things I would pick apart with this book that prevent me from giving that rating. However, I would give this a 4.5 star rating on my scale.

Some parts of the book were slow and while the info dumping is done in a way that’s not all at once, it’s still has those moments. Even if it’s written off as times as classes the character is taking or her trying to ground herself by reciting random facts about her country and its history. Not to mention, there were elements to Violet and Xaden where it was trying to play into tropes but never fully committed to any of them. Not to mention, Xaden in some ways was reduced down to a love interest and lost his complexity. He went from actively stating he wanted her dead to protecting her on a dime then claiming he fell for her the moment he saw her. No dude. In some ways, I understand the sudden shift. His life became dependent on hers and his feelings were no doubt influenced by the mate bond between their dragons (even if both of them deny it). But it was very insta-love the moment she was bonded to Tairn. Like Violet immediately went from fearing Xaden to defending him, and while yes he did things to protect her, she doesn’t know him. He doesn’t open up to her about anything, but the few things she does she knows damn well to keep to herself. However, she still lets herself be close with Dain who proves time and time again he will follow the letter of the law and doesn’t consider any grey areas. Even if it comes to Violet’s protection, and he doesn’t believe her the majority of the time on things even when she’s telling the truth. So, how things play out between them isn’t a surprise. And with the amount of foreshadowing, the ending of the first book can be a bit predictable. Though it was still insanely good.

So, yeah, Fourth Wing is 4.5 stars from me. Which is pretty much as close to a 5 star as I ever give.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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