Rebecca Yarros’s Iron Flame is the second novel in the Empyrean series. Now, I’m not going to say that this is the best book ever written. If anything, this book is primarily vibes for me, as was Fourth Wing, but Rebecca Yarros addresses a lot of the concerns made about the first book in this one. Is that a good thing? You’ll have to decide for yourself, but I believe this one improved on the Empyrean world while still leaving plenty of space for growth in the rest of the series. As I mentioned in my review of Fourth Wing, I’m not sure how this will develop into a five-book series, but with each book ending on a cliff-hanger, there’s plenty of places it could go.
“The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson
Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.
Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.
Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.
But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.
Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.
- Published: November 7, 2023
- Page Count: 878 pages
- Genre: Epic Fantasy
Thoughts on Iron Flame
I’m going to avoid giving too many spoilers in my review of Iron Flame. So, if some of the things I mention are vague, that’s why. I think to start out with I’m going to break down what I loved about the book and what I didn’t love as much.
What I loved:
- We got redemptions. Many of the characters who were on the ‘naughty’ list redeemed themselves, even characters I didn’t think were going to get that arc. And none of them felt forced, they were natural in how they evolved. Though I can’t say I wasn’t surprised by one of them when it happened.
- Xaden finally shared his secrets. And boy does he have a lot, some of which can literally get him killed if they are revealed. So, I get why he doesn’t share those. While it did take a while for Xaden to share and open up with Violet. Initially, he states that he’ll tell her anything about him provided she asks the questions; however, when the other person doesn’t know there’s even a question to ask, how can you expect her not to get upset when it gets revealed out of no where. And man did I relate to that. Also, we learned why Xaden had that sudden shift towards Violet between her showing up at the beginning of Fourth Wing and why he never allows harm to come to her before he fell for her.
- Tairn and Andarna sass. I seriously love the sass between Violet’s dragons. And Andarna is now a teenager, so there’s even more sass when she’s awake/around. Though I can’t say there were too many stand out lines like there were in Fourth Wing, though ‘we don’t eat our allies’ is a good one.
- We got answers for many theories. Did Violet’s mom cause the rain when Violet was going to cross the parapet? What kind of dragon is Andarna when she’s big? Did Mira know about the wyvern? Did Violet’s mom have a hand in the attack during the Battle Wars? What’s Xaden’s second signet? How many times did Dain steal Violet’s memories? And so, many more. I’m not going to share the answers but we do each these.
What I didn’t love:
- There were a lot of slow and/or repetitive moments that could’ve been cut out. With the book being almost 900 pages, there were parts that could’ve been cut out. While day in the life were nice, we didn’t need as many of those especially when at times they felt like repeats. Not to mention, there was way too many fights between Violet and Xaden that were identical. I mean how many times did we seriously need “You didn’t tell” “You didn’t ask” arguments.
- How predictable the ward riddle was. Technically there are two, but only one of them ends up being fixed. And the solution was really predictable. Literally, Violet overlooks a simple math question to solve the riddle. ‘The breath of life of the six and one combined and set the stone ablaze in an iron flame.’ Like girl, you’re supposed to be smart. Do simple math: 6+1=7. Then again, it takes her ages to figure out what seven means, when the answer was right in front of her. I get, the knowledge was lost, but come on.
- The timing between events. Violet will ‘figure’ something out and state they need to do that immediately, then it’s six days (or other various amounts of times) before they actually do the thing she figured out. So, in a way the action feels all over the place as we have starts then stops with day-in-the-life thrown in between.
This book is broken into two parts.
The first focusing on the aftermath of Violet, Xaden, and the rest of their group returning ‘from the dead’. The leaders of the military have it out for their group as they know hid the truth about what happened and know the truth which they would do anything from being shared with the public (i.e. that the real enemy is venin and their wyverns). This section also features Violet and Xaden repairing trust with one another, and them struggling to see one another as Violet goes through her second year and Xaden is stationed a day’s flight away. As they have alternating schedules only allowing one of them to have leave for the single day they are together. So, the other can easily be pulled into an assignment to keep them apart.
We also get more of the fliers and learn how their college is very different from the riders. How they aren’t killed at any point during the initial years when trying to find their bonded pair. How they don’t fight to the death in sparring matches. How they are allowed to express their emotions when someone they know dies. It’s very different from the riders, and even Violet wonders if that way is better to some degree. And, with the arrival of new fliers and first-year riders, there are many new names and bonds to learn. Of course, that also means that a lot more people have to die so that their “spots” can be filled. Many of them people were from the Battle Wars with Violet, where Aetos targeted and assassinated half of those individuals. Secrets are only safe with those who cannot share them, after all.
The second part of the book focuses on the revelation and the growing horde of wyverns posed to wipe out the continent in a matter of months. Of course, we experience Violet having reoccurring nightmares that the sage warning her that she will turn for love.
Overall, I really liked Iron Flame. Does it have it’s faults? Of course, but what book doesn’t. If you enjoy the vibes of the first book, you’ll enjoy this book. Don’t come looking for this book being anything beyond a CW show with spice, because that’s what it is. Normally, I’m not a pure vibe girly but everyone has their guilty reads. This series is one of mine and I couldn’t put this book down. If I didn’t have work, I would’ve pulled an all-nighter to finish it that first day.
If you don’t enjoy miscommunication, jealousy, and insecurity tropes, or stories that aren’t concise, this novel isn’t for you. Especially if you prefer a well-paced plot to entertaining vibes. Also, the ending is extremely similar to Fourth Wing. A lot happens in a short amount of time, and the story concludes on a major cliffhanger.
After everything Violet and Xaden have gone through, I truly want the best for them. However, I have no idea how the next book is going to play out with what happened at the end of the book. Because I’m not sure who the BBEG (big bad evil guy) is going to end up being.
So, what do I rate Iron Flame? I want to give this the same score I gave Fourth Wing, but I also know on further reflection I rated that one way too high. And while I think Iron Flame was good, I don’t think it’s as good as the first book. The plot was a little too all over the place. So, I’m going to give this one a 4.25 star rating. My enjoyment of the book’s vibes are what’s giving it a high rating, not the writing, dialogue, or plot. Also, I know there was something going on with the author regarding world events, but honestly I have no idea what those are, and I’m rating this book completely separate from all that.
If you’ve read Iron Flame what did you think of it? Got any theories for the rest of the series? I would love to hear them in the comments.
Join the Howl of the Pack today by subscribing! To stay updated on everything I’m doing, follow me on Twitter as that’s where I post quick updates. Or join our Discord server. Also, if you like this post, let me know in the comment section, it really helps me figure out what content you guys appreciate. Don’t be shy I would love to hear from you!