Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Fantasy/Romantasy

Available On: Amazon

Fourth Wing, Rebecca Yarros’s fantastic foray into fantasy literature, is an enthralling blend of high fantasy and romance, set in a world where dragons and magical abilities intertwine with human struggles and emotions. Yarros’s narrative is refreshing in its modern twist on a high fantasy setting. While some may fault it for not being perfectly phrased, I personally loved the fact it had a very down-to-earth, real-world tone, resplendent with modern colloquialisms and swearing. Yes, this occasionally interferes with your suspension of disbelief, as there are the odd word choices or phrases that don’t actually make any sense in the setting. But, overall, I’m quite happy to overlook that in order to enjoy Yarros’ straightforward yet highly imaginative storytelling and wonderful character development.

At the heart of the novel is the fiery and resilient Violet Sorrengail, soon nicknamed ‘Violence’ by the wonderful Xaden (who I will admit, is a huge reason this book is so enjoyable). Violet is a character whose depth and complexity are as compelling as they are relatable. Her journey through a world of magic, conflict, and dragons is an exhilarating ride of emotions, from heart-wrenching moments to scenes brimming with fierce determination and strength. The romance between Violet and the enigmatic Xaden adds a layer of steamy tension, providing a delicious contrast to the novel’s darker themes.

The book’s magic system is ambitious in its integration of supernatural elements, and at times is a bit like someone blended X-Men within a magical world akin to Harry Potter. It sometimes blurs the traditional lines of fantasy. However, this bold blending of genres adds a unique flavour to the narrative, making it stand out in the crowded field of fantasy literature. 

As Violet attends Basgiath War College, we get to enjoy a dark academia, magical academy setting, but aged up. This isn’t eleven year olds starting school and struggling through puberty. This is twenty somethings facing intense training and preparing for war in a very real, very high stakes way. They act as you would expect individuals their age to act; they swoon over crushes, swear over mistakes, fight over insults, and struggle to find their place in the world. They’re all trying to hold their own, and not only compete, but survive. 

I’m not a huge fan of fantasy – I enjoy reading it, but I’m much more of a romance reader, and lean hard towards Romantasy when I am reading fantasy. As a result, I really enjoyed Fourth Wing, precisely because it’s NOT your average fantasy. There’s a heavy, heavy dose of spicy romance, and the world building is a lot more relatable than the likes of, say Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time.

The dragons in Fourth Wing are also quite definitely a highlight. Not mere background elements; they are characters in their own right, with distinct personalities that add richness to the story. The relationship between dragons and their riders is explored with depth and emotion, adding a poignant dimension to the narrative.

Fourth Wing captivates every step of the way with its fast-paced plot, full of unexpected twists and turns. The book is a rollercoaster of action, emotion, and magic, ensuring that readers are hooked from the first page to the last. Yarros’s skillful storytelling ensures that the novel’s world and characters linger in the mind long after the final page is turned.

Overall, Fourth Wing is a dazzling entry into the realm of fantasy romance. Its blend of a unique magic system, dynamic characters, and a gripping narrative makes it a must-read for fans of the genre. Yarros has crafted a world that is both imaginative and immersive, guaranteeing readers an unforgettable journey.

What Genre Is Fourth Wing?

Rebecca Yarros’ Fourth Wing is categorised primarily as a fantasy romance novel, or Romantasy. It’s the first book in The Empyrean series and was first published in 2023, with the next book, Iron Flame, releasing in November of that year. The story is set in a brutal and competitive world of a military college for dragon riders, blending elements of high fantasy with intense action and a very strong romantic storyline. The novel is perfect for fans of adult fantasy romance with heartstopping action, particularly those who don’t have the patience for more traditional high fantasy.

How Spicy Is Fourth Wing?

Spice Rating: 🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️

Given the hype surrounding Fourth Wing I will admit I was mildly disappointed by the level of spice present in the book. Don’t get me wrong – it’s plenty spicy. There’s a lot of sexual tension throughout the book and several very graphic, very steamy, very well written sex scenes. BUT I’ve read far spicier, and given it’s been touted as ‘Spicy AF’ I was expecting more.

I’d give it a four on the spice scale, but it[‘s nowhere near a five (not IMO at least!). This is very likely a matter of perspective; it’s a hell of a lot spicier than a lot of books, and particularly books written about late teen/twenty something characters. I suspect that for many readers, it’s the spiciest they’ve read, simply due to the nature of what they usually read.

I love highly spicy romance, so I have a far higher bar when it comes to describing something as ‘Spicy AF’. My reasoning here is largely down to how prevalent the spice is throughout the book. There’s a lot of tension, but the scenes that are actually spicy are pretty infrequent. They’re certainly hot when they happen, but they didn’t happen nearly as often as I was expecting given what others have said about the book!

What Romance Tropes Are In Fourth Wing?

While there are several familiar tropes present in Fourth Wing the novel is dominated by a tried and trusted favourite (of mine at least): Enemies to Lovers. It is also a very literal interpretation of this trope, as Violet and Xaden are literally sworn enemies at the start. Xaden’s father led a rebellion that was quashed by Violet’s mother, a conflict resulting in his family killing her brother and her mother putting his father to death.

Kept up with that? It’s a fairly standard ‘family feud’ setup; both Violet and Xaden lost someone they love to the other’s family, but NOT to the other person themselves. Neither Violet or Xaden were personally involved in the rebellion, being too young at the time to have any part in it. So, while they are pitted against each other from the start, and Violet is warned, repeatedly, that Xaden has sworn to kill her in order to get revenge for his father’s death, the pair don’t actually have anything against each other personally.

This makes it considerably more believable that, once they meet, they would be so overpowered by their (admittedly sizzling chemistry) that they would set aside the enmity and become lovers. At the same time, their initial conflict is very real; Violet is extremely wary of Xaden and, despite being pretty much instantly attracted to him, is highly sceptical of his motives and actions. Xaden, meanwhile, clearly carries a lot of justifiable resentment towards Violet’s mother and doesn’t want to like Violet.

I’m a huge fan of the enemies to lovers trope and this is definitely one of the better written instances of it I’ve read in a long time. Beyond that, we have a couple of additional mentions.

Love Triangle

While Violet has an instant attraction to Xaden she also has a longstanding friendship/crush on Dain Aetos. She hasn’t seen him for a year at the start of the book and she’s full of anticipation and lust for him. This was, mercifully, not dragged out into some ridiculous three way where she’s torn between which man to go for. 

*Major Spoiler Alert!* Violet is certainly hung up on Dain and fantasising about a relationship with him at the start, while stoically trying to resist her attraction to Xaden, it doesn’t last long. She rapidly realises that Dain isn’t what she wants, and all she really wants is Xaden. The result is still a love triangle, as Dain has feelings for Violet, and Xaden hates Dain, but it feels a lot more organic and a lot less forced than a lot of these situations tend to be. Violet doesn’t agonise for pages over who to choose. Dain kisses her once, and she immediately knows he’s not for her after all and moves on. It’s the most adept friendzoning I’ve read in a while!

Gay Best Friend

While the side characters in the novel are, for the most part, very well rounded, we do have a Gay Best Friend in the form of Rhiannon. Yarros seems to have tried to work diversity in for a few other characters too, most notably Heaton, a non-binary character going by the pronouns they/them. While Rhiannon feels like a genuine addition to the story, Heaton, unfortunately, feels more like an afterthought insert to try and add more LGBTQ+ representation to the novel. They aren’t given much time at all, only appearing long enough to be described, then never doing much else. Thankfully Rhiannon is well done, her interest in women handled as if it were no more unusual that Violet being interested in men; she simply is who she is, and nobody thinks anything of it.

I found this refreshing, rather than it being her whole personality, or her part in the plot revolving around fighting prejudice. While there is certainly a lot of merit to stories depicting the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, that wasn’t the point of this novel, and to have included it would have diminished the inclusion of a lesbian character. Rather, Rhiannon is accepted entirely as she is, without comment or issue.

Personally I feel that’s a far more inclusive representation than a character who has no personality beyond the fact they’re gay. Rhiannon is a strong, independent, smart, ambitious and loyal character, who provides quite a bit of humour and a lot of support for Violet.