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Iron Flame Sets Readers on Fire 

Posted 12/08/2023 by Jesse Smith

The fantasy book of the year, Iron Flames, has finally been released. photo by Rebecca Yaros 

The biggest book of 2023, Fourth Wing, has finally gained a sequel, Iron Flame, does it live up to the hype of the original? 

In the summer of 2023, Fourth Wing went viral on social media, and readers raved over it, giving it five out of five stars for its creativity, plot, ambitious characters, and riveting cliffhanger at the very end. The book became so popular that it was impossible to find in any store across the country. It was back-ordered online for months, and priced higher than normal due to the desire of this book. Since its release in May, it has sold two million copies worldwide.. This month the sequel in the Empreyen series was released on November 7, 2023; on the first day alone it sold half a million copies. The real question is, does this book live up to the famous first novel? 

Fourth Wing was an action packed novel that takes place in a fictional country called Navarre. The main character, twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengai, attends Badgiath War College here, where students bond and learn to ride dragons. In this world, the country Navarre keeps their citizens safe by using dragons and magic (called signets, which riders gain after bonding) to guard them from beasts and other enemies. 

Violet’s family is one of the most famous within their country, known for their incredible dragon skills. However, since she was born, Violet has faced physical difficulties, and has been learning to be a scribe (librarian) instead of a rider. However, Violet’s mother refused to let her become a scribe, forcing her to attend Badgiath. This is where the book begins, Violet’s first day at school where she and her students face their very first challenge, walking the parapet: a skinny stone bridge branching over a mile-long, and hundreds of feet above ground. This challenge was made to immediately weed out students. Luckily, Violet makes it through these challenges, but only with the help of her sister and brother. Her sister, Mira, lent her boots that have better gripping. And her brother Brenden made sure his book, filled with tips he learned while at Badgaith, would be passed on to her. Sadly, Brenden died in combat years ago.

The most crucial year in this fictional college is the first: during this year, the aspiring riders must face challenge after challenge to figure out if they are worthy of becoming riders. While they have many classes that include those we take too, like math, science, and history, they also have many classes that involve physical challenges. While Violet continues to pass the challenges and lessons, she still gets treated poorly due to not only her physical disabilities, but also her family’s history. 

A major plot point of this first book is the history of Navarre, five years before the book took place. There was an uprising rebellion against the leaders of the country. However, Navarres government overthrew them, and since then, has punished not only those directly involved in the rebellion, but their children as well. These children were all forced into Badgaith, marked to easily identify as children of traitors. Unfortunately for Violet, her mother Lillith Sorrengail was a major part of overthrowing the rebellion, hence, she is continuously targeted by the children of the rebels, specifically a second-year rider named Xaden and his friends. Xaden is known as the best rider in the school, bonded to a fierce dragon, and gifted with the signet that controls shadows. While Xaden hates Violet in the beginning, he actively protects her and helps her through her challenges, eventually they fall in love. 

Fourth Wing keeps you on your toes the entire time. The author never fails to bring suspense, action, and creativity to the pages. Personally, I found the book to be incredibly unique compared to others, making it more of an enjoyable read. It seems like a lot of books nowadays have similar plots to each other. That’s what makes this book so special, it involves plot points that I haven’t seen in other fantasy books. Not only is it unique, but the characters were fantastic; Violet is a daring, brave, and resilient character that becomes a brilliant rider despite other people’s opinions. Once she passes all the challenges, she bonds to not one, but two dragons, which is incredibly rare. She bonded to Andarna, a golden, young dragon, and Tairn, who’s black scaled and one of the most powerful dragons in history. Violet is chosen by both for her selflessness and bravery. 

I would give this book a 4.5/5. I really enjoyed it, but I found some parts of it corny, mostly when it came to the blooming relationship between Xaden and Violet, but other times there were cliche themes that I found bumped down my ratings. There are also some parts where Violet and her dragons, Tarin and Andarna, talk through their mental bonds (basically telempathy), which I found hard to read. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I believe that fantasy books are one of the best genres, for their creativity and magical realism that brings readers into a different world for the hundreds of pages they turn.

The entire book was thrilling; however, the book ends in a cliffhanger, making the sequel even more appealing to readers. Now after reading Iron Flame, I think that compared to the first, it was a little disappointing. Fourth Wing was compacted with interesting plots one after another, and never dragged on. Whereas Iron Flame was rather boring for the first 200 pages before it picked up. But for the majority of the book, the only interesting parts were when Xaden would visit Violet every two weeks after he was sent to a post near the border. In between these few pages of their meeting, it would be filled with Violet watching the new first years complete their training. Now in her second year, she is more of a counselor than a student. Only taking a few classes that aren’t important to the book, and watching the first years fight and learn how to become riders. From the first book, Violet has become a lot more unbearable in this sequel; she is incredibly stubborn, she spends the majority of the book being mad at Xaden for keeping a secret, (part of the plot twist that I can’t spoil) in the first book. Thus, she struggles to communicate throughout the entire book, not only with Xaden, but also with her other important relationships, including her best friend, Rhiannan, who she verbally tells that she keeps secrets from her. This part makes her much more annoying than she was in the Fourth Wing.

After a while the main plot of the book finally came up; after the first two hundred pages, roughly, Violet and her friends became a part of the revolution against Navarre, at this point the book regained its spark. I can’t go too far into the book without spoiling it, as it became fast-paced and just as thrilling as the first book was. After finishing it, I would give it a ⅗ stars, while it picked up, I found the first 200 pages or so to be unnecessary and disappointing following the first book. Again left in a cliff-hanger, written from Xaden’s point of view for the very first time, again making the readers, including myself, thrilled for the next book to come out in the following months.