There aren’t many books that can deliver intense, heart-pounding action and high stakes by its second chapter but Fourth Wing is one of them, and it marks the start of a wild, romantic story that will have readers completely gripped by every page. Set within an elite war college where death and betrayal lurk around every corner, this slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel is an epic adventure in every sense of the word, complete with the brutality of The Hunger Games, the trials of the Divergent series and the fast-paced action of Throne of Glass just for starters. Combine that with a compelling cast of characters and a scorching hot romance story, and Fourth Wing feels like a novel that’s reminiscent of all the best parts of the fantasy novels we’ve loved before, all wrapped up in a darker, deadlier package.
Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a life surrounded by books, history and safety. Instead, Violet’s cold and distant mother, the commanding general of the riders, has ordered her daughter to enter the Riders Quadrant, an elite and coveted position that attracts hundreds of candidates despite the increased risk of death and the odds that are undeniably stacked against them. Only the best, quickest and strongest candidates will survive to become a respected part of Navarre’s forces, but when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle like Violet’s is, 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 and strengthen the squad by eliminating their weakest link. The rest would kill her for being her mother’s daughter, like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant, the son of the man who Violet’s mother executed for leading a rebellion and the man Violet both loathes and lusts for in equal measure. Every day brings with it more death and danger and Violet will need every bit of her wits, strength and training just to fight to stay alive. Because once you enter Basgiath War College there are only two ways out: graduate or die.
It knows I’m at a disadvantage, that I’m too small to climb its foreleg and mount, too frail to ride. Dragons always know. But I will not run. I wouldn’t be standing here if I’d quit every time something seemed impossible to overcome. I will not die today.”
In a nutshell, Fourth Wing reads like a fantasy lover’s dream. From page one it’s immediately immersive, dropping readers into a vivid and detailed new world of complex power plays, deadly rivalries and strong emotions as Violet is pushed to her limits over and over again. From the moment she joins the Riders Quadrant, Violet finds herself in a constant fight for survival, and the more she’s overlooked, dismissed and written off as being weak and fragile, the more determined Violet becomes to show she’s not to be underestimated. Over the course of the school year, we see Violet use everything she does have at her disposal to her advantage, proving time and again that strength doesn’t always have to be physical and that she has just as much of a chance to make it as a rider as anyone else. As a character, she’s clever, compassionate and strong, and her personal journey is a huge part of what makes this narrative so compelling.
And then, of course, there is the romance element, which delivers an intense, slow burn, hate-to-love plot that develops beautifully alongside the main narrative. Whether they’re fighting, sparring or kissing, the chemistry between Violet and Xaden is undeniable and every one of their interactions is heavy with tension in all the best ways, with Violet never certain of Xaden’s intentions towards her. The shift from enemies to reluctant protector to attraction-we-just-can’t-fight-anymore is wonderful to see unfold, even if the lack of Xaden’s point of view means that a couple of relationship developments feel too abrupt. Like all great romantasy reads though, the romance forms a crucial part of both the plot and the main characters’ development – and with several hundred pages of delicious build up, it’s safe to say that all the tension, banter and close-calls more than earn their pay off in the end.
Fourth Wing is ultimately a novel that delivers on every front with something to capture every reader’s attention. There are political tensions, found families, rebellions, romance and more, as well as a riot of dragons with their own kingdom and laws that become wonderful supporting characters in their own right, without ever tipping this fantasy novel too far over into the sometimes-inaccessible genre of high fantasy. This is a world that feels rich, with characters that are flawed and realistic, and an action-packed plot that is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat through every twist that Rebecca Yarros packs in to this novel’s 500 pages.
With its thrilling story, immersive setting and brutally high stakes from the get-go, Fourth Wing is an exciting, whirlwind start to a fantastic new series that is sure to become a firm fantasy favourite. It’s an addictive story that you’ll never want to end, even while you can’t help racing through to its heart-stopping conclusion.
Fourth Wing is published by Piatkus on 2 May 2023