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What to Know Before Reading Iron Flame

Cover of Iron Flame. (Created by Red Tower Books and Bree Archer)
Cover of Iron Flame. (Created by Red Tower Books and Bree Archer)

Iron Flame, the second book in “The Empyrean” series by Rebecca Yarros, is being released November 7, 2023. The sequel to the popular fantasy book Fourth Wing is highly anticipated, and readers are very excited to see where the series leads. 

This article will contain spoilers for Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. You have been warned!

Iron Flame synopsis via Goodreads

“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.

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“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.”

Fourth Wing Recap

Map of the Continent in “The Empyrean.” Map designed by Melanie Korte

Fourth Wing features Violet Sorrengail, twenty-year-old daughter of the ruthless General Sorrengail of Navarre. Though she’d always wanted to go into the Scribe Quadrant at Bagsiath War College, after the death of her father and brother, her mother has chosen for her to go into the Rider’s quadrant. Here, she will learn to be one of the country’s most deadly and important fighters, and maybe– if she stays alive long enough– receive her very own dragon, and some magic powers of her own.

Though she is hesitant at first, she decides to give the Rider’s quadrant her best shot, and fights to survive. Here, she meets a few of the important players. Dain Aetos, her childhood best friend, is the son of one of the most prominent figures in their government, and has the ability to read minds with just a touch. He is horrified that Violet has been moved to the Rider’s quadrant, and begs her to go back, thinking she is too weak. However, she refuses. 

Instead, Violet adapts and survives, persevering through every obstacle thrown her way. This includes assassination attempts, as well as the rigorous training she is put through to prepare her for getting her own dragon. 

Violet also meets Xaden Riorson, the son of the leader of a rebellion that rocked the country; the very same that killed her own brother. Though she is wary at first, the two feel an uncontrollable magnetism. This only intensifies when Violet bonds with the dragon Tairn, the mate to Xaden’s own dragon, and receives her very own lightning wielding powers. She also bonds with Adarna, a golden feather-tail– one of the first ever seen– who has the ability to stop time. Violet’s bonding with two dragons prompts an outrage, but she’s allowed to keep both in the end.

The tension between Xaden and Violet isn’t the only thing that’s intensifying. Violet sees classified information about fights and raids on the outskirts of the country, ones that aren’t being told to the students as they should be. It appears as if there’s something the leadership is trying to hide…

After a while, Violet starts to get used to the Riders’ Quadrant. She adapts to the rigorous training, and learns to love the place and the people. Having cut Dain out of her life, her relationship with Xaden now has chances to grow. Though they still have secrets and unshared pasts, they’re willing to be involved romantically.

That is, until the War Games. Xaden, along with Violet and a few other rebellion kids, are sent to the outskirts of the country for a school activity. It’s a war college with dragons; they can get away with it. On their way to the post, however, they are cornered by something terrifying: Gryphon Flyers, from the neighboring kingdom they’ve been fighting. Though Violet is terrified, Xaden– to her horror– seems unfazed. She thinks he’s betrayed her.

When the Gryphon Flyers leave, she is understandably furious. Xaden has betrayed her trust entirely, and she isn’t quite sure she can forgive him. 

Apparently, Venin, the horrifying creatures she’d thought were of stories and fables, are real. They’d sucked the magic out of their land, and were now fighting Poromiel, the nation neighboring Navarre. Xaden explains that the dragons’ magic is the only thing that can stop the Venin, but the leadership of Navarre has chosen to withhold their aid.

Though Violet is shell shocked, she still follows Xaden and the rest of their group to the battle station. However, when they arrive, it’s empty. Nearby, a village is being laid siege to by the Venin. If they stay, they will be deemed traitors, and possibly die. If they go back, they leave these people defenseless.

Determined to do the right thing, the group stays and fights. People die, but they do their best to save the city. Violet uses her magic to end the battle, though it means she ends up being weakened, passing out, and almost dying.

Xaden, desperate to save her, takes her to his home, Aretia, where she’s healed. It is there that she is met with the biggest revelation. Her brother– alive. 

Published on May 2, 2023, Fourth Wing quickly rose in popularity. Currently, the tag “fourth wing” on Tiktok has 553.6 million views. On Goodreads, the book has more than 97 thousand ratings, with an average of 4.67 out of 5 stars. 

Fourth Wing rose to popularity for a variety of reasons. Emily Pickell, who recently read Fourth Wing, said some of the appeal arose from the interesting world and animal companions. She said that Fourth Wing had a few aspects of other fantasy books, one being an animal familiar in the form of the riders bonding with their dragons. Especially with a fictional animal like dragons, it appeals to a lot of people. 

Some also enjoyed the romance vibes of Fourth Wing. Sky Engelhardt, who read the book recently, said, “I enjoyed the unique story writing in Fourth Wing, and how the author wrote non-toxic romantic relationships. Often in fantasy, and books involving romance, they have an unfortunate habit of making the main character fall for a very toxically masculine love interest, and this book did a great job of depicting a healthy relationship.”

Others, however, are less than thrilled by the romance-heaviness of this book. Fantasy fans have argued that it leans more towards the genre of romance, rather than true fantasy. “Sometimes when something is popular, it’s not for what you think it is,” said Pickell. 

Regardless, readers have been drawn in, and most are excited by the cliffhanger Yaros left off on in the end. Engelhardt said, “I’m very excited to find out what happens after the cliffhanger they left us on, and also more worldbuilding now that we’re focusing on the events taking place outside of their own country.”

A lot of people agree that the country, Navarre, and the different nations seen in Fourth Wing will be important for Iron Flame. Pickell said that, though the country seemed good in the beginning, it was framed in a much worse light towards the end of the first book.

She also thinks that Violet’s family will be important. During the events of Fourth Wing, we learn a bit about her family’s dynamics, with her dead father and brother, her sister, and her mother. In the end, though, we see a large shift in those dynamics with the revelation that her brother is in fact alive. 

Iron Flame is being released on November 7, 2023. If you’re impatient, the Maroon Library has a Fourth Wing Read-Alike List for all your fantasy-romance needs.


Cover of Iron Flame. (Created by Red Tower Books and Bree Archer)

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Adelaide Kota, Features Editor
Sophomore, she/her "I prefer my misery to come at me in stages, so I can acclimate on the way."— George Cubbins Have fun!

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