Book Review: Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

This much-awaited sequel to Rebecca Yarros’ Fourth Wing entitled Iron Flame was released November 7, 2023. Early special editions include “sprayed” black page edges. The book’s blurblet cover tagline reads: “Burn. It. Down.” Fourth Wing won most major awards, so this book was highly anticipated.

Trilogy Theme

The trilogy focuses on Dragonriders protecting territories threatened by dark magic. It contains perilous plot twists surrounded by robust character development.

The title alludes to both the magic and the heroine, Violet Sorrengail. Amid the chaos, grueling training and dangers to her world, she carries multiple secrets—to the grave if necessary. This series is not for the faint-of-heart, and contains brutality, torture, gratuitous violence, and frequent sex and language, but Yarros integrates this into a seamless story.

Plot

The plot still revolves around petite and physically fragile Violet, who wrestled with the obstacles of her health in Fourth Wing to become the centerpiece of Yarros’ new literary generation of Dragonriders—outwardly bad-ass and hardened, while inside, Violet remains a good friend and faithful lover. Violet, like Rebecca Yarros herself, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: a degenerative condition which affects connective tissues in the human body, so Violet becomes the perfect literary vessel for a heroine pushing through a disability.

In Yarros’ worldbuilding, after bonding with a dragon, Dragonriders develop a gift (or curse, depending on how you view it.) Violet develops a talent for generating lightning and thunder, which makes sense, since her mother, a general in the military, can create storms. Another example of the developing talent, Violet’s enemies-to-friends lover Xaden Riorson, can create and manipulate shadows.

In Fourth Wing, Violet first learned secrets which threaten all she has known. Her comrades, including Xaden, include the offspring of the previous generation who rebelled against her world’s authority and secrets. This generation are tattooed and are made to pay for their parents’ crimes by serving the world as Dragonriders—if they survive. In Iron Flame, Xaden remains a strong enough character to balance Violet and her own strengths.

Can she keep the multiple secrets, or must she participate in shaking up their hidebound (an Anne McCaffrey Dragonrider word) world and defeat the outside danger which threatens? As a team, Violet and Xaden question the previously accepted status quo. The plot takes a number of twists and turns—even into the last few pages, which sets up a threat to those close to Violet. This overwhelming cliffhanger carries readers into Book Three.

Pros and Cons

Yarros’ strengths are character development and plot twists. Although the battle scenes and action remained excellent in this book, I got lost in the rules for magic. Interestingly enough, two people have shared with me that they no longer care about this world of unrelenting peril. Be advised, at times, it can be brutal.

Yarros, a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and a military wife in Colorado, previously wrote a series of romance novels to include the language and sex which also populate her Dragonrider books. These fantasy novels may seem a departure from her romances, and yet perhaps they are not—for what is the romance genre but exceptional world-building and a suspension of disbelief?

Conclusion

I look forward to resolutions in Book Three and already have a first edition of The Iron Flame (of course with sprayed pages) at the ready should I need to brush up on my characters or dark magic for the next installment. It will be interesting to see if Yarros’ books spawn sequels or spin-offs as McCaffrey’s did. Given the multitudinous awards for Fourth Wing, Yarros’ work already has a strong fan base which may demand more offerings from her world.

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