Book Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Today’s review is about FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros, which took the bookish world my storm. I hadn’t planned on reading it so soon after my pre-order arrived. But there are so many spoilers and discussions floating around (an understatement) that I didn’t want to continue to dodge. So does it live up to the hype? Well, check out my review to find out!

Author: Rebecca Yarros
Series: The Empyrean, #1
Age Category: New Adult
Publisher: Entangled: Red Tower Books
Publish Date: May 2, 2023
Print Length: 512

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Official Synopsis

Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Yarros.

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general–also known as her tough-as-talons mother–has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, 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. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter–like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda–because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

My Review

FOURTH WING is the internet darling of the spring as we the readers transition into a hot dragon summer. It is chock full of the tropes that seemingly dominate readers’ preferences in darker fantasy romance. But beyond these enticing devices it is also a story that dips beneath the veneer of war propaganda and the power of knowledge. It’s not all fun and games…unless you’re the reader.

This book is an addictive fantasy romance comfort read that will first and foremost thrill fans of the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) series. It has a strong female lead (Violet) thrust into the brutal world that is Basgiath War College. She has a disability that she refuses to let slow her down, so there is prominent disability representation. What I appreciated about this aspect is that there is commentary about accomodation. That is, just because something is done one way doesn’t mean it has to continue to be done that way. There is no one way fits all and Violet challenges the status quo, mainly to survive, but it has the same effect to impart change.

I loved the incorporation of dragons, which plays a large role in this book as the book cover and synopsis make evident. The small dragon illustration at the beginning of each chapter was a nice added detail. Violet and her peers train for weeks to become strong enough to potentially pair with a dragon and become dragon riders. These dragon riders are one part of the Navarrian military whose main objective is to keep the peace and maintain the borders.

The writing style is approachable and easy to binge. I loved [most of] the banter between Violet and the very obvious future rivals-to-lovers interest. The nickname bestowed upon Violet made me cringe, but that’s a nitpicky thing and is purely a personal preference. The tension and spice were great, with the caveat that I felt it all transpired too quickly. It went from “we should talk about this” to “let’s beat around the proverbial bush and bring down the house instead.” I felt that their development into spice land would have been stronger if such a discussion actually transpired. That aside, while it was fairly easy to predict where the plot would go, FOURTH WING remained a pleasure to read. It’s important to approach it as a comfort read rather than a literary masterpiece (which it may be to some), particularly if one errs more on the side of a critical reader.

I recognized a lot of similarities between FOURTH WING and ACOTAR. Yarros tweaks them just enough to fit a story about war games and dragons, but it was difficult not to notice the resemblance. I have some mixed feelings about this. I acknowledge that there are only so many fantasy elements to incorporate into a new book. And I love the ones featured in ACOTAR and FOURTH WING dearly. But when the number of similarities add up it becomes obvious what audience an author is trying to capture. (I think this is a big driver behind why this book broke the internet–the ACOTAR fandom is huge.) That’s not necessarily a negative thing. But it’s also nice to feel like I’m reading a newer concept rather than something that feels a bit rehashed. However, this might be exactly what a potential reader wants to cure that fantasy romance hangover generally generated by ACOTAR.

It may seem like I didn’t like FOURTH WING as much as my overall rating implies. However, I did quite enjoy it and actually decided to savor rather than rush through it. I do think it lives up to the hype, even more so if a reader is naturally less critical than I am. FOURTH WING is sure to please readers looking for their next fantasy romance book hangover. Luckily they won’t have to wait long as the next book hits shelves in early November.

Rating: 4
Content warnings: parental death, blood, sexual content, murder
Reading format: Hardback

Similarities to ACOTAR

For fun I wanted to point out some of the similarities FOURTH WING has with ACOTAR. Consider this a spoiler warning. If you have not read the book and don’t want to know anything, then ignore this section. There are also generalized spoilers for the ACOTAR series.

Tattoos: In ACOTAR the Illyrians have traditional tattoos, plus the mark of a bargain in the Night Court is also a tattoo. SJM constantly refers to the tattoos that curl over Rhysand’s skin, or any of the bat boys, really. In FOURTH WING a dragon “burns” their mark, so to speak, onto their rider’s body. Xaden’s tattoo happens to be one that spans much of his back and, if I’m remembering correctly, also curls up onto his neck.

Signet Powers: Powers specific to a person is not a new trope. But I want to highlight that Xaden’s power is essentially the same as Azriel’s. Azriel is a Shadowsinger, or someone who can wield and control shadows, hear things others cannot, and use shadows as transport. This makes him perfectly suited as Rhysand’s spymaster. Xaden can also wield shadows as his signet power and can and does use them to learn secrets.

Mountain Trial: In ACOTAR the Blood Rite is the culmination of an Illyrian warrior’s training. If they make it out alive, they become warriors and are placed in three tiers. This Blood Rite occurs at the base of their sacred mountain, Ramiel. Whoever reaches the summit wins the Blood Rite. In FOURTH WING the cadets have to succeed at several trials on a mountain that mimic various maneuvers they have to do as dragon riders. Completion of this event means they can move on to the next phase, which is Threshing.

Librarians: In ACOSF we meet Clotho, who is the priestess in charge of the library at the House of Wind. She cannot speak to do atrocities others inflicted upon her in the past. In FOURTH WING one of Violet’s closer friends is a Scribe who also cannot speak. The reason is not the same as Clotho’s, but the similarity remains.

Spill the tea: In ACOTAR the Suriel tells Feyre to stay with the High Lord. I won’t get into to the details of that, but if you’ve read ACOTAR, then you’ll understand. In FOURTH WING, Tairn says something incredibly similar to Violet: “Stay close to the wingleader until we return” (p. 182). I instantly thought of the Suriel because the wording was so similar, though not necessarily as ambiguous.

Dain = Tamlin: Just like Tamlin, Dain always thought he knew what would be the best for Violet. And just like Tamlin, he was wrong and refused to listen. He was annoying and overbearing under the facade of pretending to care because he just couldn’t not be in control. Enough said.

Bond Communication: In ACOTAR Feyre and Rhysand can talk to each other through their mate bond. They’re able to communicate mentally without speaking a word out loud. Violet and Xaden can also talk to each other this way, albeit the mechanism is slightly different (p. 337). Because Violet’s and Xaden’s dragons are bonded, they’re able to utilize that bond to communicate mentally with each other. Whether or not this means Violet and Xaden are fated mates is yet to be seen.

So, the above similarities are some of the more obvious ones I noticed. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more that I missed. If you noticed any similarities, let me know in the comments!

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

  1. I have not read ACOTAR so of course those similarities escaped me. I was pulled in by the author’s writing style and I knew a few pages in that I would love the book. It was just FUN, despite the darker elements. Awesome review!

    1. I liked the writing style, too! It definitely was a fun read & I’m glad you also enjoyed it!

  2. I thought this book was a fun read and worth the hype, but it definitely was not a literary masterpiece. lol. I also picked up on a lot of the ACOTAR similarities, and my hatred of Tamlin now has a companion in Dain. I really wanted one of the dragons to incinerate him.

    1. I didn’t think it was a literary masterpiece either, but I agree it was a fun read and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book. ^_^ I didn’t mind Dain at first, but he just got even more annoying as time went on.

  3. As someone who has never read ACOTAR, none of these similarities bothered me at all?. I loved the story and especially the dragons. I loved the inner dialogues and several times the comments made me laugh which is always good. I am definitely looking forward to the next book and am intrigued as to where the story will go next.

    1. Well, they similarities didn’t bother be, per se, but I definitely raised by eyebrow at all of the ones I mentioned above! 😛 I agree that the inner dialogues were fun to read and also looking forward to the next book. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Great review!! I feel like I got a lot of similarities to other YA fantasies too… Hunger Games and Divergent but so many ACOTAR! You are right about that! I don’t think this was the best written book but it was definitely enjoyable. I can’t wait for book two!!

    1. Thanks, Leslie! You’re right, I was so wrapped up in writing about what was similar to ACOTAR that I completely forgot to comment on what else it reminded me of. I haven’t read the Divergent trilogy (?), but I agree that I got some Hunger Game vibes…but Cadet Kelly also popped into my head. Don’t know if you ever watched that Disney Channel Original movie with Hilary Duff? I kept giggling in my head about that comp.

  5. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the fact that Feyre and Rhysand can speak to each other with their minds and Violet and Xaden can too (after Violet bond’s to her dragon). That was one of the main ones that stood out to me.

    1. You know, that completely slipped my mind. I must not have thought much of it because that ability is because their dragons are bonded, and an effect of that is being able to utilize the dragon mate bond to talk to each other. But yea, I actually have that first instance bookmarked in my copy. I’ll add it to the list. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. As I literally finished the ACOTAR series last week, then read Fourth Wing this week, the similarities shouted at me..lol. Even the base of the story is so similar: Young, frail girl is forced to a place she doesn’t want to be. She ends up incredibly powerful and feared. She also ends up with the guy she thought she hated who really loved her the whole time and was keeping her safe when she thought he was being evil. He can command darkness and sees her true strength within and helps her figure herself out and build mental shields. He has given all to protect his ‘family’. Oh, and he also has a secret city that he’s kept hidden from everyone and now he’s trusted her with that knowledge. Not to mention all the similarities already listed. A fun read for sure! But yes, so similar that I started searching to see if it was done on purpose and ended up on this thread.

    1. I definitely agree with you there! Though I think the “young, frail girl” having to pick up slack or be where she doesn’t want to be seems to be a popular trope in fantasy books, not to mention fantasy romance. It’s a fun read, but there were so many similarities I was figuratively scratching my head. Glad your searching led you to my blog, thanks for stopping by!

  7. Fourth wing is definitely not a Tweaked version of ACOTAR but I see what your getting at.

    If you want to see what a tweaked version of a book looks like read Frieda McFaddens books that are “Original” almost exact copies of other books

    1. I meaaannn there are A LOT of similarities to ACOTAR. They’re not identical and there are of course differences between the two books. However, I still enjoyed FOURTH WING, but I was quite surprised to see just how many important elements of FW are like ACOTAR. (To be fair, I’ve seen commentary on bookstagram about how SJM took inspiration from others to write her own stories. Unfortunately it was an IG story, so I can’t find the post.)

      I’m not familiar with McFaddens books, so I can’t comment on that.

      1. Yeah nothing is original anymore. Every thing these days is a copy or inspired by. Especially movies but no one is b*tching and moaning about that. The story lines of fourth wing and ACOTAR are completely different with SOME similarities yes, I agree with that, but it is not enough to say fourth wing is a tweeked version of ACATOR. There’s definitely levels to this sh*t. I’ve read a ton of books that are almost exact copies of older books, I’ve read some with same story line just a little tweeked and some with just a little similarities. Fourth wing and ACOTAR definitely falls into the last one I stated. The differences outway the similarities, for a book to be almost completely copied the similarities would have to outway the differences. Sarah J Maas ALSO has a book that’s critized most for plagorism. So we can also talk about that too. ? Doubt she’s not innocent of getting INSPO or just completely copying another book. ? I Love them both alot don’t get me wrong. I think y’all need to reread both. This is honestly like saying every fantasy book is just a tweeked version of other fantasy books. There’s aspects of fantasy that are in ALL fantasy. That doesn’t mean it’s a copy. Inspiration is okay too.

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