Audiobook Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Posted February 28, 2024 by Lucy D in Audiobook, Book Reviews, Fantasy/High Fantasy / 0 Comments

Audiobook Review:  Fourth Wing by Rebecca YarrosFourth Wing (The Empyrean, #1) by Rebecca Yarros
Series: The Empyrean #1
Published by Entangled: Red Tower Books on May 2, 2023
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 498
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Khaya Fraites, Full Cast
Length: 17 hrs
Source: Graphic Audio
amazon b-n

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Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today 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


How am I a latecomer to this series?  It has everything I love and performed by Graphic Audio, it truly comes to life.

20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was ready to enter the Scribe Quadrant and begin her training. This is something her father had been training her for most her life.  Unlike her brother, Brennan, and sister, Mira, who followed their mother’s footstep and entered the dragon Riders Quadrant, Violet was always pretty frail in body but her mind was sharp as blade. But on the morning Violet would have walked into hallowed halls of the Scribes, she is called to General Sorrengail’s office where her mother tells her that Violet that “Sorrengails are riders” and she would be fighting her way through the Riders Quadrant.

Dragon riders have a saying “Fly or Die” simply because of the death toll.  The first challenge even before you can walk into Basgaith War College you must cross the Parapet which is 200 feet about the ravine with the raging river below. About twenty percent of the applicants don’t even make it to the front door.   Violet makes it across the parapet but being a Sorrengail doesn’t make life easier for Violet–it paints a target on the back, especially when one of the most dangerous third-years is Xaden Riorson.  Xaden’s father and several of the leaders in lead a failed rebellion against Navarre.  The leaders were captured and executed and now their children bear a rebellion relic tattoo and are conscripted into the Rider Quadrant.  So yeah, it isn’t just Xaden who wants to take down General Sorrengail’s youngest.

Not only is the training meant to weed out the week, but with only 100 dragons willing to bond with year, cadets will do anything to increase their changes to walk the field for Threshing and bond with a dragon on their own.  In fact the only time a cadet is safe is while they are sleeping, or are they?

Once a cadet is chosen by a dragon and they bond, the last thing that happens is a flyer’s signet (or magical ability) develops which could be anything and is based solely upon the Rider.  Violet may be fragile but she will use her wits to survive everything Basgaith throws at her and hope she isn’t judged unworthy by the dragons when it is time to choose.

Let’s start by saying you have to try the Graphic Audio version of Fourth Wing. Not only do you have the entire cast of voices but the sound effects add so much to the story, whether is the hand-to-hand or the sound of the dragons and the battles. It was amazing. Since this version was not as many hours as the audible version, I was afraid I was missing scenes. Of course, I had to pick up a digital copy and re-read the story and with the exception of one small training scene, it was all there. Graphic Audio is always having sales so I highly, highly recommend making the investment.

The two main characters in this story are Violet Sorrengail and Xaden Riorson. Violet’s mother was sick when she was pregnant with Violet and that is blamed for why Violet is a bit fragile. Her joints are prone to dislocating or she sprains limbs easily. It also gave Violet her unique hair coloring of brown which fades out to silver, which makes her hard to go unnoticed or to blend with the other cadets. While Violet is frail in body, she is strong-willed, thoughtful and courageous. The first thing her sister tells her is not to make friends, but even before she crosses the Parapet, Violet is making friends. Violet is the perfect romantacy heroine. Violet’s mother is a General and due to that Violet knows many of the instructors and leaders of Navarre, but Violet is no more in-the-know than any of the other cadets. But we do get a lot of our world introductions through Violet’s tendency to recite knowledge from her scribe training while trying to overcome fear, such as when she walked Parapet.

Violet’s counterpart is Xaden Riorson. He is our dark and mysterious hero. While Violet is a first year, Xaden is finishing his third or final year. He is the Wingleader of Fourth Wing. He is bonded to one the most dangerous and short-tempered dragons and his signet is shadow wielding, which makes Xaden one of the most powerful Riders in the air. Xaden is powerful, sexy and full of secrets. Of course, Violet, as well as the audience, can’t resist him.  Violet was warned to stay away from Xaden but while he may be dangerous, Violet also sees that he does have his own moral compass and that there is more to him than the just the rebellion leader’s son.  And while Xaden is supposed to be a danger to Violet, it is Xaden who keeps pushing Violet to keep trying and train harder.  It is Violet’s best friend, Dain who keeps telling her she is too frail or not strong enough to be a Rider and she should sneak back to the scribes.

So what makes one romantacy stand out from the others. In this case, I loved/hated how deadly Basgaith War College is. Part of me didn’t understand why Parapet and the Gauntlet didn’t work like American Ninjas and simply let you drop into a pool of water and send you out to one of the other Quadrants if you failed. Navarre has been fighting a war for 400 years, and it seemed a waste to toss away the lives of say 100 or more applicants to the Rider Quadrant each year when you also need infantry, healers and scribes.  But storywise, it makes perfect sense, the real threat of death keeps us on our toes.  You can fall from the Parapet to your death. The other cadets can challenge you to hand-to-hand and death often happens. Come spring, if you want to walk onto the field to be assessed by the dragons, you have to first conquer the Gauntlet or fall to your death. After surviving all of the challenges the Basgaith throws at you, if the dragons find you lacking they just burn you alive. Even after a dragon chooses you, they don’t come with safety belts. You have to be able to hold on during maneuvers or you will simply fall to your death. Every cadet should have been issued a thigh-master to work those thigh muscles just in case they made it onto a dragon.  Even if everything is going your way, there will always be unbonded riders who were simply not chosen by a dragon and if they kill you before you complete your bond with your dragon in the hopes your dragon will bond with them instead. So why did I love all this death, because with the exception of Violet who is telling our story and Xaden, her sexy, dark love interest no one is safe so don’t get too attached to anyone else.  You are just going along, getting comfortable and enjoying the story and then you’re suddenly screaming “No! Oh my god!” when you favorite character is suddenly taken out.  It was shocking, heartbreaking and made the story much more intense.

One thing I don’t understand at all is why are the dragons bothering with us?  These dragons aren’t like big horses, sitting around eating sheep and just waiting for a rider.  They are highly intelligent beings with their own strengths and battle training.  It would be the equivalent of my not being able to leave for work in the morning until my gecko jumped on my shoulder.  I don’t really need him to get my job done but he could be entertaining.  Dragon riding is an important part of the story so I try not to question it too much.

News is that these books are already in the works for TV series by Amazon. I am almost unhappy that Rebecca Yarros indicated that her The Empyrean series will probably need five books to be told. I was expecting a trilogy and now I am concerned with all the changes which occur from the beginning of Iron Flame and the end (especially the ending), is five books too many?  I don’t think Violet has enough friends to keep killing them off for four more novels.

Now you can wait it out for the TV series, but if romantacy is your things, I would definitely grab a copy before someone ruins all the surprises on you.


Favorite Scene:

“This has to be done. That scrawny one is going to get someone killed. We have to take it out.”

Nausea swirls in my stomach, and my fingernails bite into my palms. They’re going to try and kill the little golden one.

“If we get caught, we’re fucked.” Oren comments.

That’s an understatement. I can’t imagine dragons would take kindly to killing one of their own, but they seem to be focused on culling the weak from the herd in our species, so it’s not a stretch to imagine they do the same with their own.

“Then you’d better shut your mouth so no one hears us,” Tynan counters, his voice rising in that mocking tone that makes me want to punch him in the face.

“It’s for the best,” Jack argues, his tone dropping. “It’s unrideable, a certified freak, and you know feathertails are useless in combat. They refuse to fight.” His voice fades as they walk farther away, headed north.

Toward the clearing.

“Shit,” I mutter under my breath even though the assholes are out of hearing range by now. No one knows anything about feathertails, so I don’t know where Jack is getting his information, but I don’t have time to focus on his assumptions right now.

I have no way of contacting Professor Kaori, and there hasn’t even been a hint that the senior riders are watching us, so I can’t count on them to stop this madness, either. The golden dragon should be able to breathe fire, but what if it can’t?

There’s a chance they won’t find it, but…Shit, I can’t even convince myself of that one. They’re headed the right way and that dragon is pretty much a shiny beacon. They’ll find it.

My shoulders sag and I sigh at the sky, blowing out a frustrated breath. I can’t just stand here and do nothing.

You can get there first and warn it.

Solid plan, and way better than option two, where I’d be forced to take on three armed men with at least a combined two hundred pounds on me.

I keep my footsteps silent and race across the forest floor at a slightly different angle than Jack’s little posse, thankful I grew up playing hide-and-seek with Dain in the woods. This is one area of expertise I can confidently claim.

They’ve got a head start on me, and the clearing is closer than I realized, so I kick up my speed, my gaze darting between the leaf-covered path I’ve chosen and where I think–scratch that, where I know they are toward the left. I can make out their lumbering shapes in the distance.

I hear a pop, and the ground falls out from under me, then rushes for my face. My hands fly out to brace myself a second before I slam into the forest floor. I bite into my lower lip to keep from crying out as my ankle screams. Popping isn’t good. It’s never good.

Glancing back, I curse at the fallen branch, hidden by fall foliage, that’s just wrecked my ankle. Shit.

Block the pain. Block it. But there’s no mental trick to keep the shooting agony from turning my stomach as I drag myself to my knees and rise carefully, keeping my weight on my left ankle.

There’s nothing to do but limp the final dozen feet to the clearing, gritting my teeth the whole way. The tingle of satisfaction that I beat Jack here is almost enough to make me smile.

The meadow is big enough for ten dragons, ringed by several large trees, but the golden one stands alone in the center, like it’s trying to get a suntan. It’s just as beautiful as I remember, but unless it can breathe fire, it’s a sitting duck.

“You have to get out of here!” I hiss from the cover of the trees, knowing it should be able to hear me. “They’re going to kill you if you don’t leave!”

Its head pivots toward me, then tilts at an angle that makes my own neck hurt.

“Yes!” I whisper loudly. “You! Goldie!”

It blinks its golden eyes and swishes its tail.

You have to be fucking kidding me.

“Go! Run! Fly!” I shoo at it, then remember it’s a godsdamned dragon, capable of shredding me with its claws alone, and drop my hands. This is not going well. It’s going the opposite of well.

The trees rustle from the south, and Jack steps into the clearing, his sword swaying in his right hand. A step later, he’s flanked by Oren and Tynan, both their weapons drawn.

“Shit,” I mutter, my chest tightening. This is now officially going horribly.

The golden dragon’s head snaps in their direction, a low growl rumbling in its chest.

“We’ll make it painless,” Jack promises like that makes the murder acceptable.

“Scorch them,” I whisper-shout, my heart pounding as they draw closer. But the dragon doesn’t, and somehow, I’m certain in the marrow of my bones that it can’t. Other than its teeth, it’s defenseless against three trained warriors.

It’s going to die just because it’s smaller, weaker than the other dragons…just like me. My throat closes.

The dragon backs up, its growl growing louder as it bares its teeth.

Stomach pitching, I have that Parapet feeling again–whatever I do next has overwhelming odds of ending my life.

And yet, I’m still going to do it because this is wrong.

“You can’t do this!” I take the first step into the shin-high grass and Jack’s attention swings my way. My ankle has a heartbeat of its own, and agony streaks up my spine, chattering my teeth as I force my weight onto my ruined joint so they won’t see me limping. They can’t know I’m hurt, or they’ll just attack faster.

One at a time, I stand a chance of holding them off long enough for the dragon to escape, but together…

Don’t think about it.

“Oh, look!” Jack grins, pointing his sword my way. “We can take out both the weakest links at the same time!” He looks at his friends and laughs, pausing their advance.

Each step hurts worse than the last, but I make it to the center of the clearing, putting myself between Jack’s group and the golden dragon.

“Been waiting a long time for this, Sorrengail.” He walks forward slowly.

“If you can fly, now would be a good time.” I shout over my shoulder at the small dragon, drawing two daggers from the sheath at my ribs.

The dragon chuffs. So helpful.

“You can’t kill a dragon,” I try reasoning, shaking my head at the trio, fear lacing my veins with adrenaline.

“Sure we can.” Jack shrugs, but Oren looks a little uncertain, so I pin my gaze on him as they spread out slightly about a dozen feet away, setting up the perfect formation for an attack.

“You can’t,” I say directly to Oren. “It goes against everything we believe it!”

He flinches. Jack doesn’t.

“Letting something so weak, so incapable of fighting, live is against our beliefs!” Jack shouts, and I know he’s not just talking about the dragon.

“You’re going to have to get through me, then.” My heart thunders against my ribs as I raise my daggers, flipping one to pinch the tip so I’m ready to throw and measuring the twenty or so feet separating me from my attackers.

“I really don’t consider that a problem,” Jack snarls.

They all lift their swords, and I draw a deep breath, readying myself to fight. This isn’t the mat. There are no instructors. No yielding. Nothing to stop them from slaughtering me…slaughtering us.

“I would strongly recommend you rethink your actions,” a voice–his voice–demands from across the field to my right.

My scalp prickles as each of our heads swivel in his direction.

Xaden is leaning against the tree, his arms folded across his chest, and behind him, watching with narrowed golden eyes, her fangs exposed, is Sgaeyl, his terrifying navy-blue daggertail.

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