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Get a review and summary of Fourth Wing (with the ending explained). Learn the plot and whether it’s worth reading Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, the flaming hot fantasy romance book set at a war college with magical dragons. You’ll get all your questions answered here, so get “fired” up!

fourth wing by rebecca yarros in a reading room.

Fourth Wing Summary: A Recap of Dragons, Characters, and More

The general premise (no spoilers in this part):

In Fourth Wing, Violet Sorrengail is a 20-year-old resident of the fictional land of Navarre. She’s about to enter Basgiath War College in the Scribe Quadrant, like her father, studying books and history. But, her mother, the General, has other plans and orders her to seek entry into the elite (dragon) Riders Quadrant, which is extremely dangerous and deadly.

In fact, as the first quote from Fourth Wing warns, the day on which entry is sought (Conscription Day) is the deadliest. Even if she makes it through, as her rigid mother Lilith, confident older sister Mira, and strategic older brother Brennan did, only a fraction will live to graduate.

A bit of background about this fantasy world (no spoilers in this part):

This escapist book takes place on one fictional Continent with two kingdoms. These kingdoms were at war for 400 years.

Navarre is the larger kingdom, which is mountainous and produces ore, timber, deer, and elk.

Basgiath War College is in Navarre. There are Four Quadrants:

  • Riders
  • Healers
  • Scribes
  • Infantry

There are three squads in each section:

  • Flame
  • Claw
  • Tail

There are three sections in each of the four wings.  The highest ranks in the quadrant are wingleader and section leader. These roles are generally held by the most elite third-year students, but exceptional second-years can also rise in the rankings.

Everyone else is ranked as a cadet before Threshing (always October 1), which is when the dragons choose a human rider with whom they bond.

Dragons speak only with their bonded riders, and the bond creates:

  • a relic – a magical symbol of honor and power that marks the rider’s skin,
  • a signet – or special power in the humans, like mind reading or manipulating metal.

“The stronger the bond and the more powerful the dragon, the stronger the signet. A signet is a combination of our power with your own ability to channel. It reflects who you are at the core of your being[.]”

In the kingdom of Navarre, Tyrrendor is the largest province, and it is the only province to attempt secession 627 years later. After this rebellion, the officers were executed, and their 107 innocent children were marked with the rebellion relic by the dragon who carried out this order of the King. They were also conscripted into the Riders Quadrant to either prove their loyalty or show their service through their death.

Poromiel is the smaller of the two kingdoms in the Continent, consisting of arable plains and marshlands, textiles, fields of grain, and gems. Gryphons from Poromiel (half-lion, half-eagle creatures that don’t tolerate altitude) also channel powers to riders (called fliers), as dragons do.

The two Kingdoms of Navarre and Poromiel are bound by the Trade Agreement of Resson, signed 200 years prior to the time of Fourth Wing. Per this Agreement, trades are made in Poromiel four times a year at the Athebyne outpost on the border of Krovla and Tyrrendor (the South central part of The Continent).

Also important to know about are wyvern — folklore. They are similar to (but bigger than) dragons. They have “two feet instead of four, a mane of razor-sharp feathers streaking down their necks, and a taste for humans.”

Wyverns’ riders are called venin, who are creepy former humans with distended red veins spidering around their red eyes. “Fables say venin created [wyvern] to compete with dragons and, instead of channeling from them, channel power into them.” When a venin is killed, all of the wyvern it created are also killed.

Back to the summary (some minor spoilers in this part)

It’s Conscription Day, and Violet will now attempt entry into the Riders Quadrant, not the Scribe Quadrant for which she was prepared. Violet herself is pale, petite, and frail, with silver-tipped hair. She has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder. So, she’ll have to fight extra hard not just to succeed but also to survive.

First, the conscripts must survive walking across a parapet (a bridge), on which many of them die. There, Violet befriends new cadets like Rhiannon Mathias.

She also has her long-time friend, Dain Aetos, to look after her. Dain is a second-year leader whose father is an advisor to Violet’s mother.

However, many other people, like the powerful Wingleader Xaden Riorson, who’s basically described as tall, dark, and handsome, have it out for her, and revenge may be deadly. He and many of the others are only there because of the fallout from their parents’ rebellion, after which Violet’s mother executed them.

As it turns out, Xaden’s father also played a part in the death of Violet’s brother. So, Violet and Xaden definitely start things off as enemies.

Without giving too much away about what occurs after Conscription Day, I’ll generally note that what follows are deadly physical challenges, like the Gauntlet, a vertical obstacle course guarding the Vale (where the dragons live). These challenges are designed to test the cadets’ balance, strength, and agility.

Thereafter, there’s also Threshing (when the dragons choose a human rider with whom they bond. when the dragons choose a human rider with whom they bond), tactical training like Battle Brief, and preparation for and participation in Squad Battle.

After Threshing, things change between Violet and Xaden when they are forced to bond due to unexpected circumstances. As their bond grows, their romance slowly burns until the spark fully ignites in magically steamy ways. However, Xaden’s graduation day is approaching, and it’s unclear where he will be sent next.

Meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly clear that all may not be what it seems (or what Violet has been told), and attacks are on the rise at the border…

Fourth Wing Ending Explained (With Spoilers)

Warning! There are major Fourth Wing spoilers in the section below. If you do not want to see any spoilers about the Fourth Wing ending, then skip ahead to my review of Fourth Wing.

There was an attack in which people died, and Xaden is called to a mission beyond the wards that protect them. He wants to bring Violet because of the extremely strong mated bond his dragon, Sgaeyl, shares with hers, Tairn. Liam also joins them with his dragon, Deigh.

Gryphon riders attack Violet, and it soon appears Xaden has been trading with them. It seems everyone is really a traitor.

Further, venin attacked a village and are heading towards them. They want material that powers the wards and keeps everyone safe. Hence, they are the real enemy.

Violet is angry, but Xaden makes up with her. However, he realizes Dain has been reading Violet’s memories (his signet) and is going to tell his father about Xaden’s activity.

It’s now clear that they’ve been sent past the wards to die. Xaden is left with a choice to abandon either the village under attack or his command. They battle the venin, and both Liam and Deigh sadly and tragically die. Tairn is attacked, and Violet is stabbed as she and Xaden kill the venin.

Xaden realizes Violet was poisoned, and she remains unconscious for three days. When she awakens, she finds herself in Aretia, which was burned to the ground after the rebellion, but is being rebuilt. Violet’s brother Brennan walks in and welcomes her to the rebellion.

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Fourth Wing Review: Book 1 in the Empyrean Series

Fourth Wing is a bestselling phenomenon that truly has it all, from magical dragons to love and war.

Is Fourth Wing worth the hype?

The answer to that penultimate question is a resounding yes. Fourth Wing is a bestselling phenomenon that truly has it all, from an immersive (yet easy-to-understand) fantasy world to a cutthroat academic environment, the ever-looming threat of war and death, a complex and loveable heroine, a complicated family, deep friendships, a believable enemies-to-lovers trope, a swoon-worthy hero, shocking plot twists, magic, dragons, and even more.

  • Age Rating: 18 and over due to explicit sexual content, language, and war themes
  • Spice Level: 3 out of 5 (Fourth Wing Spice Rating)

Undoubtedly the most viral books of the year, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like the Fourth Wing phenomenon since Harry Potter. The first edition actually sold out everywhere, and copies were scalped for hundreds and thousands of dollars on re-sale sites!

The praise was also been really widespread, including my own, as I normally don’t read fantasy and/or spicy romance. I absolutely loved this book.

When it comes to Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, we have a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right into my full Fourth Wing review.

Pros

PROS


  • FANTASY THAT PLEASES EVEN NON-FANTASY READERS
  • EASY TO READ
  • BELIEVABLE ENEMIES TO LOVERS TROPE
  • COMPLEX PROTAGONIST WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS
  • MEANINGFUL THEMES
  • SHOCKING PLOT TWISTS

Let’s talk about some of the pros of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros in more detail. First, I have to say that I am neither a fantasy reader nor a spicy romance reader. I only decided to pick it up after seeing other readers like me (readers of the classics and literary fiction) rave about it. It gave me so much “fear of missing out.”

Well, I am SO GLAD I got in on the ground floor of the Empyrean series. This is just one of those books that really hits every nail on the head, making it so widely readable. I think it’s because Yarros seems to have channeled so much of herself into this storyline. (She’s a lover of dragons and history, and she has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, like Violet.)

I’m usually hesitant to read fantasy because I’m very logical, so made-up worlds and words can be especially difficult for me to grasp. But, I found Fourth Wing to be fairly easy overall to grasp. It may be because it’s written more like a Young Adult novel and, thus, is easier to read.

I’m usually hesitant to read romance because I find spiciness to come across as cheesy and unrealistic. (Again, I’m very logical.) But, Fourth Wing is only spicy in two chapters and the romance really builds to a place where it feels more realistic than two people just tearing each other’s clothes off.

The “enemies to lovers” trope is also more believable than usual, as both Violet’s and Xaden’s families have suffered a tragic loss at the hands of the other’s family. There may be nothing more likely to create an enemy than that.

Further, there was a believable reason why they were forced to come together.

Lastly, while Xaden is a bit of a caricature, Violet is extremely complex and likable. It’s hard not to root for her finding love and survival, amidst her circumstances. It’s nice to see her brain and her courage matter more than her physical strength.

For the more literary readers, Fourth Wing also offers a very complicated family, lots of references to books, and a really meaningful overarching theme that history may not be what it seems. I’m really excited to see where this theme heads next.

And for ALL types of readers, Fourth Wing has constant life-or-death suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat, a cast of characters (including dragons) with colorful personalities, magic that feels utterly escapist, a few shocking plot twists, and an absolutely epic ending that leaves you wanting more.

What more can I say?! I give it five out of five stars and rate it one of the best books of 2023, in my humble opinion.

Cons

CONS


  • LOVE TRIANGLE TROPE EMERGES BUT DISAPPEARS
  • TOO MANY CHARACTERS
  • OVERUSE OF GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
  • DISABILITY REPRESENTATION UNREALISTIC/UNDEVELOPED AT TIMES
  • WANTED MORE HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Because no book is perfect, I will round out my review of Fourth Wing by noting a few things that didn’t work for me.

First, I didn’t like how the reader was led to believe there would be a love triangle trope when there really wasn’t. I wish we knew from the beginning that Dain was just a friend because it felt distracting to wrongly think he was more than a friend.

I’ll also say that, while the fantasy world was generally easy to understand, the sheer volume of characters named was also distracting. It seems there were dozens who were mentioned once, then never again. I never knew which ones I had to try my best to remember versus which ones we’d never hear of again.

The volume of “F words” was also a bit distracting to me personally. I really wished there was a bit less of both that and the steamy romance chapters so that more teens could read it.

While I loved Violet’s disability representation, I also found it unrealistic at times as it was written. I wanted more background and specific details about how she was able to cope with and overcome her physical challenges. Since she is smart and courageous, I thought we could have seen more of this sprinkled throughout, as we did in some parts.

Lastly, I also wish we learned much more about the enemy and the history behind what has brought them to such a fierce battle. But, I also think we will likely learn a lot more about that in the coming books.

About Author Rebecca Yarros

about

Rebecca Yarros is a graduate of Troy University and an American author of over fifteen books. She is best known for her bestselling dragon fantasy romance books in the Empyrean series, including Fourth Wing and Iron Flame. She will serve as the executive producer of the Amazon adaptation.

She and her husband co-founded the charity One October to improve the lives of kids in foster care.

More by this author: In the Likely Event is another popular choice with readers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Fourth Wing about?

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is about a war college where some students become dragon riders and obtain magical powers. Its tropes are enemies to lovers and forced proximity. Its overarching theme is how storytelling affects history.

Is The Fourth Wing a good book?

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is a good book recommendation for adults who are interested in a fantasy romance novel. It’s a massive bestseller that has it all, from love to war, family, friendship, and even magical dragons.

Is Fourth Wing predictable?

No. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros ends with an extremely shocking cliffhanger you will never see coming. It will leave you wanting more.

What is the main idea of the Fourth Wing?

The main theme of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is that history is not what it seems, due to the flawed nature of storytelling.

What happens at end of Fourth Wing?

At the end of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, Violet awakens in Aretia. There, she is greeted by her brother, Brennan, who is surprisingly alive. He welcomes her to “the rebellion.”

Conclusion

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros is a five-star read, one of my favorite books of 2023, and a massively bestselling phenomenon for many great reasons.

It truly has it all, from an immersive (yet easy-to-understand) fantasy world to a cutthroat academic environment, the ever-looming threat of war and death, a complex and loveable heroine, a complicated family, deep friendships, a believable enemies-to-lovers trope, a swoonworthy hero, shocking plot twists, magic, dragons, and even more.

I hope you found my Fourth Wing summary (with the ending explained) and review helpful to your own magical reading experience.

Do you need to order the sequel, Iron Flame, or book 3, Onyx Storm?

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