Narrator: Rebecca Soler, Teddy Hamilton
Series: The Empyrean #1
Published by Recorded Books
Published on 2 May 2023
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Romance
Source: my local library
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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.
I’m not being funny when I say this is written for the ADHD generation. There is no inciting incident.
I’m not a huge stickler for ‘writing rules’ (except grammar, and don’t confuse your homophones) because books do successfully break them, and books these days are coming out more and more without inciting incidents.
And why, you may ask?
Because they want to throw the reader directly in the deep end with action and not set anything up because that takes time.
ADHD readers quit within the first 10 pages if they’re bored, and trust me they get bored easily, those dopamine-hunting fiends. Compare this book’s opening to Divergent (which is one of the books this is comped with, along with Dragons of Pern and Scholomance, and I know Divergent has its own issues I’m not going in to that): in Divergent, we see Tris BEFORE she chooses Dauntless. Like with The Hunger Games, we see a little set up of normal life before the biggest, most important day of her life. It’s an important part of the three act plot. With Fourth Wing, the inciting incident has already happened. We don’t get any set up, we don’t see what Violet’s ‘normal life’ is like before everything changes.
And do I have a problem with this?
Only a tiny little bit, and only because it would have been good to see her struggling with her choices being taken away, how she navigates her disability (which was often ignored completely), any of the training that happened before she stepped foot on that parapet, and dealing with her brother’s death. Instead, it’s instant action, instant excitement, and I do understand why it’s written that way. Grab your readers by the unmentionables and don’t fucking let go. Don’t ease them in, they might get bored!
And this is the exact same reason why books these days tend to go on and on and on with filler (re Plated Prisoner series) where nothing actually happens regarding plot, then end on cliffhangers. It’s a calculated risk. While early readers have to wait for Book 2, anyone who reads the first book after the second is published is able to go straight on, and who is that targeting? ADHD and impatient binge readers who have issues with impulsivity and self-control. Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger, must find out what happens next and Book 2 is RIGHT THERE, don’t even think about it, just one-click it and devour it like the instant gratification hobgoblin you are.
Also, don’t come @ me for saying these things about ADHD readers, I fucking live with one, I’m not being mean, I am being REAL.
Anyway, this criticism aside, it doesn’t even end up being relevant, because by the time I finished the book I didn’t even care about how it started. Violet had grown so much. Her romantic entanglements were laid out. Friends and foe were identified – though friends were harder to keep track of since a lot of them died, and to be honest, weren’t memorable in any way. There were only two of Violet’s friends that I actually cared about dying, because Yarros did a lot of work spending time with them, and Violet loved them, so I did, too.
And yes, this book is Dragons of Pern meets Divergent set at an Academy, which is just all kinds of interesting. We’ve got the most popular creature in fantasy (dragons), one of the most popular YA books of the past generation of whom the readers are now adults (Divergent), and an Academy setting, which is super popular with at least indie readers right now. It even hits of the super popular enemies to lovers and fated mates tropes, which are also on trend right now. I note that it appears Yarros only sold this book in October 2022, and it was published in May 2023, which means it must have been in pretty good condition without much editing needed, because that’s only 7 frickin months, and the second book is being fast tracked to come out in November 2023. 6 months between traditionally published books is so fast. Not by indie standards, but definitely by traditional standards, which usually have a year between releases for a series.
I only wanted to rea this because of the sheer number of 5 star ratings, far outweighing any number of other ratings. I’ve actually never seen a book so well received before, with so few 1-4 star reactions in comparison. I’ve read a few of the negative reviews, and they seem to have issues that this book isn’t traditional fantasy fiction. And it’s not. It’s a new adult fantasy enemies to lovers romance with a disabled protagonist. And fucking bonded dragons. And to make it better, a grumpy fucking dragon. He’s hilarious.
But I have to say, the hype in this case is real. I really enjoyed this. It’s not my favourite book I’ve ever read, nor even my favourite book this year, but it does deserve 5 stars. It’s incredibly well written with good world building, the characters are on point, it made me feel things, and it didn’t egregiously do anything wrong (except break a writing rule but seriously who even cares about that? Some rules can be broken in some cases). Violet succeeds because she is clever, and she is rewarded for that.
I’m looking forward to the second book.