Narrator: Rebecca Soler, Teddy Hamilton
Series: The Empyrean #2
Published by Recorded Books
Published on 7 November 2023
Source: my local library
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“The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson
Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College, Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.
Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.
Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.
But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.
Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College, and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.
I DID IT. I listened to a 28 hour audiobook in under 3 weeks. I’ve never done that before lololol.
I was worried that having a 600 page book come out so quickly after the phenomenal success of Fourth Wing (six months between releases which is quite rare in traditional publishing) meant that the book would have poor editing, but my fears were unfounded. I feared that any editors would just let Yarros go rambling for 600 pages but I did not feel that was the case here. I wouldn’t say everything was essential, but she packed a lot in. It wasn’t a big ramble of literally nothing happening and then ending on a cliffhanger (cough PLATED PRISONER SERIES cough). This is not Yarros’ first book, she’s written a bunch before this and has nailed her craft. Good on her. While the beginning was slower, and it took a while for me to really get into the book, at the end I was just incoherently screaming with feelings.
There was so much to enjoy about this. It hit SO MANY of my favourite tropes and things I love to see in fiction, including a love interest who is mature, grounded, and has good communication and is open with his feelings. I loved seeing Violet work through her issues not only with Xaden but with her friends as well. SHE USED ACTUAL WORDS. The communication between these characters? SO GOOD. This wasn’t a miscommunication trope, it wasn’t ‘not telling you for your own good’. I felt like there were VERY GOOD reasons for keeping secrets. I do have an issue with a theme that appeared to be a running through this book, though: that all secrets are bad. It’s almost like no one is allowed any freaking privacy, they have to share everything. I don’t agree that people have to be 100% transparent, and that’s what these characters appeared to be demanding.
Yarros takes SO MANY of the most popular tropes, literally the most enjoyable things I’ve loved THE MOST about many different book series, and stuffs them in here in a way that actually works. I mean, she had 600 pages to do it, so there was room, but still. I admire the writer that can pack this much ‘write to market’ in this book while still having it be its own original story.
Plotlines/ideas I was able to personally identify based on my favourite books I can remember (reminder that there is no copyright on ideas):
- Dragons of Pern
- Vampire Academy (IYKYK – NO SPOILERS)
- The Hunger Games
- Throne of Glass
- The Night Huntress series (the throne room scene!)
Using popular tropes and is not ‘stealing’. I think Yarros is writing to market and doing so extremely well. Coupling that with going viral has made this series what it is.
I feel like the relationship part of the romance was developed very well. In fact, it appeared to be quite deep to me, and not as shallow as a lot of romances I’ve been reading over the past couple of years. I liked that they were still totally into each other physically, but some of my favourite moments were when they were just talking and hanging out without any smut. They talked through their relationship issues, and argued, and I just really liked that.
Violet is so brave. I just love a character with strong willpower. She keeps getting up even when her body betrays her. I also really liked the characters arcs and development of two new characters, Liam’s sister Sloan, and Cat. Both of them hate Violent for reasons, and watching their development was awesome.
The writing was incredibly engaging, and the plot was exciting. The war stuff was also really well written. I don’t really like reading about war, but Yarros showed her military knowledge in this. Sometimes when I read books, I find myself rewriting lines in my head to be more engaging or have more emotional impact, and I didn’t do that at all while listening to this one. She’s giving fantasy fiction in a more approachable, easily digestible way, and I am a fan of that. While I love fantasy, works like Lord of the Rings and its contemporaries can be incredibly dry and textbook-like. Fourth Wing and Iron Flame reads more similar to YA fiction, with a focus on plot and characters. I say ‘more similar to’ since I find it much more engaging: do not get me wrong, this book is not YA.
I do think that one of the problems with having Academy-based books that written by year, like Harry Potter, is that the bad guys conveniently wait until the end of the year to strike? Like Voldemort seemed to think Harry deserved his education so he waited until school was over to attack? The bad guys did the same thing in this book? It took a whole year? For REASONS? That doesn’t make sense. Thank you for waiting until the school year was done. Another thing I found frustrating was that the climax of this book was extremely similar to the climax of the first book.
I also want to add that the audiobook narrator was incredible, channelling emotions and excitement in a believable way. I really enjoyed listening to this on audio, and I would rather listen to the rest of the series than read it because of this.