Review posted August 13, 2023.
Recorded Books, 2023. 20 hours, 43 minutes.
Review written August 13, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Wow. Fourth Wing is a grittier, tougher, sexier adult version of a young person attending a school for wizards -- or in this case, dragonriders. With all the danger (students constantly dying) and action, the book pulls you in and doesn't stop. I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn't listening to it.
It begins with Violet's older sister Mira protesting to their mother that Violet's going to die. Violet always planned to go into the scribe quadrant like their father when she got to be twenty and it was her turn to make a choice.
But her father has recently died and her mother, the general in charge of the war college, says that their family were always dragon riders, and she'll drag Violet out of the scribe quadrant if she tries to go there. But everybody, including Violet, seems convinced that she'll die. After all, she's got Ehler-Danlos syndrome, which naturally doesn't have that name, but she's got weak joints and brittle bones that often go out of joint. And never mind that the very first day, she has to cross a parapet in the rain -- recruits typically fall to their deaths before they even get a chance at the dragons.
Mira warns Violet to look to her lifelong friend Dane Atos for help, a second-year squad leader. And to watch out for Xaden Rierson, the son of the man who led a rebellion six years ago. Their mother oversaw the execution of his father, but that father was responsible for the death of their beloved brother Brennan. So of course they can be expected to hate each other. At a place where students are known to kill one another. With that warning, there's no surprise the conflict that's going to be in Violet's heart, but I like how the author gets us there, showing rather than telling us why attraction happens or doesn't happen.
Once Violet crosses the parapet, there are still many ways to die. Challenges with other cadets. Difficult training maneuvers. And it all builds toward the Threshing, when candidates may or may not bond with a dragon and then learn to wield their dragon's magic in their own particular signet.
The world-building all develops naturally along with the action, and the author gets us completely wrapped up in it. There's a warning at the front about violence and about sexual activity portrayed on the page. And, yes, it's awfully messed up to have an academy to train dragon riders where a large percentage of the candidates die. Also, the sexy scenes don't happen until two-thirds of the way through the book, but when they do, well, furniture breaks. Yes, that part is long, vivid, and over-the-top. You won't necessarily want to listen to this with anyone else in the room.
And -- I won't say what happens, but I love it when books have an ending that makes me shout out loud with a surprising and perfect twist. The only bad part about it is that I have to wait until the next book is published to find out what happens next. (But good news! I see that Book Two is coming out in November.)
This is an amazing book. I love it that a short girl with physical limitations uses her cleverness to become a dragonrider. (Hey, I'm not giving anything away. It would be a short book if she didn't make it.) The characters are complex (even if you can see where the romance is going), the world-building is intricate, and the dragons are just plain cool.