The Fourth Wing was one of the most talked-about books on the internet this year. It, for many, has been the entrance into fantasy that they finally needed. It features dragons, a sweeping landscape, a broadening world, different cultures and conflict – enough for me to consider it fantasy.
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I’m a huge fan of fantasy having bread Brandon Sanderson, John Gwynne, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.R.R. Martin and many more. I’ve also indulged in some YA fantasy such as Sarah J Maas, Leigh Bardugo and Liani Taylor. This means I’ve read some brilliant fantasy books with sweeping worlds and so think of myself as qualified enough to decide whether genuine fantasy readers should pick this up or those where fantasy isn’t the interest but “romance” is should pick this up.
Fourth Wing follows twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail, daughter of the commanding general of Navarre, sister of one of the most respected military members and sister to one of the most promising dragon riders lost during the war. Violet was destined to be a Scribe (essentially work with books and use her intelligence) but her mother has told her she’s going to be a dragon rider throwing everything up in the air.
Fourth Wing plot – 4.5/5
Fourth Wing’s plot is both its best and its worth element. The story itself and the world that Yarros is setting up in this first book (there are five books planned in total) is absolutely fantastic. The cultures, the large map, the college, the conflicts and even the dragons are cool. These are all massive positives of the book and what often kept me reading.
Yarros clearly had some key moments she wanted to hit upon in the book and it did feel like there was an intended direction (as opposed to sometimes where you feel like the author was never really sure where they were going with the plot). Something that many people online said about this book is that it’s addictive because the plot moves at such a fast pace and a lot of key moments happen and I have to agree.
Something I respect about this book is that Yarros wasn’t afraid to kill off big characters too. Often with YA fantasy, things are written to appease the reader, keeping your favourites and making sure nothing too bad ever really happens. Luckily, Yarros wasn’t interested in keeping readers too happy and so was willing to risk killing off some big names and often quite quickly too (no long drawn-out deaths here).
However, this leads me to the elements of the book I highly disliked. The descriptions of men is hideous, the shallow depictions of their “muscles” and how “handsome” they are and how much they “turn her on” is actually quite disturbing. Many people said this book reminded them of Harry Potter – I can tell you now, HP would not have sold half as many copies it has if it used descriptions of people and sex scenes the way this book does. Most people I’ve spoken to about it find the descriptions and “smut” as off-putting and wish they could skip it.
This book isn’t a romance to me. There’s absolutely nothing romantic about the book. The only moments that would come close are pure lust, not romance. Avoiding any scenes featuring Violet and the love interest, the plot of Fourth Wing is addictive, full of action and very satisfying throughout.
Fourth Wing characters – 4.25/5
I’m going to carry on my theme from the review of the plot of Fourth Wing by getting out of the way the fact that I despised Yarros’ description of men and not sure why she felt it necessary to put in. I hope she didn’t add it in because she wasn’t confident that the story itself would be good enough.
Aside from the awful descriptions of men, the actual characters are really quite good. Yarros has managed to write young enthusiastic characters quite well here. They joke with one another, they love one another and it’s great to see. This for me was the element that felt most like Harry Potter – the characters bonding with one another and forming something that makes it genuinely nice to read when they come back together is great to see.
Violet, our main character, has a surprising amount of personality considering the book is written from a first-person point of view which is something that can often hinder the character as they serve as more of a vessel for the story than actual personalities. Violet is strong, has a sense of humour, is passionate but most importantly – not perfect. This isn’t like a lot of other YA books where the main character is naturally incredible at everything; Violet gets lucky with almost all of the initial trials and is actually considered one of the weakest throughout the whole process. A refreshing change.
The villain characters are sometimes a little overly mean – angry for no reason and ridiculously violent for 20-somethings. However, the fellow protagonists are kind and interesting enough to make you glad they’re there.
Fourth Wing final rating – 4.5/5
Fourth Wing was billed to me as one of the biggest YA fantasy books of our generation. There is a big band of great characters, there is an established and interesting fantasy setting and it has a plot that will keep you reading. The book is completely ruined by the “smut” Yarros has put in as it doesn’t add to the story or the characters at all and there is absolutely no “romance” here, simply very shallow lust.
I am a huge fantasy fan and this isn’t adult fantasy, it’s very much young adult but with crude moments. If you enjoy high fantasy such Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or The Stormlight Archive, this may not be the sort of fantasy you’re looking for, but if you’re a fan of Sarah J Maas’ similar work then you could well find yourself enjoying this book a lot.
It’s a good book, at times a great book, it just doesn’t quite deserve the enormous praise and hype it’s received.