Mid sequel to an overrated dragon fantasy
The sequel to the exciting 2023 dragon fantasy, Fourth Wing is finally out! The second book in The Empyrean series by Rebecca Yarros, Iron Flame continues the story of dragon riders protecting the Navarre kingdom from neighbouring assault. The stakes are higher than ever as Violet realises her own nation would rather hide the truth than face it, her brother is alive and the dangerous venins and wyverns are not a myth but reality as they plan to take over Navarre.
Well, let’s get right to the point! Credit where credit due, the writing is alright. After several poorly written books making the rounds this year, it’s made readers realize that we’ve taken a basic requirement for granted. Sure, Iron Flame doesn’t hold a candle to say auteurs like Shakespeare or Tolstoy, but it does its job of dropping us in the middle of a thrilling tale full of adrenaline and that is honestly the only plus point.
The pacing continues to be a problem with pages on politics while the actual action is blink-and-miss. Several YA tropes are reused which is getting old and this time we cannot let it go as there is a very clear Vampire Academy plot twist that almost all fans can recognise. Iron Flame is back to info dumping as well which you’d think would have ended in the first book, but nope.
The novelty that Fourth Wing has as the first book is gone in the sequel. There is no more enemies-to-lovers’ energy, barely any dragons for a dragon fantasy and a whole lot of world-building that we already have a grasp of. Yarros also seems to be running out of Dain-reading-Violet’s-mind-in-Fourth-Wing type plot twist.
There is no mind-blowing highlight in Iron Flame that will have you impressed and nodding in approval. The curveballs thrown in the form of Xaden and Andarna are not surprising anymore as the author foreshadows so heavily that the suspense is ruined. And with 3 more books left in The Empyrean series, we wonder how she will keep up the hype.
The dialogues are slightly weird and the ick factor keeps increasing. The number of times you are about to get second-hand embarrassment can turn into a drinking game with moments like Xaden randomly professing his love unprovoked in public. It’s not the time or place, there is a war, guys!
Let’s be honest, fantasy is a huge undertaking and it is very difficult to mix genres. It requires years of investment to get it right. Series like those of Bernard Cornwell and Brandon Sanderson work because they focus on social commentary while keeping romance as an afterthought, they don’t make it the crux of the story. The same goes for Harry Potter which is a huge inspiration for this series.
Or the author should commit like Sarah J. Maas’ series by making romance the focus around which everything revolves. You cannot have the cake and eat it too, Yarros.
Frankly speaking, Iron Flame is so mid, so average that it makes you wonder if you have imagined the hype. Maybe the Fourth Wing TV show adaptation can work if it is a loose adaptation with good scriptwriters who can rework the plot structure. But otherwise, it doesn’t look promising for the rest of this YA fantasy book series.
Read More: Fourth Wing (The Empyrean #1) Book Review
Verdict - 5/10