fourth wing rebecca yarros review

I Wish I Could Unread Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (A Too-Long Rant)

one dark window rachel gillig

Fourth Wing

by Rebecca Yarros

SeriesThe Empyrean #1

GenresFantasy, Romance, Fantasy Romance


Release Date: May 2, 2023

Pages: 517

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders…

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 told myself I was going to avoid solo book reviews on this blog especially for books in a series (because I’d rather do full a series review), but I hated this book so much that I needed to rant about it. 😂 So if you liked this book, be warned: This will be an angry review. I will be trashing this book a lot.


Here’s what I imagine happened: I believe that Rebecca Yarros wanted to write an edgy fantasy book with dragons targeted for a YA audience. She probably had a word cloud of ideas and no actual details prepared. Fine, maybe there was a rough outline. Her characters were written on the fly, but she knew she wanted a heroine who was not like the other girls. In 2023, she finally decided that it was time to publish her book… but it was missing something… ah, spice is getting really big in the book world. She went back to make her characters adults and made them super horny. And BAM, Fourth Wing was born. ✨

Do you want to read a book about a bunch of adults (who act and speak like horny teenagers) running around trying to kill each other?

Maybe you do, and I don’t blame you because that honestly sounds like a fun time. But personally, I need one basic question answered before I can enjoy this kind of plot: WHY are they trying to kill each other?

In the case of Fourth Wing, there is no point. This book supposedly features the best, the brightest, and the toughest kids adults (I’m going to have a problem with this) going through the dragon riders’ quadrant of the Big Bad War CollegeTM. This is allegedly the most revered sector of the college, and those who are admitted here are trained in magic and eventually go to war… which is why it makes absolutely NO SENSE why it would be okay for the students to murder each other and lessen their work force. It’s so dumb.

This book features the laziest world-building I’ve ever encountered. It’s wild.

Despite this being the most covetted quadrant, they waste space by conscripting the rebel kids (children of those part of some previous big rebellion I can’t remember) into it, who they supposedly do not trust, where they’ll be given access to dragons and magic? Make it make sense! Why not give them manual labor jobs if they can’t be trusted? Why give them positions that everyone else wants to have?

And yeah, despite everyone supposedly having trained for years to get into this quadrant, nobody seems to know anything about it! The students talk about dragons, dragon riders and the quadrant in ways that make them sound so unsure about everything. If you’re willing to risk your life to get in here, shouldn’t you have done reseach? Or, if this was such a popular quadrant, shouldn’t all of these things be common knowledge? A few examples:

“Plus, I’ve heard that riders are allowed to marry sooner than the other quadrants,” Dylan adds.

“True. Right after graduation.” If we survive. “I think it has something to do with wanting to continue bloodlines.” Most successful riders are legacies.

I overhead a third-year say when a first-year survives Threshing unbonded, the quadrant lets them repeat the year and try again if they want.”

I study the map. The Esben Mountain Range is the highest along our eastern border with Braevick, making it the least likely place for an attack, especially since gryphons don’t tolerate altitude nearly as well as dragons, probably due to the fact that they’re half-lion, half-eagle and can’t handle the thinner air at altitudes.

The author also opts out of ever attempting to explain anything the dragons do. Whenever someone has a perfectly reasonable question about the dragons, the response is always just about “respecting one’s life” because if they try to ask, the dragons will kill them? (Again, why?) Anyway, this is just an excuse on the author’s part because she doesn’t want to think of a reasonable response. 🤷‍♀️

Here’s another pressing question I have with the dragons… why do they even need people in the first place? There was some crap about them needing their riders’ magic to power the wards but why do they care about the wards in the first place? Beats me. They are clearly powerful and independent creatures so I don’t know why they need people.

Let’s talk more about the Big Bad War CollegeTM and how the sudents didn’t learn jack shit from it.

Majority of this book takes place when the FMC (I can’t believe I haven’t even gotten to her yet) is finally in the college, so I expected to be learning about the world and the dragons and everything through the classes she was taking… Of course that didn’t happen.

There are only two prominent classes featured in the book, and one of them is called Battle Brief (😂😭), which was used as an excuse for the readers to have tidbits of what was going on in the real world while still giving us a university setting, and the one for dragon riding (I don’t remember what it was called), where nobody was really taught anything, and the students just flew around and the professors were like, fuck it figure it out yourselves. 🤨

Instead of taking meaningful classes, we have bullshit training for school events like Squad Battles and War Games (😂😭) that are all basically high school sports festivals but with murder and ZERO cameraderie—which again, doesn’t make sense because these people will be expected to work together towards one common purpose (which, I’m gonna be honest, I have no idea what that purpose is) and protect each other when they graduate. 💀

The Threshing, where the dragons chose students to bond with, was hilarious to me. The students walked around a giant forested area and were free to look at the dragons. It felt like free time at Jurrasic World. And again, some students, instead of trying to “impress” the dragons, went around trying to kill a small dragon, which is really dumb because how will the other dragons like them if they killed one of their own? No idea.

Okay, let’s finally talk characters.

We have to start with our heroine, Violet Sorrengail. You will never forget that she is THE heroine, because this book goes the extra mile to paint her as The One by presenting us with random factoids about her that don’t really add anything to her personality.

Obviously, she has two toned hair. Yeah, she’s super tiny. Of course, she’s the only not only bonds with one of the most powerful dragons available, but also bonds with another baby dragon with unique magic. She has a physical disability where her joints suddenly dislocate (which is not explicitly named in the book, but it’s depicted similarly to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). Normally, I would appreciate the disability rep, but there was never any nuanced conversation about it so it didn’t really seem to matter.

The only attempt at conversation with her disability was when she couldn’t mount or stay on her dragon, and I had so many notes this, because I have no idea why they didn’t just put saddles on all of the dragons in the first place, and instead just let all these kids adults die when they couldn’t stay on.

Violet also doesn’t have to study for tests because she’s super smart. 😗 This really annoyed me because the author used it as a funny attempt to “show” instead of tell with the world building—Violet would recite paragraphs and paragraphs worth of facts and history about the world to help her relax or concentrate, which was insane when she was trying to escape one of her classmates attempting to kill her while they were crossing the parapet. 😭

The book also makes it blatantly obvious which male character is going to be the love interest, because he’s given the longest description for a character to ever exist. Please witness this for yourself:

The third turns in my direction and my heart simply…stops.

He’s tall, with windblown black hair and dark brows. The line of his jaw is strong and covered by warm tawny skin and dark stubble, and when he folds his arms across his torso, the muscles in his chest and arms ripple, moving in a way that makes me swallow. And his eyes… His eyes are the shade of gold-flecked onyx. The contrast is startling, jaw-dropping even—everything about him is. His features are so harsh that they look carved, and yet they’re astonishingly perfect, like an artist worked a lifetime sculpting him, and at least a year of that was spent on his mouth.

He’s the most exquisite man I’ve ever seen.

And living in the war college means I’ve seen a lot of men.

Even the diagonal scar that bisects his left eyebrow and marks the top corner of his cheek only makes him hotter. Flaming hot. Scorching hot. Gets-you-into-trouble-and-you-like-it level of hot. Suddenly, I can’t remember exactly why Mira told me not to fuck around outside my year group.

Throwing this hilarious gem:

He’s using a dagger to peel an apple, removing the rind in one long curl, and the blade continues its path as his eyes lift, locking with mine.

My whole head tingles.

My note on this quote was simply: Edgy. 😭

Honestly, Xaden has no personality aside from this try-hard edginess, so I can’t even make fun of him properly. The rest of the characters are all equally bland and shallow. I could drop a few names of Violet’s classmates but none of them matter and I don’t care. But for the sake of it, here’s a snippet of a character being an absolute child:

Looking past him, I catch Jack Barlowe running a finger across his neck at me.

There is one queer character that is queer not for proper representation and is there just as a token queer character. She, along with every other student in this college, is just having sex during every free time they have. They are horny teens at their cores.

Superficial characters mixed in with the atrocious writing (phrases like “supreme badass” and “holy fucking hot” were thrown around) gave me the impression that this book was originally inteded to be YA. (For the record, this is probably not true, but this is how I felt.)

The romance plays a big role in the story, and it isn’t even what it’s advertised to be.

This was supposed to be an enemies-to-lovers romance, right? Well, everyone kept telling Violet that Xaden was out to get her, but NOT ONCE did he ever attempt to kill or even hurt her. There was no hate. It was all a lie.

There’s instant-attraction, which, fine, I am not particularly mad about, but oh my god, the writing made it unbearable to read about.

You are not attracted to toxic men, I remind myself, and yet, here I am, getting all attracted. I have been since the first second I saw him, if I feel like being honest.

The wind ruffles his hair, and I sigh at the completely unfair advantage he has over every man in this courtyard. He doesn’t even have to try to look sexy… he just is.

Because of my theory that the spice was added in last minute to make this book a surefire hit, I’m going to also throw it in as a last-minute bonus point. The sex scenes are hilarious and Rebecca Yarros makes it abundantly clear that she is a big fan of Sarah J. Maas. I can’t leave you guys on a cliffhanger and not show you exactly what I mean:

I love his loss of control just as much as I fear my own, and when I swirl my hips, he groans, arching his neck as he thrusts once. Twice.

On the third, he shouts, then shudders within me, and his power lashes out in streaks of shadows, the force splitting the wooden target on the other side of the window.

Pieces fly and Xaden throws out another wave of darkness that lasts just long enough to shield us from the debris. Then the shadows retreat and daggers clatter to the ground behind me.

He swallows my cry as my back bows, the first wave of my orgasm washing over me, releasing that tight coil of tension in a burst of sparks at the edge of my vision, breaking me into a million scattered stars. Lightning strikes outside my window, flashing light through the room again and again as he strokes me with an expertise that kicks the first climax into a second.


The armoire door groans, then splinters off the hinges, and Xaden’s shadows whip out, protecting me as the frame snaps and wood crashes around us. My power flares, rising in answer to his, sizzling beneath my skin as I grab ahold of his shoulders, my mouth finding his.

In conclusion…

I wasn’t expecting to love this book, but I had some hopes. I typically like to turn off my brain when I read, because I mostly read for fun vibes, but I couldn’t accept how lazily everything from the plot to the world-building to the characters were written. 😂 I’m happy for those who enjoyed it, but personally, I wish I could unread it. 😅

Let’s chat!

Have you read this book? Did you or did you not enjoy it? Do you have any (hopefully better) dragon book recommendations for me? 😂

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Here's a 2000-word rant on Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, brought to you by @aimeecanread Share on X

32 responses to “I Wish I Could Unread Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (A Too-Long Rant)”

  1. Jason @FanaticalCentrist Avatar
    Jason @FanaticalCentrist

    Wow, I laughed at this review a bunch, but I’m surprised at the vitriol. For me, in comparison to the Scholomance trilogy and the god-awful Court of Thorns and Roses series, I thought Fourth Wing and Iron Flame are major improvements. I read each book twice and I never once read the characters as adults (although I know they are). I read it as if emotional maturity simply happens later in the lifespans of these characters. I agree that the romance angles were very cliche, but I enjoyed the world itself and the brutal nature of it. I feel like Yarros did a much better job expressing the peril of the students than the author of the Scholomance books. This is a brutal culture based on constant warfare and deception. They kill each other because that’s how the society works. The only thing that is respected is power and authority and the fastest means of gaining power and authority is to kill others in your way. Now, I admit that I hated some of the portrayals of this in a few characters. Jack Barlowe, for example, was so unredeemable of a character that he was basically a caricature. Reminded me of Cato in the Hunger Games except that at least Cato’s motivation was more thoroughly fleshed out. I really enjoyed the rebellion within a rebellion approach and felt actual attachment to the squad mates that made it to the second half of the book. I don’t know, it’s not a great book by any stretch, but I have certainly read far worse YA fantasy novels recently.

  2. […] @ Aimee Can Read reintroduced herself to the blogging community 🩷She also wrote a rant review on The Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yaros, which I appreciate (after all the hype) a lot 😅 She really took one for the team […]

  3. Meezan Avatar

    I’ve heard there’s a lot of strong language in this book, which is not my cup of tea. That’s why I never had any desire to read it. Your review didn’t change my mind. 🙂

  4. […] Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros by Aimee @ Aimee Can […]

  5. […] full rant-review for Fourth Wing (⭐) is finally up! It took me weeks to write this review bc I didn’t know […]

  6. Annemieke Avatar

    Haha yeah I’ve heard something similar from someone and its why I’m not picking it up despite it having dragons. I cry.

  7. Lisa @TenaciousReader Avatar

    OK, I actually enjoyed this one, but also enjoyed reading your rant. I think I just went with the flow and didn’t try to look to deep or think to hard about any of the world building. I think its one of those books that is better that way, but I completely understand because sometimes when I read, once I notice something I just cant “turn off my brain” like I bet I did when I read this one 😀

  8. Hannah Avatar

    Well, I’m glad it’s one I didn’t jump on the hype train for 😂

  9. buffywnabe Avatar

    Ha, I love your rant! I haven’t read this one yet, but have a copy to read. I didn’t read all your details, because I want to go into it with my mind open. But if I start having issues, I’ll probably be back to read every little bit of this post to see if I agree. This often happens to me with books that EVERYONE seems to love. But I don’t know yet since I haven’t started. Thanks for sharing your honest opinion!

  10. […] I Wish I Could Unread Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (A Too-Long Rant) by Aimee at Aimee Can Read […]

  11. Angela @ Literary Wanderer Avatar

    And this is why I read so little fantasy – the world building is often lacking or totally nonsensical! These kid-dults are supposed to be training for actually war and their classes are called “games”?

  12. Sophia (Bookwyrming Thoughts) Avatar


    Honestly the only thing I can get is that they need like the best of the best and weed out the weak and all of that but the thing is… there’s like… they need people. They’re at war, you’d THINK they would actually lessen the killing so much? IDK, that was such a huge issue for me as well, and I definitely didn’t understand conscripting the rebel kids EVEN if it got explained in book two (I think?)

    I personally didn’t really mind not having nuanced conversations (and this was from reading convos from those EDS which Violet has) since I figured it was more of those with EDS can exist without having to ever have those convos. And they were other characters too who were there as well, like one of Violet’s friends from the Scholar’s quadrant is hard of hearing (but she’s also a minor character).

    NGL lie though, the sex scenes might be one of the best parts but only because they’re hilarious and they break… the entire room? Or most of it. 😂

    I definitely do think I was reading this at the right time and was in the right mood (everyday I wonder if I was a bit too generous with the rating that I don’t even remember lol) — I’m FULLY convinced of this.

  13. Girl Plus Books Avatar

    Aymee!! This was priceless! LOL Despite having loved Fourth Wing, I totally enjoyed your ranty review. 🙂 I firmly believe not every book is going to be for every reader. I mean, how impossible would it be for an author to write a book that appealed to absolutely everyone? As if! Haha! So of course any/every book will have readers both loving it and hating it. Sorry that this fell into the latter category for you… but like I said, I had the best time reading your thoughts on it.

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

  14. Ellie Warren Avatar

    Uh oh. Well I’m still gonna try and read it, because I seem to have a high tolerance for nonsense if a book is fun.

  15. Lark@LarkWrites Avatar

    Your rant totally made me laugh. I was intrigued by this one because of the dragons in it, but the length of it has kept me from reading it. And then I heard the second one wasn’t so great, so I don’t think I’ll bother with this one now. Plus, some of the things that bugged you would totally frustrate me, too.

  16. hena Avatar

    haha.. don’t even look at Iron Flame.
    I actually enjoyed Fourth Wing but Iron Flame was such a mess.. so so bad!

  17. Samantha @WLABB Avatar

    This book is not my cup of tea, but I am sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it. I hate invested time, especially in a long book, to be disappointed.

  18. Rebecca Avatar

    I actually enjoyed the book (but it took a minute to get into it), but it’s definitely fantasy fluff. And this review absolutely made my day, so thank you for sharing! 😀

  19. lindseyreads Avatar

    I did love this book, however your review was definitely very spot on! 😀 I felt myself nodding along to every point you made, but I guess I didn’t mind myself when reading.

  20. Kat @ Bookish Blades Avatar

    I actually loved this book when I read it but the more time passes, the less I like it haha. Also, your review was hilarious to read, I loved it 😀

  21. maddalena@spaceandsorcery Avatar

    Given the enthusiastic reviews I read on the blogosphere, I added this book to my TBR with high hopes, but now that I’ve read your review I’d better lower my expectations a little… Nonetheless, I enjoyed your comments because… well, now and then it’s so satisfying to vent against a book we didn’t enjoy! 😉

  22. Tammy Avatar

    Well when you put it that way… I loved Fourth Wing but I totally understand where you’re coming from. Awesome and entertaining review!

  23. Rachel @Waves of Fiction Avatar
    Rachel @Waves of Fiction

    Your review made me laugh! I enjoyed the book, but I think listening to it as opposed to reading an e-copy might have helped. Plus, I went in with low expectations since I’m not a big fan of the romantasy genre, so I was pleasantly surprised. I agree with a lot of these points. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the story. It was a long book! I didn’t like the second one near as much and to be honest I don’t care about reading any of the other books either. We’ll see.

  24. ratmom Avatar

    Oh no, sorry to hear this was so bad for you.

  25. Jodie | That Happy Reader Avatar

    I too had to laugh at your review! I don’t think I would have finished it!

  26. Rebecca Avatar

    Your review made me laugh out loud and you made great points about, well everything! I personally had a great time with Fourth Wing because it was like a spicy throwback to all the trash YA I enjoyed as a teen LOL

  27. Veros @ Dark Shelf of Wonders Avatar
    Veros @ Dark Shelf of Wonders

    Well your review made me feel really vindicated at my choice not to read this, lol. In terms of dragon book recommendations, I the Aurelian Cycle by Rosaria Munda is one of my favourite series and there’s a dragon riding academy too. It’s inspired by the Russian revolution and political fantasy with great characters and basically asks if there really is a better form of government that others.

  28. Celeste | A Literary Escape Avatar

    Hahaha this was an entertaining review to read. While it wasn’t a 5-star read for me, nor was it as stellar as SJM’s character building, I think I gave it 4 stars because it was entertaining. But some of the qualms you pointed out I do agree with. Particularly the why give the rebels’ children access to this type of training? Wasn’t the excuse that it’s in the hopes they’re picked off during the schooling and Threshing process? Because I really read it for the romance, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the relationship building. By the time the spice scenes happened I was honestly just like ok, cool, because I had very little attachment to their relationship progression (it was too instalove for me). Anyway…I plan to continue the series, but I always enjoy reading another opinion about a well-loved series!

  29. yvonne473 Avatar

    Wow! What a review! I won’t be reading this one. I’m sorry it was such a bad read for you. Great job at writing the review, though.

  30. Cindy Davis Avatar

    Your review made me laugh. I am sorry you hated the book, with a passion, LOL! It’s not something I would ever pick up and I will be sure my daughter doesn’t either…she likes the fantasy genre and I could see her trying this, but she would hate it too.

  31. Tasya @ The Literary Huntress Avatar

    Welp your review made sure I will never pick this book up 😭 Sex scenes aside, the lack of logic on the world building and school’s logic on having the students kill each other (and the dragon???) really grated on my nerves.

    And yes the quotes you picked really illustrate your points well, especially the last two 💀

  32. Sophie @BewareOfTheReader Avatar
    Sophie @BewareOfTheReader

    Oh gosh your review made me laugh Aimee! I personally ADORE that book but I totally get why you don’t! You have valid points here but it seems they didn’t deter me from loving the book. Great review!

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