Iron Flame – Rebecca Yarros The Empyrean Book 2

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Iron Flame Rebecca Yarros The Empyrean book 2

Title: Iron Flame
Series: The Empyrean (Book #2)
Author: Rebecca Yarros
Originally Published: 2023
Language: English
No of Pages: 893
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Previous book in the series: Fourth Wing


Everyone, including Violet, expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College. But threshing was only the first impossible test designed to cull out the weak-willed, worthless, and unfortunate.

Violet is already concerned about how she will cope with the rigors of the training. It’s not only that it’s arduous and purposefully brutal, or that it’s designed to push the riders’ pain tolerance beyond endurance. The new vice commandant has made it his personal mission to show Violet how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.

Violet’s body may be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, but she still has her wits—and an iron determination. And the most crucial lesson Basgiath has taught her is that dragon riders set their own rules.

But willpower alone will not suffice this year.

Because Violet knows the true secret that has lain dormant at Basgiath War College for centuries—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.


I started reading Iron Flame on the first day and couldn’t put it down. Iron Flame’s pacing is intense, almost frustrating, because every time I had to stop reading and do real life things, I was inevitably ending on an explosive cliffhanger where someone’s life or the fate of the planet was at stake. So it’s no surprise that I found Iron Flame to be virtually unputdownable, although I didn’t enjoy it as much as its predecessor, Fourth Wing ( you can read the book HERE ), and felt that Iron Flame could have done a few things better.

By far my favorite aspect of Iron Flame was anything involving Andarna. Andarna in Iron Flame is essentially a spoiled teen with a lot of snark. She lighted up the page whenever she appeared. Tairn’s annoyance at her pranks, as well as their banter, was hilarious to read. I only wish the dragons were more prominent, as reading about people in Iron Flame was difficult for me, but more on it later. And, though I never imagined I’d say it in a million years, parts of Iron Flame involving Dain were another highlight of the story for me. 

In this one, I particularly enjoyed how author Rebecca Yarros handled his character growth. It was also great to see the other members of the Fourth Wing return, stronger than ever. Though several new characters, such as Liam’s sister and someone from Xaden’s background, irritated me at first, I enjoyed watching Violet gradually win them over.

Iron Flame had more emphasis on world-building, which was something I was looking forward to after finishing Fourth Wing. Characters go to various outposts and kingdoms, forge alliances with erstwhile foes who have quite different ways of doing things, and explore magics such as runes and wardstones in greater depth.

Though, to be fair, the latter is frequently explained in bursts of information dumps. Regardless, I like seeing more emphasis on the fantasy parts of this romance, even if it still felt like the surface was only being scratched.

Iron Flame, on the other hand, felt more meandering and less tightly edited than Fourth Wing, with the plot being all over the place and things shifting with incredible ease. If Fourth Wing read like a spicy young adult novel, Iron Flame read exactly like a young adult novel.

The romance between Xaden and Violet, which was so appealing in the first novel, became extremely irritating and even unpleasant in Iron Flame. Their relationship felt more like that of two teenagers than two young adults in their twenties.

Xaden and Violet spend the majority of the novel arguing and then having what amounts to make-up sex without the actual making up, which I found extremely annoying. Worse, Violet’s rage at Xaden appears to be both hypocritical and misguided.

Despite their ability to communicate telepathically, the two are constantly playing mind games with each other—Xaden wants to see if Violet will ask him what she wants to know, and Violet refuses to ask and instead wants him to volunteer information that he is not even at liberty to share as the leader of a top-secret rebellion. 

It’s natural for couples to have problems, but these two may die at any time due to war, torture, or supernatural opponents, and they chose to pick at each other all the time. Furthermore, many of the characteristics that made Xaden an incomparably better mate for Violet in Fourth Wing were absent in this novel.

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He sought to coddle her instead of supporting and believing in her to choose her own path, as Dain had done earlier. Unfortunately, their relationship troubles took up a large, unavoidable portion of the novel, and I was only aggravated when Xaden’s jealous ex-fiancée was added into the mix, as if things weren’t already vexing enough.

Reading a romance that is usually too wonderful to be true, which only adds to the fantasy aspect of this subgenre, is a huge part of what makes it so delightful. Make no mistake: this work does not provide readers with the pinnacle of romance. Violet and Xaden’s relationship is so tumultuous that it is nearly unpleasant. I honestly can’t picture a military leader acting so unprofessionally in front of his superiors, peers, and subordinates all of the time.

I was also sad that disability representation, which was one of my favorite aspects of Fourth Wing, was given much less attention in Iron Flame. Violet still has to wrap her joints, but these references are few and far between.

And, while her disability was a secret she had to keep at all costs in the first novel, it’s suddenly something everyone knows and is okay with in Iron Flame, despite the previous book’s emphasis on dragons not liking weak riders, a wing being only as strong as its weakest rider, and all that life-threatening nonsense. 

While this was a pleasant surprise, chronic illnesses do not simply disappear from a person’s life, especially when that person is forced to ongoing rigorous physical training, stress, emotional fallout, and even torture. As someone who has lupus and several other chronic conditions, I wanted to cheer for Violet and see her thrive, but it was disheartening to see such a false depiction of what it’s like to live with a disability.

I’m not an expert on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but it’s unbearable to me that Violet never gets a moment to rest, that she can simply walk off dislocations, that she can have tons of sex on top of the already grueling physical demands of her job/training, or that she’s suddenly able to accomplish a physical feat that even able-bodied people find difficult for the first time when there is a great need for her to do so.

Finally, I wasn’t thrilled with Iron Flame’s ending. Though I dislike cliffhangers, if they’re done correctly, I can appreciate them from a craft aspect. However, I thought the finale to be really unclear and abrupt.

With the abrupt POV change, flashbacks, flashforwards, and the lack of page breaks or anything, it was difficult to keep track of everything. I’m not sure why this wasn’t formatted more clearly. Not to mention that I wasn’t delighted with anything that had happened, or that I’d plainly be waiting for answers in the third installment of the series.

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