Y'know how hard it is to write right now when I'm still recovering from this book? DIFFICULT. I'm SUFFERING. So hey, here I am to recommend it so that'll others suffer also. Love that for me. (No spoilers!)
I considered writing about my top books this year, but once I started writing about Fourth Wing, that's as far as I could get.
I've got lots to say but I'm completely unhinged, so fingers crossed that it's coherent!
Fourth Wing is a new release that actually comes out May second, but I've got it a bit early. It focuses on a war college in world with a fairly complicated background.
Hundreds of years ago, there was a war that caused a magical split between countries in a fight over land and resources. Navarre is the main country, split into multiple provinces. The country as a whole fights against an enemy outside their borders, to save their people from slaughter at the hands of Gryphon, magic, and riders. They've partnered with sentient dragons who fight with Navarre to protect their home region. Together, Dragons and Riders wield incredible magic that keep their invaders from breaching their wards.
Because of this centuries-long war, students are funneled into Basgiath War College, where they learn to be Scribes, Healers, Infantry, or Dragon Riders.
Violet Sorrengail studied her entire life to become a Scribe like her father, while her mother and two older siblings are revered Dragon Riders. When Violet turns 20 and is ready to test into the Scribes, her mother - ruthless General Sorrengail - demands she fight to become a rider, putting her entire life at risk. The Rider Quadrant has one stark reality - ride or die trying. Most of the cadets will fall to their deaths or die at the hands of classmates or dragons, and Violet is at a stark disadvantage - physically chronically ill with practically zero fight training.
Mixed among the Rider Cadets are young men and women from the Tyrrendor Province - children of a people who rose up against Navarre ten years ago. Their revolt was squashed, the traitors executed, and their children physically marked for life and forcefully conscripted into the Rider Quadrant, where most people of Navarre hope they'll die.
Violet is thrust into this brutal world of violence, hatred, and rivalry alongside third-year Xaden Riorson - the son of the rebellion leader. He's incredibly powerful, feared, and dangerous - to Navarre and Violet. He's wing leader and top of the class - the first Basgiath graduating class filled with children of the rebellion.
Xaden's father killed Violet's brother, but General Sorrengail killed Xaden's father, executed all the traitors, and crushed the insurrection. Everyone knows that the Tyrrs - children of the rebellious province - will kill a Sorrengail at the first opportunity, and Xaden claims that right.
Under threat from the Tyrrs, competitive cadets, and the very essence of the war college itself, Violet has little chance of survival. With a threat from every direction, she has to use her wits to survive classes and training, and pray to the gods that the dragons don't incinerate her before she has a chance to bond with one of them.
Fourth Wing is an exciting and well-written novel, with characterization that surprised me, writing that's both straight-forward and gorgeous, and a plot that left me surprised in a few places.
The actual review will be more of a "review lite," because I don't want to give much away, but there's so much I could say about this book.
Violet is complicated - desperate to prove herself, aware of her physical short-comings, and sharp enough to work around every obstacle. She doesn't back down from any challenge, even when it seems everyone doubts her and actively pushes her to fail, physically and mentally. She's funny, tough, and dynamic. Her growth happens internally and physically. As she grows into who and what she is, she gains more power and autonomy that will help her survive.
The relationships are so heartfelt. In this world where half the starting class dies, 100% of them kill, and all fight to earn a coveted dragon spot, the characters hold onto the bonds that they make and brought with them to the college. None of them are entirely bitter or closed off - they're all working toward survival and more. Despite the war college's murderous culture and punishing intent, they forge alliances and friendships that keep them alive. Including the bonds between riders and dragons.
I haven't read many dragon books, but I have to believe this one is unique in its take on the rider-dragon relationship and communication system. The dragons are sentient, intelligent, and endearingly human. They choose their riders and it really is a partnership once they deem a cadet worthy. They're able to communicate telepathically and they spend years training together before they go to war. If one dies, it's likely the other will.
For Violet, Basgiath challenges every aspect - friendships, family ties, her physical and mental capabilities... these shifts change the trajectory of her life and force her to choose who she's going to be - what everyone thinks she is and can't be, or who her dragon knows she is - stronger and braver than she's ever admitted.
The world and war college are filled with prejudice - against Violet and her different physical abilities and against the Tyrr students who are marked with their parents' treachery. As their training starts to spill past the war college's turrets and parapets, the students prepare for a war where they're outnumbered and more likely to die than each graduating class before.
They're forced to confront harsh truths about war, Basgiath, and Navarre.
Currently, this might be my favorite book of the year, which is saying a lot after reading Wolfsong by TJ Klune. Fourth Wing is more re-readable than Wolfsong, but there's one writing/plotting critique that makes me think Fourth Wing is 4.85⭐ rather than a straight 5⭐.
I ADORE this book, and I'm considering a reread right away (if I can ignore all the other books calling from my shelves). I'm so upset that this is an ongoing series. I need so much more ASAP.
P.S. It's a slowburn which is +15000 points in my book. UGH.