Boy did I somehow not expect to be hit right in the feels almost immediately after starting Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros. Violet reminiscing about the death of someone very close to her from the previous book, Fourth Wing, had me feeling the pain of it all over again and NO THOSE ARE NOT TEARS IN MY EYES RIGHT NOW. Seriously though, every time I thought I was passed the agony, the book just tried to break me all over again which added up to me being an emotional wreck right from the start.
To clarify here, this character was basically my favourite one from Fourth Wing so the death hit me hella hard and I’m clearly not over it. Which is a testament to how incredible the characters are in this series, that not only did I have such a strong attachment to a secondary character, but that Rebecca Yarros is so talented in her depictions of these characters and how incredibly they are written to evoke such strong emotions. The characters absolutely make this series and so many of them have managed to steal pieces of my heart and have me in desperate need of more of them.
Violet faces all new challenges in her second year at Basgiath War College as she fights to become a Rider. But it’s not just becoming a Rider that she has to worry about now after the revelations at the end of Fourth Wing that opened her eyes to the dangerous happenings going on behind the scenes from the rebels, to the venin and the question of who is on what side, and which is the true right side to be on. Violet has to figure out for herself which side she wants to be on, while dealing with the frustration of being kept mostly in the dark about what the rebels are really up to and not being allowed to help them for her own safety. Andarna becomes just one more secret that has to be hidden in order to keep her out of danger from the Riders, which poses a problem for Violet when her enemies use this against her at the College. Not to mention the fact that Violet and Xaden, and as a result Sgaeyl and Tairn, find themselves parted by a great distance, which seems intentional on the part of some of the leaders of the school who want to keep them apart, creating difficulties both for their relationships and their bonds. So basically there’s a crap ton going on and Violet just can’t catch a break.
Sweet lord the tension between Violet and Xaden. I can’t even explain how intense it is every second that they are together and I spent every moment of it mentally yelling at Violet to just let Xaden all the way in and stop fighting it. The two are absolute fire together and I cannot get enough of the two of them. I just wanted the two of them to be together every page of this book and it was so hard having to go so long between their interactions because of their different placements due to Xaden being a graduate now and no longer at Basgiath college. It did serve to build that tension to an intense crescendo that exploded when they lay eyes on one another which made the separation worth it. But again, Violet’s inner turmoil held her back and made for a not very easy relationship between the two of them. But then Xaden would be too insanely sweet and would just make me swoon all over again at his clear devotion. These two are everything together and I need more. I also adore the banter to them. So many times just reading their back and forth had me smiling while I read. I couldn’t withhold my amusement at their interaction below, as Violet led with:
“Stop scaring her.”
“I’m just standing here.”
“That’s enough. Trust me.” (pg. 177)
Then there is Tairn. He is the sassy queen, and all around star of this series. He is such a grumpy bear and I live for every snarky comment he has in every situation because he had me dying with laughter constantly. His majestic, almighty Dragon solution? Eat anyone who gets in the way and messes with his rider. I loved it so much.
Sassy Tairn quote: “You could have crushed someone,” I lecture.
“Could have, but alas, they moved.” (pg. 428)
So. Much. Happened. I was honestly astonished that this book just kept going, packed with action from start to finish. I thought maybe there would be lulls, maybe this sequel wouldn’t live up entirely to Fourth Wing (and I just mean maybe it wouldn’t be quite as incredible, I fully expected it to still be amazing regardless of not knowing if it would be on the same level). But it never stopped and damn straight it is just as phenomenally amazing as Fourth Wing. I was equally as obsessed and it just cemented this series in its top tier position in my mind. I was hooked every second with the training/schooling part of becoming a Rider and all the new things they are learning and being conditioned on in the second year, but even more so I was reeled into this story because of the role that the revolution plays this time around. Now it’s so much more a part of the story and Violet is at least a bit more in the know, which means we as the reader are as well, and finding out these details and seeing the behind the scenes bit of it had me absolutely devastated every time I had to put Iron Flame down. I was so resentful to have to go to work and do various other activities that took me away from reading Iron Flame, and if I had had it my way I would have sat down and not stopped until I finished. And it was just incredible enough that I could have done so easily had I been able to.
I swear I spent half of the book with tears in my eyes and the other half with epic chills from the events taking place. The amount of times this book knocked the breath out of me with the shocking events and the heartrending moments, both good and bad. I honestly don’t even have the proper words to explain how this book made me feel. It ripped me apart, put me back together, then ripped me apart all over again. It had me gripped by the throat every second and putting Iron Flame down was the hardest thing imaginable. It tore my heart to pieces all over again when I finished and now lives in my head every second because I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t even fathom how I’m going to make it the interminable period of time until the third book comes out. There are so many questions and so many theories spinning through my head and I won’t get peace from them until I have the next book in my hands.
All this to say Iron Flame was out of this world phenomenal. I never thought I would say this or even think it, but I actually think I somehow loved Iron Flame even more than Fourth Wing. I didn’t think it got better than that but here we are. So until book three of the Empyrean series comes out, I’ll just be waiting here, obsessively theorizing and wondering what could possibly happen next, worrying for all of the characters who have stolen a piece of my heart. I may never emotionally recover from this book, and quite frankly I’m trying to figure out how I’m supposed to go back to reality and regular life because what even is that after Iron Flame?