Fourth Wing Rant: 1 star review
Updated: Oct 23
If I could make it lower, I would.
At first, I had no interest in reading or listening to Fourth Wing. I watched some reviews and decided it wasn’t for me. It was far more interested in telling a garbage romance story than giving me a rich world, which was what I expected a BookTok book to give me. I should have known from the first chapter that this wasn’t going to be a book for me, but it was all over my feed and Insta, peer pressure won, and I would like a refund of my time and energy trying to make this world make sense.
The things that I liked were the dragons, they were the only things I understood and even then, I struggled. I didn’t understand the academic setting as it felt more like a plot contrivance than something relevant. The dragons reminded me of the dragons in Eragon. How they spoke and bonded to their rider and gave them magic that was an extension of their bond. Yet in Yarros’s book, the magic makes little sense and I remember something about a pen and some ink-refilling power that was so boring and strange, and not in a good way, that I blocked it out. Back to the dragons, I found it odd that they were written to have such animalistic traits yet bonded easily to humans. I found myself comparing the dragons to GOT dragons and their more animalistic qualities.
Which made me think of how Danny had to raise them and was born with a magical connection to them because of her Targaryen blood. Her struggles with the dragons as babies and their need to hunt like any other wild animal. The struggle with locking them away and the pain she felt as that bond grew weak and the mistakes she made. Danny was human and her dragons were feral animals.
Violet doesn't have that.
Now some may argue that it makes her a more relatable character, seeing as how she trained her who life to be a Scribe, not a Rider, or Flyer... whatever they call them. But when the black dragon, or Morningstar-Tail, shows up after she saves its golden Feathertail "baby" and she bonds with it right away, that was just pitiful. Hell even in video games like Legend of Zelda, Link must bond with his horse, or it goes off the trail. Let her bond with her dragons, let her feel fear when she sees these animals for the first time and feel the relief when one chooses her.
I could see the scene where she touches the black dragon because it was like House of the Dragon and HTTYD, far better stories than the one I had to read about dragons.
In GOT and HOTD those dragons didn’t talk, they had no human characteristics, and some of them had been around humans for so long that they understood their emotions and feelings but, in the end, they are beasts and the Targaryen’s do not control them. Yarros wanted to have her cake and eat it too, without fully understanding feral animals. If she understood them and they didn’t talk with their bonded rider, then maybe I could understand why they roast the weak ones and those that piss them off. But I don’t, and I’m glad they talk because they’re the best part of the book. Even with all the stupid horny dragons transferring to horny rider stuff.
Also, I'm sorry but the names are really lame. Taireanach or Tairn, is just Gaelic for Thunder which is the power Violet gets. Can we stop using Gaelic because it just sounds fantastical? I would accept Latin or anything really, if they weren't such blatant one-for-one translations of the words.
That’s enough about dragons, let's talk about the rest of the world.
I know who some of the gods are in this world, not because there are statues and churches or people preaching the name of their gods. Or hell, because it was communicated in the little details. But because Violet recited the world-building while crossing a bridge that was designed as a challenge before the 20-year-olds ever set foot in the Wing. It is dropped into your lap, wrapped in shit and is as organic as Teflon.
A few questions I have, who edited this and said, “Yeah, this exposition dump right in the middle of a tense scene is fine.” Just saying that she is a scribe or that she trained her whole life to be one, so, of course, she knows these things, is a lazy excuse. It makes Violet feel flat and makes the world feel like it was hammed out one drunk night in a bar.
The second question is one I’ve seen a few reviewers point out. If this world is at war, this land is at war with the griffin riders, and you have a small and struggling infantry, then why in the world would you keep killing prime 20-year-olds when you could just fail them and send them there? I do not get it.
The other thing I don’t get, and this is most likely because I read a lot more High and Epic Fantasy than I do Romantic Fantasy, but why isn’t this world starving for food? This is conscription based, right? Or do they just send whoever has a high test score or high cheekbones to the dragon school? If it is conscription-biased and people are dying left right and centre in this dragon school, then who is farming the fields? Maintaining trade routes with the other provinces. Where I’m going with this is, if you keep killing people who go to the dragon school over the infantry school, and you can’t pull anyone else for your infantry then your people must be starving. Now that might be explained in the second book after the “twist” we got. It was a very 2013-2016 twist, but honestly, I didn’t mind it, mostly because it was over.
Moving on to...
I cannot get over how the people from this world talk, they sound like they are in 2023. It's bad and pulled me out of the story on more than one occasion. I cannot emphasize to you enough how much Violet and the rest of her cast pissed me off. The first time we meet discount Rhsysand (Xaden) they speak in the blandest, first draft exposition dump way I’ve seen. It reminded me of Lightlark and how clunky the writing is in that book. End my suffering please. She seems to have it in head that he is going to kill her and repeats it over and over and over, to the point I wish he would have. I lost myself multiple times in the page just rereading paragraphs just to try and understand what I was reading. The descriptions were lacking and even when the worldbuilding present was more than Violet talking it felt like Yarros didn’t know what she was saying or which province/town/village she was writing about. It read like a first or second draft, and I expected more from something that was supposed to be a trail blazer for NA High Fantasy Romance.
Maybe if this was more interested in telling me a story and not cutting right to the awful romance, I would have enjoyed it more.
I’m gonna skip the characters because that’s what Yarros did. Honestly it was like reading a fanfic where someone just steals all the looks of a famous work they want to emulate and none of the time or work that was poured into it. They were bland, boring, knock offs of characters I’ve seen and read in other books that work better in those stories because they were crafted for that world and that story. Making an original character is difficult, and I’m not saying that Yarros shouldn’t have taken inspiration from SJM or other authors. But that’s all she should have taken, the inspiration. Look into what inspired those characters to act and ask yourself if your character would do the same thing or if they would act differently. Yarros doesn't know her characters, she knows their names and their backstories, but she doesn't know their personalities or what would keep them up at night. It feels like she views them as a means to an end, and it comes through on the page.
I think this book needed a better editor and that maybe Yarros wasn’t ready to publish it. I don’t hate the tropes. I love seeing little nods to Red Queen and Divergent and the touch of Hunger Games. But when I see those nods and winks, I’m just reminded of better books. I wanted to like this, it had dragons, and they play a major part in the world, I was so excited for it. But it's just a trashy Romantic Fantasy that could have been 200 pages shorter. I’m sad it's over and I think it's mostly because this book had potential. It just wasn't there yet.
I want to reiterate that I am so happy people love this book, I'm glad that people are reading because of this book. It just wasn't there for me and I think it needed more time in the oven. I may read the second one in November and get my Worldbuilding fix from there, but I"m not confident.
Thanks for reading, let me know what you thought of Fourth Wing in the comments below.
If you're looking for book recs with more flying and bonding, I recommend the Crown of Feather Trilogy. The first book is a little exposition heavy but it's better laid out there than it is here, still about a 3-star from me but enjoyable. It starts as a three-character POV, two of which I think are well done and the other I found whiny, but I love the world and history.
Also, they ride Phoenixes.