“Because love, at its root, is hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for what could be. Hope that the someone you’ve entrusted your everything to will cradle and protect it. And hope? That shit is harder to kill than a dragon.”
Iron Flame certainly had big shoes to fill after how quickly Fourth Wing exploded in popularity, and I honestly don’t envy Rebecca Yarros the task of trying to write a sequel that could even come close to living up to readers’ insanely high expectations. So, did this sequel deliver? Let’s dig in.
Wondrously, miraculously, inexplicably, Violet has survived all the crazy events in book 1, and now has to deal with the fact that her entire worldview has been crushed and trust shattered. Cue the complicated feelings, intense heightened emotions, interpersonal drama, and deadly scheming.
Now, Iron Flame is one of those books that I just simply don’t know how to fairly rate and review. Yes, it is pure braincandy and I was highly entertained the entire way through, but at the same time it also didn’t have the same addictive quality that Fourth Wing had for me.
Yet the weird thing with this series is that I can see its glaring flaws, and I somehow just don’t care because the entertainment factor is so high. The tropes are troping and they trope real good!
I especially enjoyed how Iron Flame leaned so much more heavily into the political fantasy plot than its predecessor, increasing the stakes to unimaginable heights. The brutality of war and the heavy costs and consequences of seemingly small and innocent decisions were depicted surprisingly well, yet it still maintained that lighter tone that makes this series to bingeable.
That said, there is no denying that the plot and pacing in Iron Flame are quite weak and rocky, especially around the middle section. While I love me some good fantasy school sequences, I felt quite frustrated that these characters kept being constrained to that intimate setting when there were much more interesting things going on concerning the escalating war.
On top of that, I felt like Iron Flame somewhat lacked the strong and enjoyable platonic relationships that gave Fourth Wing so much heart. There are mostly rivalries instead of friendships in this instalment, and all the petty interpersonal drama drove me up a wall. The cast of side characters just really fell flat (except for the dragons, we stan Tairn and Andarna here!), and because of that all the the emotional beats just didn’t land at all for me.
But all that aside, I am not ashamed to admit that I am honestly just here to be trash for Xaden (even though I usually hate the broody dark guy with a tragic past stereotype). And while we did not get nearly enough Xaden in this book, I still gobbled up every single time he graced us with his presence on the page. I don’t even care that I don’t buy into his infatuation with Violet (man can do better), I just love all the delicious pining anyway.
And dammit, if Yarros isn’t a master at capturing that ‘just one more chapter’ vibe in her writing. There were some extremely exciting reveals in Iron Flame, be that in terms of world building, dragon lore, or personal backstory. Though, that EVIL twist in the final few pages had me just about ready to chuck my book out the window. I am not sure if I am on-board for the direction this story is going in now, but let’s not pretend like I won’t be devouring book 3 the first day it comes out.
So, with all those conflicting feelings out of the way, I have to admit that Iron Flame was an inexplicably fun sequel to one of the most hyped books in recent memory. Though I do just want to say: For the love of all that is holy, can we stop acting like The Empyrean series can completely destroy you while simultaneously reviving you from the dead or something? It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s undeniably addictive, but that is just about it; and that is fine. Sometimes braincandy is all you need!