Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

The basics

Title: Fourth Wing


Series: The Empyrean #1

- Fourth Wing (2023)
- Iron Flame (2023)

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Goodreads Summary:

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise. Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die

Here is a spoiler summary of what happened in Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros to help refresh your memory before you read the sequel. If you need help remembering what happened in Fourth Wing then you’re in the right place. Iron Flame releases in November 2023 so read the full plot summary of Fourth Wing below before you get your hands on Iron Flame!

What happened in Fourth Wing?

  • Violet Sorrengail is the daughter of General Sorrengail, a highly respected woman who is in charge of the Navarre army. Violet’s siblings, Brennan and Mira, both became dragon riders, but due to Violet’s disability it was always expected she would become a scribe.
  • Violet’s father died a few years ago, however, and General Sorrengail insisted that Violet become a rider instead. Mira argued against this because Violet likely isn’t strong enough to pass all the tests and ride a dragon, especially as their brother Brennan died during an uprising six years ago. Mira doesn’t want to lose another sibling.
  • Violet has a lot of courage, though. Mira gifts her some dragon-scaled armour and advises her on what to do when she reaches the school. Violet ascends the steps to the Parapet.
  • On the way up, Violet meets Rhiannon and Dylan. She lends Rhiannon a boot, because she notices that Rhiannon’s soles are too slippery and will be hazardous. Another guy called Jack follows them up the stairs and he takes an immediate dislike to Violet.
  • Upon reaching the top, Violet meets Xaden for the first time. She has been told to avoid him because his father led the uprising and killed Brennan. Xaden is the oldest child of all the rebel children. He’s also a wingleader at the school.
  • Dylan falls while crossing the Parapet but Rhiannon makes it across. Violet crosses and is chased across by Jack, who is quite murderous. She reaches the end, though, and threatens Jack with her daggers. 
  • Violet goes to find Dain, her childhood best friend. Dain is a second year and a squad leader. He takes Violet and Rhiannon into his squad, but not before trying to convince Violet to leave and become a scribe. Violet doesn’t see the point in trying to leave because her mother will just send her back again.
  • Xaden puts Dain’s squad under his command as wingleader.
  • Classes begin, and it becomes apparent very quickly that Violet needs to strengthen her muscles. She’s really good at history, having studied to become a scribe, so she tutors Rhiannon while Rhiannon teaches Violet to fight.
  • Violet begins poisoning her opponents before their match and so she’s either able to win against them or they’re taken to the healers before they get a chance to fight.
  • One night while gathering bark for poison, Violet sees Xaden and a group of “marked ones” (children of the rebels) gathering below a tree. They’re not meant to gather in groups of more than three, and Violet considers reporting them to Dain. However, she realises they’re not gathering for any nefarious reasons, Xaden is just trying to help the first years.
  • Xaden notices Violet watching them and they agree that Violet won’t report anything.
  • The squad starts training to run the Gauntlet. Violet is too short to climb one of the obstacles, so she has to figure out a way to make it up alive.
  • Violet figures she can use her daggers to help her climb, and she does so and she defeats the Gauntlet. Amber, a wingleader, accuses Violet of cheating but Xaden allows it. This means that Violet is allowed into the fields to bond with a dragon.
  • The first years go to Presentation, which means they have to walk past a bunch of dragons so the dragons can decide which student to bond with. They notice a golden feathertail at the end of the row. Tynan insults it. The dragons burn a few students, but Violet and Rhiannon make it out alive.
  • Then it’s time for the Threshing. The first years will head into the fields and find the dragon that wants to bond with them. Violet spots the golden dragon on its own, and overhears Jack, Oren, and Tynan talking about killing it and destroying the weakest link.
  • Violet heads straight over to the field. She tries to get the golden dragon to leave, but the trio of guys arrive too quickly. Violet notices that Xaden is there too, but as a third year he’s only allowed to observe and not intervene.
  • Violet starts fighting the guys off. She throws a dagger at Jack and ruins his shoulder. She starts to struggle with the other two, when a large black dragon lands in the field. The dragon tells Violet to get out of the way and he burns Tynan. Jack has already run off by this point. Oren is knocked out and Violet decides to let him live.
  • The black dragon decides to bond with Violet. His name is Tairn, and he’s super old and super large. He flies back to the flight field with Violet on his back and the golden dragon following.
  • Tairn lands in the field and everyone watches in awe. Violet goes to register her bond, and then the golden dragon speaks to Violet in her mind. Her name is Andarna, and she wants to bond with Violet too.
  • No one has ever bonded with two dragons before. The General and professors are in uproar. The dragons go and converse, then Tairn returns and says the dragon council says this is fine. The humans have no choice.
  • Dain kisses Violet out of excitement. Violet feels nothing, THANK GOD.
  • Violet is warned that the unbonded humans will now be after her, because if they kill her they may have a chance of bonding with Tairn.
  • One night while Violet is sleeping, she is attacked by six people. One of them, Amber, aka the wingleader from before, runs off when she realises Violet is awake and not dying. Violet starts to fight them off and then Andarna uses her powers to stop time briefly.
  • Violet is able to use those few seconds to break free of Oren’s grip and run towards the door. Xaden is in the doorway though and has seen this whole thing. He kills the five attackers and then takes Violet to see the dragons.
  • Violet quickly learns that Xaden’s dragon, Sgaeyl, is mates with Tairn. Violet and Xaden are now somewhat bonded, and there’s a risk that if one of them dies, they both will. 
  • They also learn that Andarna is just a baby. She’s two years old. Feathertails are baby dragons, and that’s why humans don’t see them very often. The dragons are very protective of their young. Andarna wanted to bond this year, though, and the others allowed it.
  • It’s also explained that humans can leach the power of the Feathertails and potentially destroy them, which is a closely guarded secret of the dragons. They know humans will exploit this. Tairn and Sgaeyl trust Xaden and Violet not to say anything.
  • Violet tells Xaden about Amber being an accomplice. The following day, Xaden calls the other wingleaders together to put Amber on trial. Dain doesn’t believe Violet, and tries to forcibly read her memories. Violet asks Tairn to send her memories to the other wingleaders. Amber is executed.
  • Xaden moves some of the squad around and assigns his foster brother Liam to guard Violet. Xaden also puts a ward on Violet’s door so no one but she can enter. Violet isn’t super happy with this arrangement.
  • Liam is lovely, btw. He says he grew up in the same foster home as Xaden after their parents were executed in the rebellion.
  • Imogen, a second year marked one, starts helping Violet train her muscles. Violet will need to be stronger to hold onto Tairn during their flights.
  • Violet’s flying lessons aren’t going great. Tairn can hold Violet to him using some magic, but Violet doesn’t want him to because he needs to be at full power. She practices a lot but keeps falling off.
  • One evening, Violet starts to feel a bit hot. She realises Tairn and Sgaeyl are mating and runs outside to cool down. She bumps into Xaden, who is smoking something to help him calm down. The two of them kiss but they break apart quite quickly.
  • Violet is training one day when Jack comes in and starts talking smack. Violet overhears him say something about oranges and citrus. She insults him, and Liam has to escort Jack out of the room.
  • Violet learns that there are no copies of the Book of Fables in the Archive. She thinks this is weird, because the Archive has a copy of every book written. Apart from forbidden books.
  • The time comes for Violet to face Jack on the mats. She tells Liam it’s going to happen, but she asks him not to tell Xaden. Liam loses his nerve and runs off to get Xaden anyway. Violet and Jack start fighting and Jack tries to kill her. She uses his orange allergy against him and takes him out, but she passes out.
  • Violet wakes up in the infirmary and Xaden is sat next to her. He tells her off and then says he’s going to have to look after her himself from now on.
  • Violet and Xaden head out for some flying practice. They bump into Violet’s mother, who pretty much ignores her daughter. Xaden realises that Violet and the General don’t have the best relationship.
  • The squad is sent over to Montserrat, which is where Mira is stationed. Mira starts telling them all about tactics. 
  • Mira gives Violet the Book of Fables that their dad left her.
  • Xaden arrives because Tairn and Sgaeyl can’t be apart for too long. Xaden and Dain start bickering immediately. Mira tells them both off because it’s going to put the squad at risk.
  • The outpost is then attacked, and the squad have to flee. Violet wants to stay to help Mira but Xaden makes sure they escape.
  • Violet begs the scribes for news and Markham tells her that Mira survived the attack.
  • Xaden has a saddle made for Violet to use on Tairn. Tairn helped design it and is super happy with it.
  • There’s another contest and the Wings have to play a round of capture the flag, except it’s also capture the egg. One team has to defend the flag while the other team tries to capture a shiny dragon egg. Violet is on defence alongside her squad.
  • Jack shows up and starts trying to attack them all. Liam is injured, and Violet uses Andarna’s powers to freeze time so Tairn can catch Liam before he falls into the glacier. Violet then hits the tower with lightning and kills Jack.
  • Violet’s signet is lightning powers. Now she just has to learn to control them.
  • Violet and Xaden finally get it on because Violet is upset about having killed someone. They can talk to each other using their minds through their bond.
  • Violet starts taking lessons with Professor Carr, and her stamina improves but she has trouble aiming the bolts.
  • There’s a big party to celebrate the end of the rebellion. The King shows up, and Violet’s mother is at his side. The King compliments Violet, but he’s displeased because very few of the rebels’ children have shown up.
  • Violet apologises to Liam for making him come to the party, even though it’s not her fault. Then the two of them leave through a passageway.
  • Violet goes to find Xaden, who is sitting on the Parapet. He tells Violet off for coming across to him and then the two head back to his room and get it on again. Violet strikes the window with lightning and shatters it.
  • There’s a knock on the door at about 4am. It’s Garrick, who says a lot of people are dead and Xaden and Violet have to come quickly. Xaden gives Violet his flight jacket.
  • This is actually just a drill. It’s the final test, the War Games. Violet is supposed to be going with Dain and the rest of her squad, but Xaden swaps her out to come to Athebyne with him. Xaden mentioned going to Athebyne before but didn’t say why he was there.
  • The team heads off. They stop when they’re about an hour outside of Athebyne. Xaden and Violet kiss while the dragons take some time to rest, and then a bunch of gryphon fliers show up.
  • It turns out Xaden and the other rebel children have been providing the gryphon fliers with weapons. These weapons are the only way of killing vernin, which are powerful magic users who take power from the earth itself. Violet has read about them in her Book of Fables but she didn’t realise they were real.
  • Violet feels super betrayed by all of this. She had no idea Xaden was keeping secrets. Tairn and Andarna also knew, but they had been giving Xaden the chance to tell her himself.
  • Violet realises that everyone has been lying to her and possibly lying throughout history. Xaden receives a note from Colonel Aetos which says their mission is to survive if they can.
  • Violet doesn’t have long to be upset though, because the gryphon fliers tell them there are four vernin heading to Resson and they have to go and stop them.
  • Xaden and co realise they’ve been sent there to die. Violet realises that Dain read her memories by touching her face. She thought he was just being affectionate. She thinks this is her fault, although Xaden tries to reassure her otherwise.
  • The group agrees to try to fight the vernin and save the civilians. They also want to know what the vernin are after in Resson.
  • The riders fly in. Andarna is instructed to stay behind for safety. The vernin are super powerful, and they also have wyvern which are massive fuck-off dragons with two legs instead of four.
  • There’s a huge battle. Liam’s dragon dies trying to protect Violet and Tairn. Liam dies shortly after because riders can’t live without their dragons. Andarna enters the battle and uses the last of her time stopping powers so Violet can use her lighting on the vernin.
  • If the vernin controlling them dies, all the wyvern under their control die too.
  • Violet is poisoned by a vernin before taking it out. She dips in and out of consciousness. When she comes to, she has been taken to a healer. Xaden tries to explain what has been going on, but Violet tells him she can’t trust him any more.
  • The squad have been trying to get into the iron box that they took out of Resson, as it seems to be what the vernin were after.
  • Brennan, Violet’s older brother, reveals himself to be alive and also the mender who healed her. He welcomes Violet to the rebellion.

That’s what happened in Fourth Wing! Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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