Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

“Fourth Wing” review: A lackluster romance interrupted by fantasy

Courtesy+of+Entangled+Publishing
Courtesy of Entangled Publishing

#BookTok has led me astray — never in my life have I been so disappointed by such a highly-hyped and recommended read. When I first caught wind of “Fourth Wing” by Rebecca Yarros, it was described as a fantasy novel for romance readers. With dragons, danger, and a fake-out love triangle, there was much about “Fourth Wing” that I, initially, found intriguing. So with its sequel, “Iron Flame” now out with mixed reactions from fans and a TV show in the works, let me tell you how everything that led me to “Fourth Wing” eventually let me down.

When her mother, General Sorrengail, refuses to break tradition in order to accommodate her health risks, Violet is forced to pursue the dangerous path of dragon rider. She joins the Rider Quadrant under the watchful eye of her childhood crush, Dain, and is forced to confront the vengeful Xaden, who blames Violet for her mother’s crimes against his father. With plenty of action and drama, twists and turns, you would think that the premise alone could easily carry the 150,000+ word novel on its own. But sadly, it does not.

First, it doesn’t work as a fantasy.

Sure, the world-building is there, but information is never conveyed to the reader in an organic way. Most of it comes in paragraphs at inopportune moments. For example: when Violet is risking her life to cross the parapet, she recites bullet-points about her country’s history to calm her nerves. The blatant info-dumping sucking any ounce of tension from the scene. We already know she’s going to make it (we have so much book left to read), so please don’t subject us to a history lesson in the meantime!

Speaking of world-building, as interesting as it looks on paper, most of the fictional world’s vast history and custom serve no use in the actual plot of the story. The world plays little part in the main characters’ love plot, so anything that could make this fictional world seem somewhat interesting is ultimately pushed to the side. There are no new twists on common fantasy tropes, no breath of fresh air. It feels more like an AI-generated fantasy concept than an actual magical world that you want to be a part of.

One of the things that initially intrigued me about “Fourth Wing” was the idea of dragon riders. I adore dragons in fantasy media, but I will forever be utterly perplexed as to how “Fourth Wing” managed to make its dragon boring. How on Earth do you make dragons boring?!

Furthermore, a massive portion of the fantasy genre is the world in which the story takes place in. However, I don’t care about the world unless I care about the characters first. And, simply put, I don’t care about the characters. Violet and Xaden are flat and basic. Dain is awful. None of the massive supporting cast of characters gets any development outside of passable (at best) one-liners. I did not find myself invested in the lives of these characters. Therefore, I am not invested in the world they inhabit either.
Second, it doesn’t work as a romance.

The love triangle trope is tired, but “Fourth Wing” narrowly avoids it. At most, Dain is annoying. He never feels like a true threat to the Violet and Xaden endgame. Xaden is the bad boy, and Dain is the childhood best friend. I feel like I’ve seen this story played out a thousand times before. Of course, Violet can’t stay away from the toxic, hot guy! What a surprise. And of course, Dain turns out to be evil (spoiler alert, I guess). He has to be evil for readers to be convinced that Xaden is Violet’s only choice. The right choice.

Even though the novel chooses the couple for us, I don’t necessarily care for them. I guess Violet and Xaden could fall into the “enemies to lovers” trope? But that trope only works when the two characters actually love each other. Xaden spends the majority of the novel threatening to kill Violet, and Violet spends her time ogling him, despite this. Their attraction to one another feels superficial and forced for the sake of conflict. Their relationship is so uninteresting, yet it’s made the core and supposed heart of the story.

Ultimately, if a romantasy novel doesn’t work as a fantasy or a romance, then it has no legs to stand on.
Finishing the incredibly hyped novel has left me wondering why “Fourth Wing” receives so much acclaim across social media. Like I said before, it feels like what an AI would write if the prompt was “adult fantasy novel with dragons.” It’s nothing new, nothing fresh. What could be an exciting world of dragons with a powerful message about how those in power use said power to oppress is overshadowed by the “love” story. But the love story and its characters aren’t nearly compelling enough to stand alone. If you’re looking for a new friends-to-lovers romantasy read — skip “Fourth Wing” — you’ll only be disappointed.

 

“Fourth Wing” is available for purchase online or at a bookstore near you.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Addison Laird, Social Media Coordinator
Addison Laird is currently The Maroon's Social Media Coordinator. She was previously the Managing Editor for Digital and has written for The Maroon on multiple occasions. She is a third-year visual communications major, with a minor in women's studies. Originally from Mississippi, Addison enjoys repeatedly rereading the same five books and hate-watching cheesy movies with friends. She can be reached at [email protected].

Comments (1)

All The Maroon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • D

    DavidDec 3, 2023 at 8:02 am

    For me it’s the exact opposite so the author of this article is just a contrarian. I didn’t even read most of it as Fourth Wing is good publishable writing and this article is the opposite.

    Reply