I Read ‘‘Iron Flame” So You Don’t Have To

As adult “romantasy” books become the new big thing in the book community, Rebecca Yarros’ “Iron Flame” took the spot as one of the must-reads for the genre. But is it really worth all the hype?
I Read ‘‘Iron Flame So You Don’t Have To
Editor’s note: The following review contains spoilers.

In recent years, social media has drastically transformed the reading community through trends on #BookTok and a growing number of “bookstagrams” that are all about new and old literary treasures. One genre that many on social media are raving about is “spicy romantasy” — fantasy books that feature a passionate and explicitly sexual romance between two characters.

The problem is not that spicy romantasy is a bad genre, but too many poorly written books are thrown into the spotlight. Recent books within this subgenre seem to be fighting for the prize of “who can write the smuttiest book” instead of focusing on the story’s actual plot. When I first stumbled upon “Fourth Wing,” the first book of Rebecca Yarros’ “The Empyrean Series,” I was left concerned by the amount of praise this novel received. It felt like I had read something entirely different from the reviews. 

“Fourth Wing” centers around a ruthless and bloodthirsty kingdom called Navarre, where young candidates must train to their deaths to bond with vicious dragons. As Navarre continues to wage war against their neighboring kingdom Poromiel, the story focuses on Violet Sorrengail, the army general’s meek and fragile daughter who somehow becomes one of the most powerful riders in the kingdom. Aside from the heart-wrenching dragon battles and brewing romance within the story, I could not get myself to genuinely enjoy “Fourth Wing.” Violet’s narration was unfathomably unbearable, the romance between the main characters felt forced, and Violet being nicknamed “Violence” was more than enough for me to give “Fourth Wing” a solid two out of five stars. 

So, like any other reader who absolutely detests the first book, I read the second book. 

“Iron Flame” depicts the events that occur after Violet finds out her supposedly dead brother is alive and brewing the beginning of a revolution against Navarre. Now that the nation’s secret about venins (the dark magic-wielding villains) is uncovered from the previous battle, Violet is forced to grapple with the hardship of controlling her lightning-wielding powers while remaining undercover in the academy — even if it means lying to her closest friends. On top of this, she has to deal with lots of drama involving her love interest, Xaden Riorson, including some seriously unnecessary ex-girlfriend drama that I thought could have been avoided (what happened to girls supporting girls?). 

The biggest problem with “Iron Flame” is the pacing. I enjoyed the constant propelling of motion throughout the plot, where each chapter ended with a mind-boggling cliffhanger that made it almost impossible for me to put the book down. But while the action was fun to read, the overall storyline felt sloppy and rushed. Yarros would drop the names of characters and locations that had never been mentioned before, resulting in readers like me not caring about which supporting character died or what battle took place. Towards the middle, the number of unfamiliar names and places became so overwhelming that I considered taking physical notes on each new person or place. In addition, the ending was nearly a catastrophe of confusion as new details emerged and left even bigger plot holes than in the first book. This was yet another messy attempt at trying to get readers excited for the third book and utterly failing to do so. What writers forget is that, in order for readers to eagerly await the next book, the book cannot end with a hundred different questions swarming in the readers’ heads. A concise, short cliffhanger that leaves a larger impact on readers is what gets fans scrambling to pre-order the sequel, but all that Yarros made them feel was complete disorientation. Messiness like this drives readers away instead of attracting them. 

Aside from the pacing, Yarros does have some room for improvement in terms of how she is going to stretch on the insufferable back-and-forth relationship between Violet and Xaden. Never have I ever seen such a toxic, confusing, and aggravating couple in any sort of literature. There were too many times when these two elicited an uncontrollable urge to hurl this book at the wall. Now that this series is set to be five books total, I have no clue how Yarros plans to maintain the “romance” part between Violet and Xaden when all they seem to do is fight one day and make up the next. My only hope is that Yarros patches up her mistakes and cleans up this messy relationship by the time the series is over. 

The ultimate question now is whether or not I will be reading the third novel once it is released. After enduring “Iron Flame,” do I want to give the third book a chance? We’ll see when the time comes. Do I recommend this book, though? Absolutely not.

Image courtesy of BookTrib

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About the Contributor
Erika Myong, Staff Writer
Erika Myong is a third-year political science and literature writing student. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading the latest books or decorating her weekly planner.
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  • R

    RamtinMar 11, 2024 at 1:05 am

    Hate to break it to you, but your review is so ridiculous.
    Your review of this book has completely proven to me that you have almost no understanding of the story and its characters.
    If you don’t like a book, don’t force yourself to read it, and worse than that, even criticize it in an incorrect and clumsy way

    Reply