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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

Iron Flame (The Empyrean #2) | Review

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐.75


"Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.


Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.


Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.


But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.


Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end."


 

Iron Flame is the second novel in The Empyrean, a new adult fantasy series by Rebecca Yarros.


Rebecca Yarros is back with her highly anticipated sequel to Fourth Wing, and I mean it when I say that because this book has over a million ratings in only just half a year. Like many people, I did rather enjoy the first book and was looking forward to the next book but I got a bit worried when the initial reviews came out as it seemed like many people were disappointed with it. Still, I was going to pick up the book nonetheless and...it definitely wasn't as good as the first one but it wasn't bad either.


Let's get into some details.



 

PLOT AND WORLDBUILDING

 

Going into this I didn't quite remember everything that happened in the last book but it was still a pretty smooth transition into this one as it picks up pretty much exactly where the last book ended. Even though the author does do a good job in terms of continuity, I found this book to be a bit more on the bland side. Again, this wasn't bad and I did enjoy reading this for the most part, but not too much happened in this which is odd considering how long the book is. A book this long shouldn't feel empty, but it did. Most of the book focuses on the rebellion but the progress with it is incredibly slow. Some progress does happen, naturally, but I wish things moved at a quicker pace in order to move the story forward and to make more room for aspects of the book that were weak.


One aspect of the series I find to be a bit lacking is the worldbuilding, especially when it comes to the characters who are less-than-human. Either I missed some crucial details, but I have no idea what the Venin are and still don't. This maybe could have been explained in the little excerpts at the beginning of the chapters (that I didn't read), but they were just poorly explained. For something that was a pivotal twist in the first book, one would think it would dive a bit deeper in the second one but no, that did not happen. Again, as I will say many times in this review, this could have made for an interesting plot point should the author have fleshed it out more.


The dragons are, oddly, not fleshed out enough either. Dragons are a crucial part of this series, and we still don't know much about them. There are very brief mentions of them having what is essentially their own society or political system, but we have not gotten even a glimpse of it. All we know and see of the dragons is from Violet's which isn't much. This seems to be a bit of a misstep considering we are now two books deep into the series, so how long are we going to have to wait before we know more about them?


 

CHARACTERS

 

Turns out I don't really like Violet. YA and New Adult's main female characters are a bit of an acquired taste I have found. I was pretty 'meh' about her in the first book but she started to grate my nerves a bit in this one. Compared to Violet, I found Xaden to be the better of the two since he is a lot more level-headed while she tends to have some tantrums. Quite literally everyone else in the Fourth Wing (the squadron, not the book) was better than her. That being said, I do wish that the side characters were focused on a bit more since I found their stories to be a bit lacking.


The side characters were severely underused in this. There was so much opportunity to flesh out their story and character arcs but for the most part, everyone was just kind of there, existing more as side characters than actual people. Take Violet's mom for example, she is not only supposed to be a huge part of Violet's backstory but an essential piece in the worldbuilding as well considering she is a general. Unfortunately, she served barely any purpose in both books which is a shame since it could have strengthened Violet's character. Characters like Cat as well could have been interesting if she wasn't written off as just a jealous ex.


The lack of character development is also especially prominent when it comes to the villains of the story which are a definite weak point. Melgren is a figure who is supposed to serve as a figure who is to be feared, but it is kind of hard to believe that when they are barely present in the book. Maybe he will be more prominent in the next book, but I think that for a series that is heading in the direction of rebellion and war, the antagonists need to be firmly established and not just in the background.


Now, let's talk about Violet and Xaden. I wasn't overly crazy about their romance in the first book, and I feel about the same in this one as well. The romance is heavy in this series but it is either something you are going to like or dislike. If you don't like your fantasy novel to focus heavily on romance then this probably isn't for you. Especially considering that I found that they didn't have that much chemistry. There is tension between them but no tension if you know what I mean. They were not convincing me at all that they were in love with each other let alone attracted to each other. Funnily enough, I found that she had better chemistry with a different character who I will not name due to spoilers, but it would have made for an interesting plot twist.



 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

 

Now, I know I tend to focus way more on the negatives than the positives when it comes to my reviews since that is what stands out the most for any book that is below a 4-star rating for me. Yes, this book did have a good amount of holes and aspects that I wished were different or better written. Again, while this was a bit of a disappointment, I still enjoyed myself while reading this. I got through it relatively easily considering the length of the book, and I don't feel like I wasted my time reading it. I think that is what it comes down to with this book, it is enjoyable because it is simple. It is not an epic fantasy that is expertly crafted and complex, it is more like fanfic writing to me, similar to Sarah J. Maas. And that is a good thing considering I rather like good fanfic writing, as it is something that you can just relax and enjoy.

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