Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

The novel Iron Flame about Violet Sorrengail and her boyfriend Xaden continues on from Rebecca Karros’s story called Fourth Wing published in 2022. This novel was a raging success. It was anticipated that Iron Flame would be just as successful. However, with a different premise, and a different focus, a story that showed some possibilities crashed and burned amongst the rubble of personal relationships. Book One introduced Basgiath War College, interesting for its admission of a weird bunch of students and an even stranger clique of staff, none of them driven by anything other than a fierce competitive demand. An example is Threshing, a test impossibly severe, not meant to identify the skilled but clearly devised to eliminate the weak-willed and unworthy. The school’s assessment is designed to be gruelling and maliciously brutal and stretches the student’s capacity for pain beyond endurance.

Fourth Wing delivered a twisty thrilling and unexpectedly heart-felt story. The writing however was overly simplistic and the sentence construction lacking. Readers were led to believed that Iron Flame would build on the foundation established in the first book with a more complex plot, better dialogue and more showing vs telling. Yarros does keep the action moving at a breakneck pace. There is a lot going on to say the least but there is a lot that is unbelievable – we have siblings coming back from the dead, a greedy king, perilous mountain journeys and vengeful dragons. Much of Iron Flame occurs within an abandoned palace high in the mountains. What is stranger, are the characters within the story.

Violet is presented as a figure who always wins but mostly is one to be admired. Her body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s but she still has her wits and a will of iron. The new vice Commandant has made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is unless she betrays the man she loves. Despite his chauvinistic tendencies for her he is her man. His extreme repetition of ‘I’d destroy the world to save you’, means very little within a group of morally grey characters. Will he really sacrifice everyone and everything in their best interests? Yet Violet seems unable to see this.

Their relationship is characterised by never-ending argument. What is worse it is the same argument over and over again for six hundred pages. There is a long continuous argument about Xaden’s refusal to open up or being trustworthy enough. Violet has to deal with an important woman from Xaden’s past stirring the excitement, in this reader, for at least five minutes. It soon becomes very disappointing to read an amalgamation of cliched tropes about ex-girlfriends. There are many passages using tired phrases such as ‘end game’ or Violet telling someone to wait ‘a hot minute’.

I support the use of dragons in magical stories but in this book the dragons speak and advise and prove their superiority over human beings on almost every occasion. I find this a bit overdone.

One might praise this author for such a massively long tale written by such a relatively unseasoned  author. Rebecca Yarros is an American who has continued  to attempt publication. She is best known for the Empyrean fantasy book series, which will be adapted into a television series with Amazon. Yarros will serve as a non-writing executive producer. Yarros graduated from Troy University, where she studied European history and English.

Iron Flame


by Rebecca Yarros

Hatchette UK

ISBN: 978-0-349-43703-3

$32.99; 630pp

🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

Scroll to Top