Notice: All forms on this website are temporarily down for maintenance. You will not be able to complete a form to request information or a resource. We apologize for any inconvenience and will reactivate the forms as soon as possible.

Fourth Wing

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

Ever since Violet Sorrengail joined the Riders Quadrant, she’s spent her days learning how to avoid being chargrilled by dragons and skewered by her enemies. And as more deadly secrets are revealed, Violet will be forced to rethink everything she’s ever known.

Plot Summary

The odds have always been stacked against Violet Sorrengail.

First, her mother—General Sorrengail—forced her into the dragon-riding Riders Quadrant because she believes that it’s the only respectable quadrant in all of Navarre. It’s also the only quadrant where less than half of its first years survive to graduation.

And while some of those deaths come from the rigorous and dangerous training intentionally designed to weed out the weaklings, many more fatalities can be attributed to the dragons themselves, who hate said weaklings more than the Quadrant does. They won’t hesitate to fry a recruit the moment they sense cortisol levels rising—and bonding with one such beast is a requirement to graduate.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the impact of the Tyrrish Rebellion. See, six years ago, the Navarrian province of Tyrrendor attempted to secede from the country in order to side with Poromiel, Navarre’s enemy. And while Navarre successfully put down the rebellion and executed its leaders, the country allowed the children of those leaders to remain—provided they join the Riders Quadrant.

And, well, let’s just say that there are quite a few of them who wouldn’t mind gutting the daughter of General Sorrengail, not the least of whom is Xaden Riorson, whose father was personally executed by Violet’s mother.

Oh, and Violet is already shorter and scrawnier than the average 18-year-old, let alone the average Rider. Sure, let’s tack that on, too.

Yep, the outlook doesn’t look good for Violet at all.

At least, that’s what everyone else keeps saying—even as Violet somehow manages to survive everything that’s thrown at her.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Magic is present in Fourth Wing, channeled through humans via their bonds with dragons (though it’s referenced that gryphons exist and can channel magic, too). To use magic, a human must bond with a dragon, which entails the dragon choosing to connect with the human in such a way that if one of them dies, the other will most likely die, too. This bond allows the human and dragon to speak to other another via telepathic means, and it also allows them to feel each other’s emotions.

This magic is called a person’s “signet,” and the magic each person can wield is unique to them, though it is rumored to somewhat correlate to the human’s personality. These magic powers include mind reading, “shadow bending,” lightning wielding, magical healing, astral projection and precognition, among others.

Various gods are referenced, though none make any appearance beyond mythology. These include Zihnal, the god of luck; Malek, the god of death; Dunne, the goddess of war; and Amari, the queen of the gods. It’s noted that the dragons “pay no heed to your puny gods.” We’re told that resurrection is impossible, since that would make someone a god.

Authority Roles

Violet’s relationship with her late father is described as positive, and he encouraged her to pursue the Scribe Quadrant, where she felt much more at home. However, Violet’s mother is uncaring and uses her power to force Violet to join the Riders Quadrant. General Sorrengail never shows concern for her daughter, treating her like any other soldier and only dishing out fragments of “love” whenever Violet does something impressive. In general, professors in the Riders Quadrant are cold, likely due to the ever-present reality of death.

Some recruits are elevated to ranks of authority over the rest of their class, including Xaden. Like their professors, these recruits are callous and crude, keeping their people in line and showing little active care. However, we later learn that Xaden does have a soft spot for fellow children of rebellion leaders who were forced into the Riders Quadrant with him.

It is evident within the first couple chapters that Navarre’s government shows signs of corruption.

Profanity & Violence

At times, the profanity in Fourth Wing caused me to wonder if there was some sort of swear word quota the author had to reach. I counted about 250 uses of the f-word. Likewise, the s-word is seen over 150 times. As you might expect from extrapolating that, other swear words, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—” and “p-ss” are used frequently, too. God’s name is used in vain four times (though the book’s more lore-accurate ‘gods’ is used in the same way over 70, including in a g-dsd–n” form. Additionally, crude words to describe male and female genitalia are used during sex scenes.

Many recruits (aged roughly 18-22) die in a variety of ways. Some are incinerated by dragon fire, while others fall to their deaths or have their necks snapped. Someone slowly succumbs to wounds. We hear a description of dead children, and on the same page, of someone’s leg being eaten by a monster. Otherwise, people survive being stabbed, having their bones broken and being choked. Violet preemptively poisons people who she knows she’ll have to fight. A couple people display violent and psychopathic tendencies. Xaden is near-comically brooding and mysterious, and he’s quite willing to kill or harm others.

Xaden is found smoking an illicit fictional drug used to calm himself down.

Sexual Content

Violet engages in a love triangle for some time. But when she inevitably falls for Xaden, the two engage in two different graphic sex scenes, both of which are multiple pages long and describe the sex in such detail that readers will get a full anatomy course by the end.

What’s more, an uncomfortable scene occurs in which Violet’s bonded dragon is apparently engaged in sex with his partner. And because Violet can feel his emotions, she grows extremely aroused. She spends a predominant portion of the chapter talking herself out of having sex with anyone she can find, and Xaden has to coach her on how to control her urges (as his female dragon is Violet’s dragon’s mate, so he feels the urges, too).

We otherwise hear many references to male genitalia, masturbation, sex and orgasms. Many of Violet’s friends are homosexual or bisexual and engage in same-sex relationships—though most people in the Riders Quadrant view long-term relationships as worthless due to the reality that few of them will survive to the end of the year. One character is frequently referred to using “they/them” pronouns, so we assume the intent is that this person identifies as “non-binary.”

Violet is frequently aroused and starstruck by Xaden. Almost every time she encounters him, she objectifies him, and a couple sentences are written regarding just how astoundingly smoking hot she finds him each time she sees him.

Discussion Topics


Additional Comments

Fourth Wing—the first installment in Rebecca Yarros’ Empyrean series—is the new YA dystopian thriller on the block. And with an Amazon TV series confirmed in the making, the book has been making waves on social media.

But unlike some of its teenage predecessors such as The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner, Fourth Wing is much more adult, and it isn’t afraid to show it. Its characters swear like they just learned how to do so, and they engage in graphic sex that’ll make the aforementioned TV series a pain for us to inevitably review. And when people die, it’s often in gruesome manner.

But I’m not entirely sure who Fourth Wing is for. The story itself is basic. The adult characters act and talk as if they were broody teens, while the content issues catapult the book into the 18-and-up category.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Kennedy Unthank