• The Good: Romance and telepathic dragons!
  • The Bad: Lacking in fantasy and other original elements
  • The Literary: Effective romance tropes

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail, small and bookish, trained for her whole life to enter the Scribe Quadrant. At the last minute, her mother, a commanding general of the country of Navarre, decides that she will enter Basgiath War College to become a dragon rider instead. The problem is that there are fewer dragons than cadets, only the strongest students bond dragons, and the weakest die.

This book is so much fun; what I like to call bingeable pulp, the pages practically turn themselves. I’ve been noticing a vogue for fantasy romance popularity lately, so much so that Goodreads has a new category for their 2023 Goodreads Choice Awards called Romantasy. I assume this resurgence is partially due to the popularity of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which I haven’t read. But Fourth Wing gives me the same warm and fuzzy feelings as Twilight (which is approaching twenty years old).

Fourth Wing is more of a romance than a fantasy. Yes, there are dragons, and yes, the setting is a boarding school-type college, but there’s very little magic to speak of, and the magic that is there has little to do with the plot. Instead, this is a character-driven romance and a coming-of-age for our protagonist Violet, who learns to embrace and even enjoy her new identity as a dragon rider.

I really enjoy that Violet is clever. She’s physically weaker than most other cadets, and many of them hate her for who her mother is, so she has to use her wits to stay alive every day. Being trained as a scribe, she’s naturally good at history and theoretical war tactics. And she doesn’t mind a little dirty fighting when she’s up against classmates twice her size. True, she’s a little slow on the uptake for the twist at the climax, but you can’t have everything. Violet also seems to have a disorder that causes her joint pain, which makes this a little more representative.

Violet eventually makes several male and female friends and enemies, but the two most important and the potential romantic interests, are:

  1. Second-year section leader Dain Aetos, her childhood crush, who is an ambitious rule follower and is very protective of Violet
  2. Third-year wing leader Xaden Riorson whose late father led a rebellion against Navarre and was killed by Violet’s mother

I’ll let you guess who Violet goes for, but it’s a dark, sexy, adventure to say the least. Be prepared for a few sex scenes. My favorite of the graphic scenes is the first kiss, full of sexual tension for reasons outside of their control, but they eventually break it off and go separate ways, further escalating that tension for a later point in the story.

There’s a little bit of plot outside of Violet and her school and boy woes, but she isn’t directly affected. Because of her mother’s position and her knowledge of history, she knows that there’s a war waging outside of Navarre, and that the kingdom’s protective wards are failing. I look forward to discovering more outside of Basgiath War College in the next installment.

Recommended for fans of romance who enjoy a little fantasy twist. This certainly isn’t a story for everyone, but if you enjoy romance and adventure, give this a try!