• The Good: Romance and telepathic dragons!
  • The Bad: Lacking in fantasy and other original elements; highly militaristic
  • The Literary: Internal pacing helps the book fly by

Contrary to everyone’s expectations, Violet Sorrengail did not die during her first year at Basgiath War College, but now she’s in her second year, when the real training begins. Impossible assignments, manipulation, and torture are just some of the grueling and brutal training, and the new vice commandant has it in for Violet personally. With knowledge of the existence of the resistance just across their borders, Violet must play at school while she searches for the clues to the history that’s been erased.

Full of action and packed with suspense, Iron Flame is a pretty good sequel to Fourth Wing, the new romantasy series that’s on multiple readers’ awards lists. This is a long book, but it doesn’t feel quite so long as it is thanks to the serial writing style with multiple internal pacing highs and lows. I am surprised that Violet and Xaden go back to school after a short recuperation with the revolutionary faction, but the setup does allow for some double play.

This installment also seems to focus more on the military aspects of the War College, so it’s less boarding school and more boot camp since Violet seems to do most of her learning outside of class and the adults are only there to bark orders, push the cadets to their limits, and instill “don’t ask, don’t tell” behavior.

Violet is a great character who is strong and stubborn but scared to trust, and it’s in this installment that her behavior really starts to hurt her relationships, both with Xaden, her friends, and her two bonded dragons. It’s good to see some consequences for a character’s actions, which will make Violet’s arc in the next book all the more rewarding.

Unfortunately, the romance (i.e. the sex scenes) wasn’t near as good as the first book. Throw in a jealous ex-girlfriend, and the precarious balance of the romance between the two protagonists starts to feel pretty hokey.

Recommended for as an easy-to-consume fast-paced romantic military fantasy with dragons!