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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Iron Flame (Empyrian #2) by Rebecca Yarros

Yarros's experience as a romance author remains showcased in book two through teen-angst-dramaaatic, romaaantic dialogue. My favorite elements were the action sequences, the opportunities for humor, and the pacing of this 640-page story.

I wanted to love Fourth Wing, the first in this series, (talking dragons! dragon riders! dragon-rider training!). I was distracted by the ultra-dramatic young-adult teen angst and sometimes-clumsy dialogue, yet the promise of the dragon element kept me reading with fingers crossed that the story would take off and eclipse the pacing and the forced-feeling will-they/won't-they-focused conflicts (spoiler: they will).

Yet Yarros's thrilling, twisty ending hooked me to find out what would happen in book two.

I do love a dragon book, and the second in the Empyrian series offers more page time for the talking dragons, some surprises, and a more deftly paced story, with stronger character development--along with dramaaaaatic, romaaaaantic dialogue and super steamy scenes, as also seen in the first installment.

Yarros offers a villainous teacher so over the top, there's no way he could be allowed to live through the book. Yet she also serves up an unexpected (as in, we thought he was dead, so: very unexpected) second chance at redemption for a character who was presented as a villain in book one.

Violet's mother is shown to have depth, show some caring for Violet, and demonstrate plausible deniability related to atrocities occurring at the border. These all seem aimed at tempering the impression Violet has that her mother is without a heart.

Yarros's romance-novel background is evident with the very specific sex scenes (no detail is left unshared), as well as the ongoing (and drummed-up-feeling) dramatic angst from Violet regarding Xaden (I can't trust him, because he doesn't tell me everything) despite what felt like a book-one resolution to the will-they/won't-they tension between the two. There's an added bump in the road for the couple in this book related to Violet's mother that predates Violet's relationship but affects Xaden.

I was so distracted by the frequency of "f*ck" in book one that I searched on my Kindle version and found that there were 257 instances in Fourth Wing. In book two, I wasn't sure about Violet's use of "damn" and "damned" ("I'm still really damned angry with you" felt odd; the type of "damn if" compliments about Xaden's body seemed silly).

Violet and Xaden are verrrry flowery about their feelings (“You want to know something true? Something real? I love you. I’m in love with you. I have been since the night the snow fell in your hair and you kissed me for the first time."). These elements follow from the romance-novel feeling of Fourth Wing.

But there's some funny dialogue here that made me laugh, and Yarros allows the characters to be less earnest and more playful and to invoke a little bit of dark humor at times (my favorite kind) in Iron Flame. The melding of two fighting forces offers additional interesting characters, conflicts, complexities, and interactions, which I liked.

Violet's physical condition and chronic illness is referred to in Iron Flame but is far less of a key element than it was in Fourth Wing. One of my favorite dragons is almost completely absent from the book (sleeping for hundreds of pages), with a grand reveal at the end, the impact of which felt a little lost on me.

The action scenes and battles were the highlight for me in Iron Flame.

Yarros ends this one with a bang that hooks the reader for book two just as they might be wavering on reading a third 500+ page book--as she did for me with book one.

I listened to Iron Flame as an audiobook.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Click here for my review of Fourth Wing.

Have you read the fantastic Temeraire series by Naomi Novik? It's got all the talking dragons, dry humor, battles, and military strategy you'd want. The tone is very different from the Empyrian series--no teen angst or steamy scenes.


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