“The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson
Violet never expected to make it past her first year at Basgiath War College, and neither did anyone else including her best friend Dain. However, not only did she survive, but she also bonded 2 dragons – one of them the most powerful black dragon aside from Codagh, and another a golden feathertail, AND she came out of this with a tall, powerful, and gorgeous boyfriend-turned-from-enemy, Xaden Riorson.
Unfortunately, that was just year one. Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. Torture, running landings, brutality left and right, and a program designed to test the limits of pain and teamwork are just some of the shit she has to deal with. The worst? The new vice commander and his manic dragon, who seems to have made it his personal vendetta to come after Violet and break her, body and soul.
While Violet is not as strong as everyone else, her wits and willpower more than make up for it – you can’t break someone with pain when they live it everyday. Unfortunately, she has to deal with more than anyone else, because she knows a centuries long hidden secret that could ruin everything that has been built upon it.
Me, finishing Iron Flame & texting my book friend “oh my god oh my god oh my god I finished Iron Flame. I have passed away, I am in utter shock.”
Well done Rebecca Yarros, well done. There was so much hype around the release of Iron Flame the month leading up to it that I was a bit skeptical of its greatness and chalked it up to tiktok hype. I am pleased to say it was a fantastic novel and I cannot wait for the rest of the series. Rebecca, I have so many questions!!
Let’s get into it, because there is a lot to unpack here. This review will be spoiler heavy, so heed my warning.
DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNLESS YOU WANT THE BOOK TO BE SPOILED.
I really really liked Iron Flame. The character development, themes, plot, spice, and everything else came together to create an immersive world and pull you into the story. Violet continues to be a bad ass while also continuing to learn how to deal with her lesser strength, her relationship with Xaden, and now some huge secrets she has to keep – even when being tortured for the information.
Xaden continues to be sexy, strong, and secretive – much to Violet’s dismay. The progression of their relationship was super good and with that ending??? I CANNOT WAIT FOR BOOK 3.
The Iron Squad continues to be friend-group goals, Jesinia comes more into play, and we even meet some new characters that offer an interesting twist into everything (I’m looking at you, Catriona).
I want to dive into a few different themes in the book because I have so much to say that I could write a novella about my thoughts. Instead, I will try to limit myself here.
The big theme we start off with is trust. We start off Iron Flame with Brennan being alive after having been presumed dead for the last 6 years. Not only did he fake his death, but Xaden and the rest of the resistance crew all knew and kept it a secret from Violet. We left off Fourth Wing with Violet realizing Tairn and Andarna kept the resistance a secret from her. Now back at Basgiath War College, Violet has to keep Rhi and the rest of the Iron Squad in the dark about what happened at Athebyne, and Xaden has to work to regain Violets trust. That is a lot of dishonesty, secrets, and strained relationships from all sides. This was such a good theme not only in the beginning of Iron Flame, but through the whole novel. I loved seeing the evolution of the trust worked on and regained between all these different groups, it was interesting and heart wrenching and oh so good.
The evolution of Xaden and Violet’s relationship. This was a really great theme throughout the entire book. Their chemistry is incredible, and it is heart wrenching to see them not be together but want to be. Xaden and Violet are great together, but they really needed to work on their trust and and openness if they were ever going to make it work. “How can I love you when I don’t even know you” was one of the most powerful quotes from Violet related to this, and just really shows how deep both their trust issues and affection for each other went.
Seeing Xaden try so hard to prove himself to Violet time and time again was honestly sexy and I can’t believe she didn’t cave sooner; I would have! As Iron Flame went on, they continued to work on their honesty and openness and their chemistry continued to flame, it was almost unbearable. When Varrish kept preventing them from seeing each other, ughhhhh! It was a great plot point but I was so sad for them each time. When Xaden was fighting to have the night free to see Violet while Sgaeyl and Tairn got to be together? OMG.
There were a lot of great themes and plot lines in this book, too many to break down individually. There was a ton of introspection, relationship issues, communication work, secrets, character development and so much more that went on in Iron Flame that you really can tell Rebecca is setting us up for one hell of a series going forward.
I loved the addition of Cat, her special power, and her history with Xaden and subsequent hatred of Violet. There is nothing like a scorned lover and man she feels scorned hard. I love that her power is to amplify emotions, and she makes Violet super jealous and self conscious. It was a good plot point and great avenue for continued character development of Violet. I even liked that they had to begrudgingly work together as the book went on.
Other themes and things I want to mention/ point out but not get into… maybe I’ll have to do a review post part 2 once I re-read it.
- Secrets and the damage/protection they do, and the fine balance
- Insecurity and inner thoughts/emotions you don’t let yourself think about until they are right in your face
- Right and wrong, the choices we make, and why
- Sacrifices for love and the safety of the people
Things I loved – SPOILERS BELOW
- Violet vs Codagh scene
- The relationship and work Rhi and Violet have to do to salvage their friendship and the trust Violet puts into them? UGH YES
- The torture scenes? SO GOOD, it was described really well and I thought Rebecca Yarros did a fantastic job. Varrish is so cruel and terrible, and to have Nolan be there too? NOOOOO
- When Dain comes into the picture….. just wow holy shit, great development.
- THE SPICE SCENE on the throne of Tyrrendor, WHEW.
- I love that almost everyone knows how to speak sign language with Jesinia, that is so awesome. I love Jesinia’s character development too!
The continued world building and history was great, I love that you thought you knew so much in book 1 and then in Iron Flame you realize you actually know nothing and were very sheltered inside the Basgiath War College. You learn about the whole other part of the continent out there, the fliers, the other people, and more about the dreaded venin. There are people being left alone to die without support or saving from Navarre. The venin are running rampant while leadership continues to lead Navarre to believe that they don’t even exist. Then, to top it all off, you learn that the scribes 400 years ago rewrote all of history and hid everything away to keep the people in the dark. It all continued to build to the story and start to set up the rest of the series, and it really drew me in. I hope we continue to learn more, especially about the empyrean.
Also I need to know more about the 7th type of dragon??? Andarna girl can’t wait to learn more about you.
Worthy of a million re-reads.