Iron Flame -The Empyrean Book 2 by Rebecca Yarros
Iron Flame is the second book in the Empyrean series after Fourth Wing. It Picks immediately where the previous book left off, Iron Flame follows Violet Sorrengail as she struggles to adapt to her life as a second student at the elite Basgiath War College. While she’s surrounded by some of the most powerful mages in the world, Violet still feels like an outsider, unsure of her place in this new and daunting environment.
As Violet grapples with her own insecurities, she also has to deal with the threat of a looming war. Violet and her friends must find a way to stop the war before it destroys everything they hold dear. Iron Flame is a fast-paced and thrilling sequel that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Rebbeca Yarros does an excellent job of raising the stakes and keeping the reader guessing. The action sequences are well-choreographed and exciting, and the characters are all well-developed and relatable.
One of the things I liked most about Iron Flame was the way Yarros explored the themes of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. Violet has to face some difficult decisions about who to trust, and she learns that sometimes the people you care about the most can be the ones who hurt you the most.
I also enjoyed the world-building in Iron Flame. Yarros has created a complex and fascinating world with a rich history and diverse cultures. The magic system is also well-developed and explained, and it plays a major role in the plot.
Iron Flame Blurb
She survived her first year at Basgiath War College . . . but the danger is only beginning.
Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College, Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.
Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s gruelling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is – unless she betrays the man she loves.
Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits, and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.
But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.
Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College – and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.
Iron Flame – Non-Spoiler Review
First of all, this was tooooo long and I believe that it could have been edited better. The great storytelling was ever-present. Rebecca Yarros is a great storyteller and that was evident in book 2 – Iron Flame, however, it felt like it was just going and going and it felt too much sometimes.
The cliff scene, I hated soooo much. I hated it I wanted to dnf at that point I speed-read so I could get it over with.
I remember after Fourth Wing, Rebecca mentioned she wrote this for people who couldn’t get into fantasy for being too complicated and this was for them well I apologise on her behalf for those who pick this up hoping it is a simple fantasy to get into. Book two didn’t feel that way. I honestly just got tired at so many points. I was like what is going on?? It was a lot at some point and just a lot of scenes that if felt like nothing was happening.
Eventually, it picks up in chapter 55 and I loved everything that happens from here and till the last chapter.
Everything links together and it’s so interesting trying to figure out what’s happening and what the great great reveal is at the end of the book.
Stop now if you haven’t read Books 1 and 2 or either of the books.
Iron Flame Spoiler review
Violet and Xaden
Violet and Zaden are separated most of Iron Flame they are only allowed to see each other weekly because of the dragon’s bond and Xaden graduated from Basgiath and is now an active lieutenant along the border of Navarre.
Xaden’s military duties minimize his presence in the first part, however, his appearances are impactful and validate the time spent apart. Their strong bond and undeniable chemistry make them a compelling couple, even amidst their occasional bickering.
However, this is not the only test their relationship will have to face. Xaden is keeping secrets from Violet, and she’s upset about this. Even though he claims he kept these secrets to protect her, most of the time they meet up, they end up bickering and deciding whether to go on with the relationship.
This got old at some point but to be honest. I was impressed Violet held on for as long as she did. They realise they love each other and decide to make it work regardless of the secrets but then Xaden’s ex is introduced to the story.
Gryphon flier Catriona despises Violet and insists Violet took her man and throne away from her. Catriona and Xaden were betrothed by their families for political gain. They spent time together and even became romantically involved, but Xaden eventually realized they weren’t compatible and ended the engagement. Catriona admits to Violet that she cared less for Xaden but was upset about losing the crown and the status the marriage would have brought her.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I felt about this addition as we already had so much happened in the book.
Speaking of secrets, Xaden did keep a lot of secrets from Violet but with good reason. We can see what happened with Dian when he peeked into her memories.
He hides facts about the war from Violet and maybe unintentionally that he is the Duke of Aretia which Violet puts together eventually at Aretia.
It was confirmed in Book Two that Xaden watched over Violet not as a request from her brother Brennan, but as a favour owed to Violet’s mother. Lilith Sorrengail was responsible for placing the 107 scars on Xaden’s back when Xaden took accountability for the 107 separatist children by claiming them as his responsibility. Agreeing to have them all join the Rider’s Quadrant and fight to stay alive rather than having all of them killed after their parents were killed. In exchange for this, he looked after Violet in her first year.
And the biggest Secret of all.
Xaden has more than one Signet. In addition to his first signet, Summoning and Weidling Shadows, which he often uses his shadows to conceal himself or use it against opponents to tackle, choke, or hold them in place, he has a second Signet. He is Inntinnsic. He has mind-reading powers.
Because Xaden’s grandfather used to be Sgaeyl’s rider, he gets a bonus power, as an inntinnsic, he can read other people’s true intentions through their minds without the need for physical contact.
He reveals this to Violet later in the book and she is upset at these revelations because she assumes he might have controlled her or read her mind and used it to his advantage, but he claims he hasn’t. It also seems that Tarin, Violet’s Dragons wasn’t aware of this because Sgaeyl had kept this from him.
Also, in Iron Flame we see what they do to Inntinnsics so it’s understandable why they had to hide this information later in the book Violet even urges Xaden to use this power to figure out if General Melgren was saying the truth about the outcome of a battle he sees.
Still on the topic of double Signets, Violet has two dragons, so she’s expected to have two signets. Her first which she develops through Tarin is Lightning Wielding.
A second Signet she “had” via Andarna is Time Manipulation. As a hatchling, Andarna had a unique ability to manipulate time! This is a special gift that young dragons possess. This power was only used in Fourth Wing. As at Iron Flame Andarna is no longer a hatchling and no longer has this power.
We still don’t know Violet’s Second Signet yet. However, Rebecca Yarros mentioned that Violet’s second signet manifested in Iron Flame. We don’t know for sure, and we won’t know until the third book in the Empyrean series is out. However below are some fan theories on what the second signet could be.
Amplifying Others’ Signets, Truth Sayer / Inntinnsic, Distance Wielder, Healing or Mending Souls, Dream Walker, Time Manipulation, Shields, Will Power.
I loved the relationship between Tarin and Andarna as well as between the other dragons. I mentioned in my Fourth Wing Review, that one of the things I loved about the Empyrean series was the dragon representation. They weren’t just story plots, but they had personalities, stories, bonds and banter in the book.
Tarin and Andarna share a relationship like father and daughter only Andarna is a sassy teenager and Tarin a grumpy old man.
When Andarna shared at the end that she was taking on the colour of a black dragon because she wanted to be just like Tarin, that got to me. She loves him just like a father enough that she wants to be just like him.
Other Iron Flame Characters
Another character that we get more of is Dain Aetos, the guy who betrayed Violet? Yeah, He’s back, trying to redeem himself. He also confirms that it wasn’t every time he touched Violet that he peeped into her memories and only did it a few times.
It all started accidentally. Dain, so used to being close to Violet, unintentionally tapped into her mind. He claims that he wasn’t setting them up but just trying to protect Violet and only had good intentions.
We also see more of the cast- Rhiannon; Violet’s loyal bestie, Swayer, Ridoc, and some cool characters like bumped up to secondary characters like Jessinia who are all alive by the end of Iron Flame somehow.
Throughout the book, we’re introduced to more characters, like the Gryphon Flyers, Sloane – (Liam’s sister) the new first years and light is shed more on other characters mentioned in passing in Fourth Wing.
We get all these characters however, one very annoying character we had to see again was Jack Barlowe. He was believed dead in Fourth Wing, killed by Violet Sorrengail, however, he is alive in Iron Flame and not just alive but Venin.
It’s not fully confirmed when Jack becomes Venin, but he was Venin for a large chunk of Fourth Wing.
After Violet drops the Mountain on him and he somehow survives this, Nolon mends him bone for bone, under Varrish’s guide and his Dragon; Baide hides this from the Empyrean much to everyone’s dissatisfaction.
Jack eventually kills his dragon Baide, and in the process, Baide ends up falling onto the ward stone before bleeding out, extinguishing the iron flame and leading to the Venin invading Basgiath due to the lack of the wards.
Setting Up the Wards
A big part of the book was setting up the wards outside of Navarre in Aretia,
It is revealed that Andarna is a is a 7th breed of dragon and the last clue to successfully setting up the wards. She waited 650 years to hatch.
She explained to Violet she heard the elders speaking about a girl, the weakling daughter of their General, destined to become the top scribe and the heart of a dragon rider. Andarna believed this girl was Violet and she was meant for her, hence her choosing Violet at the Threshing.
She’s able to help them set up the ward stone back at Basgiath and it’s also noted that her fire can kill venin and Wyvern unlike other dragon’s fire.
Iron Flame’s Ending
Iron Flame ending was action-packed and filled with a lot. From Swayer losing his leg, Sloane using her siphoning Powers, to Lilith’s death, the ward stone getting set up, and finally Xaden turning Venin.
Xaden takes a desperate gamble by transforming into a venin to protect Violet. Xaden turns Venin to defeat the Sage and protect his loved ones. Since it is assumed that Sgaeyl, Tairn, and Violet will die if Xaden dies. The Sage tells Xaden that, unless Xaden turns venin, he will kill Xaden (or let him die of burnout), then go after Violet to drain all of her power. Caught between burnout and becoming what he despises, Xaden reaches out, his desperation fueling a surge of power. He doesn’t choose the Venin; it chooses him. This way, he avoids burnout and no deaths.
His decision is not one of convenience but of selflessness. He understands the consequences of his actions, the burden he now carries, and the potential threat he poses to others. However, the thought of causing Violet harm is unbearable, and he chooses to walk this treacherous path instead.
This single act adds more to the complexity and intricacy of the story.
It makes readers question how many people are Venin, and what the Empyrean know about Venin considering there’s correspondence where Lilith is obviously looking for a cure to Venin and is told that there’s no cure for it.
Sagel knows about this as she feels it but will this be another secret, they keep considering Jack was able to keep this from people and there are probably more venin in Basgiath or is it something Xaden will be telling the gang, and we see how they navigate this.
Will Xaden be able to control the venin within him? Can he find a way to protect Violet while battling his own inner demons?
This and many more questions will be answered in the third book hopefully. However, till then I’ll be reading all the theories I can.
Ultimately, Xaden’s desperate choice sets the stage for a thrilling and emotional journey, one that will test his resolve and push him to the very limits of his being.