Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Iron Flame

by Rebecca Yarros

read by Rebecca Soler

with Teddy Hamilton

Iron Flame

by Rebecca Yarros
read by Rebecca Soler
with Teddy Hamilton

Review posted November 25, 2023.
Recorded Books, 2023. 28 hours, 17 minutes.
Review written November 20, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Fiction

Iron Flame is the second book in the Empyrean series, and yes, you absolutely should read these books in order, because we've got one epic adventure going on.

I will try not to give anything away. The first book ends with a big reveal and big reversal -- as does this book. But the book does cover Violet Sorrengail's second year at Basgiath War College, and her skills as a dragon rider and magic-wielder are growing. And once again, she has to escape death over and over again to get through it. In this book, she's also trying to uncover knowledge hidden for centuries.

Violet's romance continues -- with plenty of conflict. Since, after all, they don't want to put each other in danger with what they know. And there's a new vice-commander at Basgiath who wants to know all of Violet's secrets and has ruthless - horrible, in fact - ways of getting them.

There's a content warning at the front of this book:

Iron Flame is a nonstop-thrilling adventure fantasy set in the brutal and competitive world of a military college for dragon riders, which includes elements regarding war, psychological and physical torture, imprisonment, intense violence, brutal injuries, perilous situations, blood, dismemberment, burning, murder, death, animal death, graphic language, loss of family, grief, and sexual activities that are shown on the page. Readers who may be sensitive to these elements, please take note, and prepare to join the revolution...

Yes, it has all these things. Yes, these books contain the most detailed and explicit sex scenes I've ever read. Not that I've read a lot of books with explicit sex scenes -- but that's why I feel like I should warn my readers -- this is different from the books I normally rave about.

But also yes, I'm going to rave about it. Why did I even pick up the first book, with a content warning like that? Well, I heard more than one person I respect recommend it. And it has dragons! Once I started reading, I loved the main character, a young adult with what is probably Ehler-Danlos syndrome, with her bones easily going out of joint and lots of aches and pains -- trying to make it at a school where the physical challenges kill a large percentage of cadets.

I have been a bit skeptical of a college where a large percentage of recruits and students die. So I thought it was interesting right when a controversy about spanking erupted on Twitter (I was spanked, and I'm against it, but we discussed how it often takes time before kids who have been spanked can even dare to think differently enough from their parents to challenge that it's a good method.) -- right after that, I got to a part in the book where Violet defends the deaths they've seen of their friends and classmates because it helped her face the brutality in an actual combat situation. However, several chapters later, she learns about the procedure in another country that griffons use to choose their fliers -- and nobody dies. Even Violet notices the contrast and wonders if all the deaths at Basgiath are truly necessary.

It was also interesting to read about the scandal of governments letting civilians die -- as the conflict in Israel and Gaza is going on. Fantasy always has commentary on real life.

Well, that's as much as I'm going to say without giving away details of the plot. It's fast-moving, one thing after another, and over and over again Violet and her friends face life-threatening situations. And it's completely gripping in a way that I didn't want to stop listening and would find myself thinking about it when I wasn't listening.

Oh, and her dragons are awesome, too. Andarna is an adolescent in this book, and is full of attitude -- plus some surprises.

I'm annoyed at the ending -- because there is another reversal, and the next book isn't written yet. I will probably do as I did with this one and monitor when the library is getting eaudiobook licenses and snag one of them right away.

This book continues an amazing adventure about characters you can't help caring about faced with terrible odds, but triumphing in spite of them. (Well, so far)