This is probably the most hyped book of the year. I do like Fantasy, but seldom read it. Thinking back, I think this book might be the first one. I have watched Fantasy on the telly though, if that counts for something, and like it. First to my mind comes Game of Thrones (although it went on too long) and A Discovery of Witches which I really loved. I have had some other fantasy authors on my radar, but so far they did not make it to be read. Not too late though.
It is always with a little bit of anticipation that you start a very hyped book. I am also aware that the main audience are aimed at much younger people than me, who probably interprets it quite different. Nevertheless, I did read it. There might be spoilers ahead. Here is the summary:
"Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.
But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.
With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.
She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.
Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.
Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die."
I did like the main story, and I loved the world of the dragons. They made up the nicest characters in the plot. They bond with humans and keep the bond until one of them dies; the dragon, or the human. Their lives are intermingled. The school, I guess you can call it that, and the tests the students have to finalise to make it to graduation are hard and ruthless. Most pupils don't make it. Those who survive form a tight bond, unless you end up being the enemy of a few of them. It seems it is ok to kill each other if you do it fairly.(?) The survival of the fittest is the theme here.
Although we mostly follow life at the school, as the story evolves, we realise that their world are isolated, and the world around them might not be as safe as the leaders make them believe. Rebellions happened many years earlier, and it might not be the end of it yet.
The week point of the book is the characters. The narrator, Violet is small, rather weak physically and have to train extra hard to make it to the next level. Destined for the profession of a scribe at the library, she was not prepared for this violent life. Xaden is the rebel, a third year graduate and also the wing leader, son of a former rebel who was executed. Thus he holds a grudge against Violet, since it was her mother, the general and leader of their world, who ordered the execution. On the other hand, Xaden's father killed Violet's beloved brother Brennan. There you go. Xaden is as tough as they get. Dain is the childhood friend Violet grew up with and still have feelings for. Rhiannon is another graduate who becomes a good friend. Liam is a second year graduate, friend of Xaden, and appointed body guard to Violet.
Unfortunately, Violet is not a very likeable character. Strange really, since she is the heroine of the story, and the narrator. Maybe the language she speaks, maybe her actions and her thoughts. Dain is another unlikeable character, making uncalled for comments and overprotecting Violet in a strange way. Xaden is the most likeable character, at least until he gives in and acknowledge his love for Violet. Rhianna and Liam are my favourites.
The love interest is quite easily detected already at the beginning of the book. Violet's and Xaden's dislike of each other, fuels other feelings. Dain is there to make the love triangle, but does not cause any serious threat. Understandably, Violet chooses Xaden, and that is perfectly all right. Violet is attracted to Xaden from the very beginning, although it takes some time before she acknowledge it to herself. However, the physical attraction is strong and every time she sets eyes on him, and his body, she goes weak, stops breathing, admiring his muscles etc. Her reactions are recurring through the novel and gets rather tiresome. Once Xaden acknowledges his feeling for Violet, he turns a bit silly as well. Personally, I prefer sex scenes where things are hinted at. To read details of it all, I find rather boring. These scenes could have been hotter with a different approach.
I did like the story of the book, and the dragon world. I must admit I was hooked from page one. It is an easy read. The prose is not very good and the dialogues are simple. They work best with the interaction with the dragons. The love story could have been told in a better way. It fails since, I think, the character of Violet is not worthy the character of Xaden. Although she starts out as a weak person physically, she is mentally stronger, has her own will, is different from others, and will end up the best in the end.
The more I was reading, the more I thought I will not read the second book coming out soon. However, as we near the end of the book, the political story takes off again. There is a terrible fight with dragons and other magical creatures which is well written and makes for exciting reading. Violet is made aware that the political scene is not what it seems, and there might be another rebellion coming soon.
The last chapter is narrated by Xaden, for a reason unknown to me. Could as well has continued with Violet's narration. Here comes a cliff hanger which I will not reveal here, but it makes me have to read the coming book.
The author has created an interesting world with exciting political turmoil. The only thing missing is to improve the characterisation. There are too many clichés that are difficult to ignore. I have not read anything else by Yarros, so can't say wether this is her usual way of writing or not. I must admit though, due to the cliff hanger I am bound to read the next one.