“Fourth Wing”: A Failure of Contemporary Literature

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Why Booktok is the bane of literature

As someone who enjoys both reading and watching TikToks, I often find myself in the corner of the app nicknamed “Booktok.” While I’m picky about books, I decided to give the novel “Fourth Wing” by Rebecca Yarros a chance after seeing it in countless TikToks. I reserved it through my local library’s app this past summer, knowing that it’d arrive eventually but not particularly invested. The novel’s endless clichés, two-dimensional characters and plot, and unsophisticated writing left me questioning its popularity.

“Fourth Wing” follows Violet Sorrengail as she is forced to attend Basgiath War College where she undergoes intense training and relentless trials in order to become a dragon rider. Born with chronic pain and a condition that affects her connective tissues – resulting in frequent dislocations and broken bones, Violet’s fear shifts into determination to succeed.

Standing in her way is Xaden Riorson, the son of a rebellion leader, who considers Violet as his greatest enemy and supposedly wishes to kill her on sight. Old relationships begin to crumble and new ones form as Violet trains alongside both friend and foe, but everything becomes more complicated when Violet finds herself bonded to not one, but two dragons – the first human in history to do so.

While clichés in a novel can be comforting in their predictability, Yarros’ novel is predictable when one wants intrigue, and unpredictable when one desires stability. To begin with, the plot and tropes of “Fourth Wing” are laughably transparent. Now, I know the old saying – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – but in the case of this novel, I’d say the clichés have a foot in the grave with how overused they are.

To sum up a few of the plot points and tropes in Yarros’ novel: a heroine that is somehow strong and weak and “not like other girls”; the male childhood friend love-interest who is turned into a villain purely for plot purposes (usually to break up a love-triangle); the heroine falls in love with the bad-boy (this must include the revelation of his tragic backstory) who is revealed to be a really great person; plot points that exist simply to exist; and sex scenes that do nothing to move the story along.

Foreshadowing in “Fourth Wing” lacks all subtlety. As soon as tall, dark and handsome Xaden Riorson first appeared, described so eloquently by Violet as “flaming hot. Scorching hot. Gets-you-into-trouble-and-you-like-it level of hot,” there may as well have been a flashing neon sign above his head with “LOVE INTEREST” on it.

I found myself bombarded with poor attempts at foreshadowing that instead left me bored and unengaged. Perhaps Yarros underestimated the average reader’s ability to analyze, but I often found myself five steps ahead of the characters and skimming along as I waited for something more exciting.

In contrast to the predictable plot, I now need to see a chiropractor from the amount of whiplash I experienced in regard to the whirlwind characters and their motives. Even Violet, the first-person narrator of the novel, swiftly changes from one attitude to another with very little reasoning.

How is it that a novel like “Fourth Wing” has gained so much popularity? I know I enjoy casual reads, especially after all the reading required for classes, but I find myself unable to enjoy a book that assumes the reading comprehension of a fourth grader and has a writing style worse than my Lit Trad IV short story.

A popular argument I’ve seen for “Fourth Wing” is that the rise in unsophisticated, easy-toread YA novels makes reading more accessible – but I would like to argue against this. Yarros’ writing style may have been easy to read, but this was because of its immaturity. Books can be accessible and still have depth, meaning and good writing. There are so many middle grade and juvenile fiction novels, like “Howl’s Moving Castle,” that require a lower-level reading comprehension but don’t sacrifice other elements of the novel in order to do so.

Despite my complaints with “Fourth Wing,” it’s just one example of poorly written fiction that has shot into popularity on Booktok. It’s time for readers to redefine what makes a novel popular.

25 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t read this yet, nor do I watch tiktok, but I was just suggested to read this by a coworker who said she enjoyed it a lot. Sounds like a waste of time, just like watching the popular Netflix shows, they are just created to please the masses but lack so much depth and character to the story. It’s sad how detached we have come from craving good material

    • I typically read historical fiction. While it’s not strictly, it’s my favorite genre. I said I would never read a fantasy. Ew. Gross. No. But the popularity made me bite. I loved it. I’m now on Iron Flame. I’ve gotten a couple other fantasy books that I’ve yet to read, but am widening my horizons because of Fourth Wing. To each their own. I didn’t get it because of tiktok. I got it from the hype on FB.

      • Historical fiction girlie here too. I don’t particularly care for fantasy ~ just don’t choose it when I’m looking for my next book. I have co-workers that love this series and I picked it up bc my middle school daughter loves dragons (Wings of Fire series). I like it!! It’s immature, yes. But it’s still enjoyable and I find myself swept up into the whole world. Great for listening to while I walk the dogs!

  2. I have just recently finished reading this. I stumbled upon it without knowing the popularity of it caused on Tik Tok. I found it to be a fun read, and I am on the wait-list for the second book in the series. Yes, very predictable plots but I generally liked it. Nice story with a good girls win vibe. When I want unpredictable I will go back to some Koontz.

    • ❤️❤️❤️❤️ I heartily agree. It was a fun read. Some folks shouldn’t take themselves so seriously. Have they written a book?

    • Same. I fell in love with the book and 3 other women I work with loved it as well. I will recommend this book all day. It’s a cross between hunger games, based kinda like the show dragon house and the constant bickering of two people that fell a love connection but not sure about it. Love the dragons in it and everything about it. Rebecca Yarros knew exactly what she was doing when she made this. I believe any of those that Love Harry Potter would love this!

  3. You are doing nothing but trying to get reads and views. I’ll bite. I read like CRAZY. this serious is the absolute best two books I’ve ever read. Friend gave me book one for Christmas. I was knee deep in a book so my mother started. I finished the first on in 3 days. Over nighted the second and finished it in less than two days. Greatest depiction and story line. Even if you aren’t into fantasy it’s a must read. You are someone who sucks the soul of great things. Amazon picked it up for a serious. (horrible read right) don’t listen to these people and read it she’s a genius

    • At least she isn’t giving her Readers the run around like George R.R.Martin has with the songs of Ice & Fire ending The Winds of Winter he refuses to give any update been 13 years since Dance with Dragons

    • and yet you took the time to write this little comment <3

      it’s just a fun book that is a great casual read. we need more fun and unserious books and i’m glad you agree with that !!

    • 👆🏼
      I found myself skimming along, eagerly awaiting something more gripping in this article. Yarros might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s perfectly fine. But did you really have to tear down and belittle someone’s work just because it didn’t cater to your personal taste? And then to generalize and disparage a whole community of avid readers who find joy in losing themselves in a story, regardless of its predictability?

      Clearly, you possess intelligence aplenty. Imagine the positive impact you could make if you redirected your energy away from hurling frustrations and negative opinions, and instead channeled it towards something constructive for the world.

      Why not write a book infused with the depth you believe is lacking? Lift up an author whose work you genuinely admire. Offer shoutouts and recommendations for others to discover and enjoy great literature

  4. I’m reading it right now and find it enjoyable. There are some things that you can see coming a mile away but that doesn’t detract from the overall fun of the story.

  5. I’ve read it. Gotta say-the above reviewer isn’t wrong here. But…I’m continuing the 2nd book, simply to finish what I’ve started. I’m an avid reader, even have a few YA series I like. I have many authors I reread and even buy audiobooks of favorite authors, no matter how often I’ve revisted their series.
    I won’t re read this one.

    • I would have to say you are the minority here. And if you thought this book was so poorly written, predictable, and boring, what book would you recommend that you think is not?

  6. I feel like these are like the “Mean Girls” book reviews. There seems like there is a clique of reviewers that want to bring down a newcomer to keep the popular authors on top. This author might not be perfect but show me one that is! Look at John Grisham, I thought his writing was horrific!!! Nevertheless, his books received praise and movies created that over exceeded his writings. So, leave the girl alone and let her learn and live her dream!!!

  7. While I agree this is not “A Tale of Two Cities”, I don’t believe anyone has said it’s going to be a classic. I personally thought it was great fantasy read, then again I just love to read. I would give your article 3 stars just for being a pompas, arrogant read…not my cup of tea but a3 star for effort.

    • It’s not getting the attention it’s getting for being the next literary masterpiece. Maybe people like myself with Ehlers-Danlos who are chronically ill are enjoying seeing themselves portrayed as a protagonist in a fantasy setting. Maybe it’s for us. This review is really myopic and frankly pretentious.

  8. I agree— it’s awful. Almost every sentence of how “hot” and attractive the main live interest is— not reading the rest of the series

  9. I 110% disagree with this article. When it comes to an enemies to lovers, I don’t really understand how absolutely different you can expect the romance to be, but this book is not focused on romance. The story is a refreshing, different, and engaging. Especially w some of the twists you definitely do not see coming. I think the author of this article doesn’t understand good story telling in the least and I did not find this on tik tok. I think the author of this article Just thinks it’s cool to be in the “minority” of disliking the book. It has such wonderful writing that is written perfectly for an audiobook and adult themes (and no, I don’t mean just sex).

  10. Why does this Op piece sound so angry?!?
    I read 150-200 books a year and, unless I’m bored out of my mind, hate the subject, or there’s a crazy amount of typos/grammatical errors, I finish the book and move on.
    I think whether or not a book is “good” is subjective. What moves one person may mean nothing to another. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed book 1+2 of this series. Maybe because it was so different than my typical choice. Yes, it reads like YA, but I couldn’t put it down and am looking forward to book #3. Suspect it’ll make a great movie!
    P.S. Listened to a bit on Audible while driving and it had me laughing out loud.

  11. lol this was so funny to read and it’s kinda true. There are some super overused tropes in fantasy (e.g. pregnancy, weak, petite girl falling in love with the bad boy, the bad boy having dark hair and a dangerous past). I have not read this book but honestly reading this article makes me want to read it more. The plot line itself seems interesting to me as a lover of fantasy. I can just skip past the spicy parts that I don’t like, because those are pretty cringe and unrealistic ngl.

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