I have hEDS, so a lot of my “doing things” consists of reading books (given that I’ve been reading my whole life, long before my unstable joints became an issue, I am perfectly okay with this). However, as much as I love experiencing magical worlds (or this world, depending on genre) through the eyes of a story not my own, sometimes it is nice to be able to see myself in a character. And in Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, I found that. Also, it was just a fantastic story, regardless of representation.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Violet Sorrengail, whose body is fragile (EDS representation). She grew up wanting to be a scribe, but her mother thrusts her into joining the dragon riders, where the death rate is prodigiously high, and the dragons aren’t likely to choose a weak rider. Worse than that, she keeps being thrown in the path of Xaden Riorson, son of a traitor, and a man who hates her whole family. Only, the more Violet trains and learns, the more she discovers that everything isn’t as it seems.
The plot of this book was…fun and fascinating. It starts out fairly straightforward, with Violet doing her best to survive while dealing with her particular issues and the number of people who hate her because of her family/her supposed weakness. But the further in, the more things felt like there was a conspiracy, a mystery. It was done with great subtlety; frankly, I expected a lot more potential conspiracy details to be thrown at me, as seems popular with most fantasy novels these days, but it wasn’t like that at all. I really liked the slow build up to the truth, and to the relationship between Xaden and Violet. I think that works really well for the first book in a series, and it is refreshing to see a story that progresses without having all the cards thrown onto the table at once.
2. Thoughts on the characters
Now, this is the sort of book where you should not get attached to your darlings. Excepting the main characters, everyone seems to be fair game for the ruthless world. In fact, a good number of characters are introduced and then killed pages later. That being said, I really liked the fact that all the characters that are introduced actually feel like people. They aren’t just caricatures or stereotypes (though, Jack does feel more that way, despite Violet’s reactions to him being anything other than stereotypical). I think the characters—all of them—were done really well.
3. Favourite part
It has to be the disability rep. I love the story and the characters, but this just made the book that much better. Why? Because I got to see myself in a character, but also, and this is the really important part, the disability wasn’t the main focus of the story. It was just another character trait that Violet had. It wasn’t magically cured. It wasn’t made a big deal of by Xaden when their relationship became more. It wasn’t the focus of her thoughts around her friends, it wasn’t the goal of the story to fix it, it just was. Like a character having blue hair, or being bad at dancing. The rep was perfect for me because it wasn’t something that dominated the story. Violet saw the problem, figured out what she had to do to accommodate it, and then moved on. That’s what things should be like, but so often I see disability the focus in a way that is so toxic. Oh, will anybody love my broken body. Or, I need a magical cure to regrow my hand. It’s frustrating. And this book was so much better.
It ended. I was bummed. I want more.
Overall, I would say that Fourth Wing was an excellent book, not just because of the hEDS rep (yay!) but also because of the story, the pacing, and the characters. Also, I desperately want a dragon, now.