SPOILER ALERT: This article contains massive spoilers for Rebecca Yarros’s best-selling fantasy novel “Fourth Wing” and its sequel “Iron Flame,” released Nov. 7.
It could be a while before the “Fourth Wing” TV series that’s in the works at Amazon makes it to the screen, but with the release of the sequel novel titled “Iron Flame,” we have more than enough source material to begin anticipating the small-screen adaptation that’s set to cover all five planned books in the series.
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Author Rebecca Yarros has built a fictional world in which the centuries-long war between two kingdoms, Navarre (which has dragons) and Poromiel (which has griffins), covers up the rise of a power-hungry enemy called venin — people whose souls have been corrupted by stealing magic from the earth. It’s an intricate and specific universe, and this interview delves into the very unique terminology of her invention. If you’re reading this, from here on out, we’re assuming you’ve read the books.
“Iron Flame” is Yarros’ follow-up to “Fourth Wing,” her New York Times best-selling romantasy that was released in May by Entangled Publishing’s Red Tower Books. “Fourth Wing” introduced Violet Sorrengail, a first-year student at Basgiath War College who became a dragon rider after training her whole life as a scribe, a more peaceful calling. In “Iron Flame” we return to Violet’s story just after she found out at the end of “Fourth Wing” that most of her life in the kingdom of Navarre has been a lie. More than 600 pages and lot of steamy romance and bloody battles later, “Iron Flame” concludes with an even bigger cliffhanger than “Fourth Wing”: Violet’s boyfriend Xaden is becoming a venin, the soulless, power-hungry enemy that Violet, Xaden and their revolution of dragon riders and griffin fliers are fighting so hard against.
“He’s turning. So you go through the epigraphs, and there’s certain degrees,” Yarros told Variety in a sitdown interview Monday, just ahead of “Iron Flame’s” Tuesday release. “One of the things I love to play with is that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that when you want magic and you can’t have it because you haven’t been chosen by a dragon or a griffin, what will you pay for it? And people will pay with their souls. You see it in our society, all the time, people will sell their souls for power. So it’s a matter of, how much of his soul did he exchange? And once you start, how do you stop and is it an addiction?”
Yarros points to where Jack’s stage of venin is versus the stage of venin that the Sage who fights Xaden at the end of the book is at as the example.
That venin bomb gets dropped on Violet after the second-biggest reveal in the book: Xaden does have a second signet, and it’s the only one that can get you killed. While Violet figures out that Xaden is an inntinnsic, a person who can read people’s minds with the power they channel through their dragon, for herself after much questioning, is there a chance Xaden would have eventually told her himself?
“I honestly don’t know,” Yarros said. “His goal in this book is that she has to love him while he can still keep secrets. And this is one of the reasons: if you fall in love with a CIA agent, he’s not going to come home and tell you what he did at work today. There’s certain things you have to take on faith with the person that you love. Second, this is something that can get him killed on both sides from everyone, no one suffers inntinnsics to live. So this is the deepest, darkest secret he could possibly have and he would have to trust her implicitly.”
Yarros says there is one key scene in the “finale” of “Iron Flame” that is a turning point for Violet and Xaden and could have pushed Xaden to reveal his inntinnsic nature to Violet, had she not gotten there herself: “He is going off to fight the Sage and she has to go get the wards up [and] she finally trusts him to go do whatever it is he needs to do so she can do what she needs. And I like to think that once past that moment, he would have. But until that moment, she never shows the trust for him to go do what he needs to throughout the entire book. So I’d like to think yes, but she figured it out.”
See Variety‘s full Q&A with Yarros below, which covers Amazon’s TV series adaptation of “Fourth Wing,” the biggest cliffhangers from “Iron Flame,” and the correct pronunciation of Scottish Gaelic names.
You said you’ve had the deal in place with Amazon for a TV series since last December, well before “Fourth Wing” was released in May. How did that come about?
I was in edits at Liz Pelletier’s [now an executive producer on the project for “Fourth Wing” publisher Entangled Publishing] house on “Fourth Wing” and we were having meetings with producers. And I’m like, this is is insane, I’ve turned in the first draft, but I’m in edits. And we were going back and forth and then we entered an auction scenario. And the funniest thing is that, in the meeting with Amazon, they said, we had questions about this part of the ending. And I was like, that doesn’t happen. And they said, no, here, when this happens. And I just looked at my editor and go, you gave them my first draft?! They have the first draft?! And you can’t say that in the middle of the meeting. But I could just feel the blood running from my face, and I’m like, there have been some changes!
But we knew in December it was going to be Amazon and (Michael B Jordan’s production company) Outlier and I could not be any happier about where it ended up. Outlier is such a great production company and they have a wonderful diversity and inclusion rider, one of the first companies to have them, which is why I was so joyful, because I knew they would respect the diversity of cast.
And then I just kind of tried to forget about it, because everything else was out of my hands. But it was wild to think this book wasn’t even out yet and it had already been optioned and then you have to sit on that and not tell anybody. And I figured, well, maybe the book will do OK, because it has this option deal — but a lot of things get options and never made. And then everything just kept snowballing bigger and bigger and bigger and we were going to announce on release day, which was also this first day of the writers strike. And you never want to add pressure, so you’re like, absolutely, the writers need to do this and we’re gonna support this and off you go and get this done. And then the writers came out of strike, and we just kind of waited. And then it was wild when it came out.
You would be executive producing, but wouldn’t be the showrunner, so where are you in the process with finding a writer for the potential series?
I can’t talk about anything that they’re doing on that end that I know of. All I can say is that when I met with them in L.A., they did ask if I wanted to come sit in the writers room. And I would never get in somebody’s way, but I just want to be like, hey, that plot point might mess with a point in Book Four, just a heads-up, just in case you want to do that!
For casting, would you rather the actors be unknowns or established?
I honestly don’t have an opinion on it. I’ve never done this before, so I don’t have an opinion on if they should be established or if they shouldn’t, or what attention that brings, because I’m out of my depth of knowledge here. I’m going to trust that they bring in the right people when they start casting. And then I’m gonna hope that they fit who’s described in the book, and I think we’ll know when we know. But I honestly don’t have a preference, just whoever can fit the character.
In some fan art, Xaden is depicted as white, though he is described by you as a person of color in the books. What are your hopes for that casting and how you think readers will react?
We’re just going to say he’s POC, we’re just going to leave it at that. I didn’t rise to the bait of a lot of those posts, which I think probably got me some flack, but I knew we were already in development for TV, and I want to make sure that role is open to as much diversity as possible. So I was never going to give the readers my vision because I know that once you give the readers your vision, that’s what they’re gonna stick to. And I wanted to make sure we left it open to as much diversity as possible.
Do you have a publication timeline for the remaining three books in the series? Are we going to avoid an “A Song of Ice and Fire”/”Game of Thrones” situation with the TV show and source material?
So I can promise, unless something happens to me, we’re not going to have that situation. We do have a publication schedule, it is just not public yet. I’ve already said publicly that I’m slowing down slightly, enough that I can put out books and still be healthy. I think I wrote like 851,000 words in 15-18 months — I was just wiped out. I want to be able to deliver the best books possible, so I need to sleep a little. I’ll be writing, I just need to write and sleep, not just write. We’re slowing down a tiny bit, not every six months.
Do you have the titles picked out for the remaining books?
No, the titles always come to me when I’m plotting. I’m a really thorough plotter and I plot every single chapter and every single scene and how each romantic arc moves and each action arc moves and how each of the Easter eggs are put in. And it comes to me as I’m staring at the plot board and looking at what is key, it just pops in. So until I’m at that stage, I don’t know yet. I do have the overall books plotted, though.
How did you decide to do a part one and part two for “Iron Flame,” and did you ever consider making part two into the third book in the series instead?
Yes. Probably about 30,000 words in, I called my editor and I said, I think this is a five-book series. And that’s how we went from three to five. And then as I looked at what needed to be accomplished in this book in order to get to where we are at the end of “Iron Flame,” and to have brought in the additional characters and brought everything to this point, I knew that the defining end of Part One had to happen. And it was a point that my editor and I went back and forth on and luckily I’m pretty persuasive — don’t get me wrong, she gets her way a lot — but it was her idea to break it into the parts as opposed to one story. Because I told her when I handed it in, I think this is two books. She read it and said, I think it’s one. And I really thought it was two, and we break it here and I just need to develop it up — but I hate that you don’t get as much world building without the second part. And you don’t get to expand the world and see what’s happening back here because it cuts there. So I feel like it just wouldn’t have been as rich. So she said, it’s one book, but it’s part one and part two. OK, great. And now you have to leave room in book three to explore what happened in their absence, you have to explore what happened there.
Firmly in “Iron Flame” spoiler territory now: How did you decide where to pick up in the timeline after the cliffhanger reveal Brennan is alive at the end of “Fourth Wing”?
Because you end “Fourth Wing” in Xaden’s POV, which is done for a very specific reason, because Violet is just so inquisitive and so demanding that the first way I wrote it in her POV, it was a 7,000 word chapter where he explained everything because she was like, you will tell me now. And it was an info dump at the end. So we cut it and we put it in Xaden’s POV. You have to pick up immediately from there because so much has happened. Do we go back to Basgiath or stay? What’s going on with Andarna? What’s going on here? Where do I stand with Xaden? Oh my gosh, my brother’s alive. You can’t just open it back up at school and be like, “Previously on ‘Fourth Wing’…” If one of my older brothers let me think they were dead for years, I would be so happy to find out they were alive — and so mad that they let me feel that. Violet is that really good mix of, I’m mad, but I’m so thankful, but I’m mad, and you lied, and Xaden lied.
Violet is much less perceptive in “Iron Flame” than she was in “Fourth Wing,” missing or ignoring several things said in passing that a reader would be likely to notice. What was the reasoning behind her shift?
Think about what makes you you, and what makes your self esteem and what makes your sense of purpose. Violet’s entire sense of self is based on her knowledge. Her knowledge of history, her knowledge of being raised as a scribe, her knowledge of everything that’s been poured into her. Her wit and her intelligence is what helped her survive first year, and all of it is gone. She doesn’t know what of what she’s been taught is a lie. She doesn’t know if it’s her brother that just lied to her or her boyfriend or her best friend Dain or her mother or the guy she thought was like an uncle, Dain’s father. Everything that defines who she is as a person has been stripped bare, and she is floundering.
And I know a lot of readers expect her to come back and be strong and badass. But it’s illogical to think that when you strip away someone’s everything, that makes their identity, that they’re not going to flounder. And she has to learn that she has to trust herself again before she can trust anyone else. And she finds that in knowledge and in history and in books. And then there’s also the element of, but do you want to know? Because if you desperately love this man, you desperately love him, and you desperately need to believe him, maybe you don’t want to know because maybe he’s going to tell you something that is going to make you walk. Because if you almost walk that first time, how many strikes do you give somebody? So she’s very torn between, I need to know everything because I know nothing now, and maybe I don’t want to know, because maybe loving him should be enough. And she’s 21 and she’s torn between those two emotions, and I think it’s more realistic than having someone come out of the gate swinging.
How much of Dain’s arc did you have planned for the start? I know some fans were afraid of having a “Tamlin situation” (from Sarah J. Maas’ “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series) with Xaden as the love interest in book one and concerns about a possible redemption for Dain, which he does get in “Iron Flame,” but it does not lead into a romantic relationship with Violet or an end to Violet and Xaden.
I knew Dain’s arc in book one. So while writing book one, I had the interrogation scene from “Iron Flame” already in my head, I knew exactly where he was going. And some things get changed in edits where I feel like he gets villainized a little more. I always say I’m the ultimate Dain apologist, because when you’re in first-person POV, you only see it from Violet’s point of view. It is never confirmed that he knew they were going to die, it is never confirmed that he knew what they were sending them into. All he did was see something and trust his father. So how many of us would trust our father over trusting anyone else in the world? And I knew where that was going and I loved feeling it play out when he’s looking at her saying, if you had just trusted me, we wouldn’t be here. And to someone else, you’re thinking, he’s going to kill her. And really he’s saying, you could have come to me and it never would have gotten this bad. He never would have sent them there, it wouldn’t have happened. So I knew that from the get-go.
And it kills me when people are like, is this a Tamlin situation? Because I’m not Sarah J. Maas, and she paved that way and I am so grateful to her and to Jennifer Armentrout, to all those women who paved that romantasy way before me — but we are capable of multiple plot lines and multiple plots devices and multiple love storylines. So I don’t think we had to fit in the Tamlin box. And they handle their trauma very differently. And Xaden’s already seen so much trauma at his age that he’s pretty well set in who he is.
Why is it so unseasonably hot in Aretia, and everyone comments on it more and more as the book goes on?
It grows hotter as more dragons arrive. Just like the Vale is tropical at Basgiath, as more dragons arrive in the valley in Aretia, the temperature rises.
Why did Jack, who is confirmed by the end of “Iron Flame” to have been venin for a chunk of “Fourth Wing,” save Violet and not just let her die, or kill her, in the tower?
I think there’s a certain element of Jack turning venin — I’m trying to think what doesn’t give it away for book three. OK, he’s still in hiding at this point and who better to convince everyone that nothing’s wrong with him than Violet. By saving Violet, he’s still hiding what his true nature is and he’s still trying to prove to the professors who have been trying to quote, unquote, mend his soul and bring him back that he is fixable that he is mendable when really in the background, he is orchestrating this entire takedown of the wards. How else do you prove that you’ve changed besides saving your one-time mortal enemy? And also, it throws her off kilter. It’s like smiling at a bully.
Teenage Andarna’s tail is revealed to be a poisonous barbed scorpion tail after she battles Solas. We’re told by Tairn that dragon tails are determined after the feathertail childhood stage “by choice and need.” When specifical in “Iron Flame” does Andarna’s turn to scorpion and why that choice?
It was still a feathertail when she went into Resson, and then when she goes through that explosion of growth, she comes out and that’s when her tail forms. It’s during that explosion of growth. And I’m sure you can put together why it’s a scorpion tail. I wanted readers to dig into the choice. So if you are Andarna and you are a feathertail and you watch the thing closest to you that you love most in the world poisoned by a dagger, would you not become the poison yourself? It’s honestly just the natural progression of the character. This is what she just watched happen.
How did you decide how spicy you wanted “Iron Flame” to be in comparison to “Fourth Wing,” and how you wanted to go about fitting in the sex scenes in this book, as war continues to spread and increase on The Continent?
Right, it’s kind of illogical to be like, we’re gonna stop and we’re gonna have sex now. I wanted to keep it proportionate because it’s a romantasy. And I did have a discussion with my editor on it, and while I’m so thankful that men are reading it and men are liking it — and if men don’t like it, that’s cool, too, I’m just glad you tried it — I write romance, a romance set in a fantasy world. So there’s going to be some steam. It’s just the way it is. But you have to make sure you keep that tension and you keep that build. And one thing I love about “Iron Flame” is that she offers Xaden the exact relationship he offered her in the last book. She turns the tables on him and says, we could just keep it to sex, and he’s like, no — but for an entirely different reason. So her reasoning in the last book was no, because you don’t get to say who I fall for, and his is, no, I’m out to win your heart, I’m not just in it for your body. So you’re gonna naturally have that tension build and I like to build my romantic tension to a breaking point. And you do that because they’re not together at the beginning — and yet they are, but they’re not, but they are. And it’s so fun, because he’s just like, we totally are, and she’s like, we’re not.
What is the purpose of Xaden’s ex Catriona? What did you want to do with that character and why did you want to introduce her now?
So I wanted to introduce her now because I wanted everyone to see where the griffin fliers come from. But also, I wanted them to see Catriona’s not out to get Violet just because she loves Xaden, or because they had this relationship, she’s out for the power. And if it were a man pulling that power move, it would just be that, a power move. And they wouldn’t be called catty. So I’m interested to see how readers react because I want to see where the feminism in there plays off. She flat out says, you think this is about a man, this is about a crown. And any man in that situation would absolutely take another man to task over winning that crown.
But one thing I really wanted to bring the fliers in for is a scene where they’re discussing how the fliers are chosen. And the fliers are like, you jump and if you land you get to keep your griffin. And the riders are like, yeah, and if you don’t, you fall to your death. And the fliers are like, no, dude you swim to shore and you pick another major! What is wrong with you people? One of the points of Basgiath is it’s overly brutal — it shouldn’t be that brutal. It is awful. And I want the riders to see that; they have to understand that the way they’ve been taught is not the only way. And something is wrong with asking those kids to cross that Parapet, something is wrong with making them die on the Gauntlet, and something is wrong with how they’ve been trained. And you need the fliers in order to do that.
Violet discovers Xaden’s second signet is an inntinnsic and he tells her specifically he’s a kind of inntinnsic and not a full inntinnsic. This is the explanation for all that head prickling Violet experienced when he looked at her in scenes in “Fourth Wing,” yes?
It was so funny, because, yes, it’s when he’s reading her and everyone would be like, oh my gosh, why does this always happen? And I’m just like, it’s coming! Just give me a book, just hold on a second. What I love about that is he says, it’s a kind of inntinnsic — but they don’t have any alive. So how does he know exactly what he is? How does he know if that’s full? How does he know what it is? He has no clue. They have no inntinnsic alive. So he has no idea what he is. And he has no idea, is it intentions? Is it words? Is it thoughts? He has no clue. All he knows is he has to hide it or they’re going to kill him.
Xaden said he stopped reading Violet on purpose when he fell in love with her, which he says was when they first kissed in the snow. So any time Xaden read her after that it was an accident?
Yes. It’s kind of like if you’re sitting in class in college, and the hot guys down there and your eyes just accidentally wander, it’s more of that. But no, he stops the second he realizes that he’s no better than Dain by violating her privacy. But he also has no shame in the fact that he does it to keep the marked ones safe to begin with.
It’s revealed in “Iron Flame” that Xaden had a deal with Violet’s mother General Sorrengail to keep Violet alive, as the favor Sorrengail requested in exchange for putting the marked ones under Xaden’s oversight in the riders quadrant. And this information confirms Xaden did want to kill Violet when he first met her, but specifically couldn’t because of that deal. Why did you choose to reveal that, which is hard news for Violet to hear and will likely be tough for fans who had theories that Xaden had loved Violet innately from the start or when he heard stories from her brother Brennan?
I think asking any 23-year-old guy to be rational and perfect is a little ridiculous. They’re 23-year-old guys. We’re not talking about Rhysand, who is 500 or something, or other heroes that are immortal. He’s a kid. And he loves Brennan. He doesn’t know Mira. If he has one chance at revenge, it’s Violet. And not only is Violet his chance for revenge, but the mother has just taken that chance away from him. So naturally, his instinct because he doesn’t know Violet and he does know Brennan — and I would hope that if someone knew my sister, they would care for me, but they wouldn’t know me.
So that is one fan theory that I’ve heard, that he already loved her because of stories Brennan told. And I was like, Brennan hasn’t seen her since she was 14, and that’s creepy. So we’re gonna stop that one right now. There’s no way Xaden is falling in love with a 14-year-old girl. And it might be hard for readers, but he’s not the guy who’s going to save the world, he’s going to be the guy who saves people who are important to him. And that’s it. Her mother killed his dad and not only that, but Brennan’s switched sides and told him horrible things about his and Violet’s mother. And we’re not in Xaden’s head second year, and for a very good reason, because we would know what his second signet is and you know what’s going on and then all your tension is relieved. It’s just a logical human emotion to want revenge on someone who put you through that much pain.
Why did you choose Liam as the one that Violet would hallucinate during her long interrogation by Varrish, when she could have also imagined Mira or Xaden or anyone else she loved was there?
Because Liam is the one who protected her. He spent the entire end of his life, from the time he’s placed in another squad, protecting her and being her bodyguard. And naturally, she has this immense guilt. Part of her just floundering in this book and not thinking things through and not being as logical as she is is because she’s gotten someone killed, someone that she deeply cares about. At least she feels like she got him killed. It was Liam’s choice to go into that battle. But in her mind, especially after Sloane accuses her and things like that, she thinks that it’s her fault. So in that moment, you would draw from the person that had kept you safe. And logically, if Xaden had been there, it would have confused readers — is he there, is he not, what’s going on? But you put Liam and the readers know that, OK, she’s hallucinating. Plus, I wanted to see him again, selfishly.
There are a lot of mentions made in “Iron Flame” about Violet having the possibility for a second signet through Andarna, on top of the control of lightening she has as her signet through Tairn. Is this scene with Liam a hint that Violet’s potential second signet has something to do with a connection to the dead?
I will tell you that that’s third book — but every single hint you would need to know what her second signet is is in “Iron Flame.” It’s manifested. Read it again and then call me.
Will we learn more about the Navarre royal family in the third book, now that General Sorrengail has outed Aaric as Cam, the son of the king?
Book three, man. Because you also have a lot of bad blood between him and Xaden over what happened with his older brother. And you don’t get to see a lot of that because you’re never in Xaden’s head for it.
You’ve previously said that we’ll get more of Xaden’s POV when he stops telling secrets. We only got one chapter of his POV again in “Iron Flame,” same as “Fourth Wing.” What about in book three?
When the man stops keeping secrets. He’s not exactly an open book, nor is he as forthcoming as he’d like to think he is. He’s like, “I tell you the truth” — no he doesn’t! No, he’s like a male Celaena Sardothien, “I’ll tell you my my plan when it’s time.” No, he like’s to think he’s open, he’s not. He’s like, ask me anything — but not that!
So if Violet hadn’t asked him about his second signet, was that something he was always going to keep to himself or would he have told her he is an inntinnsic eventually?
I honestly don’t know. His goal in this book is that she has to love him while he can still keep secrets. And this is one of the reasons: if you fall in love with a CIA agent, he’s not going to come home and tell you what he did at work today. There’s certain things you have to take on faith with the person that you love. Second, this is something that can get him killed on both sides from everyone, no one suffers inntinnsics to live. So this is the deepest, darkest secret he could possibly have and he would have to trust her implicitly. And I would like to think that he probably would have once she — there’s a moment in the finale, when he is going off to fight the Sage and she has to go get the wards up, where she finally trusts him to go do whatever it is he needs to do so she can do what she needs. And I like to think that once past that moment, he would have. But until that moment, she never shows the trust for him to go do what he needs to throughout the entire book. So I’d like to think yes, but she figured it out.
Immediately afte the death of General Sorrengail, we see three different immediate reactions from her three estranged children: Brennan, Mira and Violet. How did you decide how each of them would react to her choice to sacrifice herself by using Sloane to siphon her power into the wardstone?
Oh, gosh, I’m just cautious when my mother reads this. I love complicated family dynamics. And I think when you have a complicated family dynamic like they do with their mother, there’s nothing more tragic than losing that person before you get the answers you want and the anger that comes from not getting the answers that you want that they’re not capable of. Brennan is so mad at her and so angry, but in that moment, it’s still his mom that died. And there’s still an element of, no matter how much you might be angry with the parent for a choice they’ve made, it’s still your mom. Mira has always been closer to her mother, she has always modeled her mother, she has been very much a mirror of her mother. And naturally, she’s mad they didn’t bring her in on the decision, they didn’t do anything like that. And Violet is, as usual, caught up in everyone else’s decisions in that moment, but knowing what has to be done. But it was logically the only choice to make in order to power that wardstone.
And the fact that it’s Sloane who kills her is poetic. You can incite someone to revenge very easily and she emotionally manipulates Sloane without a second pause. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she’s helping Violet up the stairs after the interrogation chamber and she’s like — I’m paraphrasing — you tell me what you wouldn’t do to save your children. You think we’re at fault for locking them out, for not giving them pieces of the wards, for not giving them weapons. You tell me what you wouldn’t do to keep your kids safe.
Clarify something: Xaden is king of Tyrrendor by birth?
By birth, if it were still a kingdom and not a province. So technically, he would be the Duke. There’s an epigraph where they removed the right to go sit on the council and gave it to the Duke of Lewellen — and there’s so much that got taken out of edits. This book, had it not been edited down would have a lot more in it. So you’ll see in book three, how it is Aretia has been allowed to survive without being caught. Something got cut out in edits and I was like, oh, my gosh — OK, book three! Technically, he would be the Duke and he would be the person sitting in the seat of Tyrrendor. So it’s a question of Lewellen, who’s the current Duke, what he’s going to do with the existence of Aretia.
The book ends with Xaden having become a venin — or is he still in the process of turning into a venin?
He’s turning. So you go through the epigraphs, and there’s certain degrees. One of the things I love to play with is that absolute power corrupts absolutely and that when you want magic and you can’t have it because you haven’t been chosen by a dragon or a griffin, what will you pay for it? And people will pay with their souls. You see it in our society, all the time, people will sell their souls for power. So it’s a matter of, how much of his soul did he exchange? And once you start, how do you stop and is it an addiction? Look at where Jack’s stage is versus where the Sage’s stage is.
Is Jack lying when he tells Xaden you cannot turn back from being a venin once you begin?
I mean, no one has ever. No one’s seen it. But we haven’t read book three yet.
We end the book there in that scene with Jack in Xaden’s POV, meaning we don’t get to be in Violet’s head for her reaction to Xaden becoming venin. And when we pick up in Xaden’s POV, she’s asleep next to him and we get no dialogue between them. So presumably, whatever Violet’s reaction was to seeing his red-rimmed eyes, she felt safe enough to sleep in her bed with him that night even though she knows he’s turning venin?
Correct. Welcome to conflict. How do you keep a couple together and apart and together and apart for five books? Would you like some conflict? Have some conflict.
The dream that Xaden has featuring the Sage in that final scene, which reveals how he began to turn venin, appears to be the same dream Violet has been having featuring the Sage throughout all of “Iron Flame” — but that Violet’s dream has actually been from Xaden’s POV this whole time. Does this mean the Sage (who says he’s actually General!) always wanted Xaden, or he wanted Xaden to get to Violet, or he wants both?
Really hope you like book three.
Is it the same dream? They seem to have shared the dream.
Or did they? It does seem like the same dream, doesn’t it? I think you should really enjoy book three. I think book three should be just so enjoyable.
Will they remain at Basgiath for book three, now that the wards are up in Navarre, but not fully in place in Aretia and unable to be fully raised without finding another dragon like Andarna?
Yes, they’re at the college at the end because they have to be, as Xaden states — this is not a spoiler — that that’s the only place that Violet is safe from him. Jack is the biggest evidence of the weakness in the wards. They feel invincible, I think everyone with a strong military feels invincible. And Jack is absolute evidence that they are not, that there are weaknesses in the wards they aren’t aware of. You see it in “Fourth Wing” when he shoves the energy into her while they’re sparring. So it’s been setup since since “Fourth Wing.” And I think that you’re going to see more of where those weaknesses are in book three, but also, how do you secure the rest of the continent? Because the whole point of “Fourth Wing” when I wrote it was very much, would you give up your shield to become your neighbors sword? Would you give up your own safety to secure your neighbor next door? And some people would and some people wouldn’t.
There are a couple bonus chapters in the new special edition of “Fourth Wing” — what do the bonus scenes reveal and is it key information you need for “Iron Flame”?
It’s just two scenes from Xaden’s POV. They’re just delicious, fun little bits. They don’t really add, other than the fact that you know that he wanted to kill her beforehand. It is the scene right after Threshing, when he sees Dain kiss her and he confronts Dain about not being the person who would have broken the rules for her. And it is the sparring scene. And I chose those scenes very carefully because they’re scenes in which he would naturally have his shields up. Because one of the reasons you can’t be in Xaden’s head is you would know what his second signet is from the get go. So there were scenes that he had to keep his shields up.
Andarna’s den is not named in “Iron Flame,” correct? I’m not missing the name for the secret seventh den of iridescent dragons?
No, you’re not missing it. You’re looking at future books for that.
Andarna says she waited for Violet, that she was left by her kind as the last one for more than 600 years and decided to hatch when she finally did for Violet. The Empyrean are the only ones who know what’s going on here and what Andarna is?
The Empyrean is very much like, leave us alone, we’re not telling you anything. But you learned from Tairn and Sgaeyl, I believe, that it’s the eldest of each den that knows intrinsically what color scales those babies are. And that’s why she was allowed to bond because she’s the eldest of her den.
And Andarna says she chose to hatch when she heard the elders talking about how Violet was predicted to be the greatest scribe — not a rider. Why?
Book three, man! I love Andarna. I think it’s fun that she’s a teenager, too. And she eats everything because I have teenage boys and my editor is like, why is she eating everything, and I’m like, have you ever been with teenagers? She’s eating all the sheep, and I love that Brennan is like, how do I find enough sheep? There are logical questions when Violet brings the entire riot to Aretia and Brennan is like, how do I feed you? But everything regarding Andarna is coming. That is not an “Iron Flame” question, my dear.
I’m trying really hard to pronounce all these names correctly. I think you’re aware of the issues surrounding mispronunciation of some of the words derived from Scottish Gaelic, and have recently faced criticism for that on social media?
Yes, I’m aware. I had to find a Gaelic tutor, because I was even pronouncing that word wrong and it went very wrong for me. And that is something that I just have to own, too. And I’m sorry.
I never knew the book would be this big and if I had, I probably would have made different choices. My family is Scottish, I come from Scotland, ancestry-wise. So my great grandmother was born in Glasgow. My mom’s family is all clan Hamilton. It was really just choosing Gaelic words as a love letter to my mom and her family and my ancestors. And then I had a moment where, you know when you read a word and it sounds different in your head? That’s what happened to me. And I remedied it by finding a Gaelic tutor. And I’m sorry. So ask me in a year and maybe I will be able to pronounce those with some efficiency and confidence. But alas, at the moment that’s not going well for me and I am sorry.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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