5 most exciting Empyrean fan theories after Iron Flame

Author Rebecca Yarros left fans on a wild cliffhanger with the second book in her Empyrean series, Iron Flame. Readers have done what they do best: come up with fan theories!
Author Rebecca Yarros on 'Iron Flame,' 'Fourth Wing' and The Empyrean Series | Book Club
Author Rebecca Yarros on 'Iron Flame,' 'Fourth Wing' and The Empyrean Series | Book Club / Entertainment Weekly

We all know that “A dragon without its rider is a tragedy and a rider without their dragon is dead.” But what happens when a rider turns into a venin, or worse, kills their own dragon?

Rebecca Yarros’ book Iron Flame, which came out on November 7, took the world of fantasy fiction by storm. It answers some of these burning questions but leaves more in its wake. After the raging popularity of Fourth Wing, the first book in Yarros' Empyrean series, expectations were sky-high from book #2. Despite mixed reviews, Iron Flame delivers on its promise (for the most part).

[SPOILER ALERT for both Fourth Wing and Iron Flame ahead]

Iron Flame picks up where Fourth Wing left off: with Liam (and Deigh) dead and Brennan alive before taking us through the intricacies of a revolution in the city of Aretia. A bunch of deaths, one unfortunate character return, lots of jealousies, and a couple of huge reveals later, lead character Violet Sorrengail (and the readers) are left on a cliffhanger: Xaden Riorson has turned into a venin, a person who is able to draw magic power directly from the ground itself rather than by bonding to a dragon or gryphon, which is how it's usually done in this world. 

This leaves us with more questions than we had at the beginning of the book. What would happen to Xaden and Violet’s relationship? Would Xaden’s bond with Sgaeyl remain intact? If Xaden is a venin and he is, at heart, not evil, does that mean not all venins are bad? The list goes on. 

With a year's wait ahead of us for the third book, fans have come up with a ton of theories, many of which are worth exploring. Here are some of the most exciting fan theories out there:

1) Violet Sorrengail’s second signet

Yarros told Variety that Violet’s second signet has already manifested in the second book. Several scenes hint at that. But the silver-haired rider has yet to recognize it or use it at will. 

A popular theory is that Violet is a distance wielder. Speed has always been her strong suit in combat over strength. In Iron Flame, she emphasizes the importance of moving fast time and time again, after seeing Soleil and her dragon failing to outrun the venin’s powers. 

She also starts running with Imogen. While saving Sawyer during the Battle of Basgiath, and in some instances before that, she is seen moving incredibly fast, all of which support this theory. Xaden even mentions how rare distance wielders are and that there hasn’t been one in centuries. Given that Violet has already bonded two dragons -- one of them a rare variety -- and is one of the only human weapons to kill venins, it wouldn’t be surprising for her to add another feather to her cap 

Readers on Reddit have also pointed out how one of the nightmare scenes does not add up with the timeline. Violet finds herself sleeping beside Xaden when he is supposed to be in Draithus. 

Another theory is that Violet can see through others peoples' points of view, which would explain how she saw the same dream of the Sage that Xaden had. The scene in the throne room where she can perceive Xaden’s thoughts out of nowhere could hint at that. Yarros refused to elaborate on the dream in her interview with Variety and asked the readers to read the third book to understand it.

A third, less popular theory (but one of my top picks) is that Violet has the ability to mirror others’ signets and use them as required. While a rider’s signet is who they are at their core, this ability would also reflect Andarna’s power to camouflage herself. 

Some also theorize that Violet's second signet gives her the ability to go dreamwalking, talk to the dead, and manipulate time (similar to Andarna’s gift in Fourth Wing).

2) Violet’s dad was a venin

We haven’t found out much about Violet’s father in the series so far, not even his name. All we know is that he was a scribe, he tried to warn Violet about the dark wielders through his stories, and he died of a heart attack after Brennan’s “death.”

Was he a venin? The crux of this theory lies in Violet’s unique hair as well as her weak joints and sore muscles. It is actually a reference to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a hereditary connective tissue disorder that Yarros herself has. 

Fans believe that Mr. Sorrengail (we’re not sure if that is his surname or the mother’s) turned into a venin sometime after Mira’s birth and before Violet was conceived. It would explain the fever Lilith Sorrengail suffered from, which supposedly led to Violet’s condition. Her brown hair fading into silver at the ends also looks like the result of being ‘drained’ by a venin’s powers. 

Another hint is be Nolon’s letter to Lilith about there being “no cure, only control,” which presumably dates to before the events of Fourth Wing. That letter may indicate that Mama Sorrengail was hoping to cure someone close to her from venin-ism. Alternatively, Violet's father could have been researching a cure himself and something went wrong along the way. 

3) Violet is related to the Three Brothers 

This theory is a bit complicated. To summarize, it holds that the Three Brothers mentioned in The Fables of the Barren -- the forbidden book Violet’s dad gave her which had stories of venins and wyverns -- are actually her ancestors. 

One of the between-chapter passages talks about how the third brother, “who commanded the sky to surrender its greatest power,” brought down his jealous sibling, who had turned into a venin. But the brother's defeat came “at a great and terrible price.”

Violet has already been called the “commander of the skies” by the venins, and she clearly has something that the Sage (or the General) wants for himself, or to get rid of. We don’t know if being a venin grants anyone immortality, but it could be that the Sage is the brother who turned venin while Violet is a descendant of the brother who stopped him. 

That brings us to the question: what “great and terrible price” would Violet have to pay to win the war this time? It better not be Xaden Riorson.

4) Andarna knows how to kill venins

Andarna is a dragon that Violet has bonded with. In the books, Andarna confesses that she waited 650 years to hatch to bond with Violet specifically, which seems to implicate Violet in some kindo f prophecy. Navarre lore says “something” killed off the venins many years ago and they were believed to have gone extinct. 

The seventh mystery breed of dragons that Andarna belongs to was the key to kill off the venins, which is why one egg was left behind in case the situation arose again in the future. There could be more of her type still waiting to hatch 

As Andarna herself pointed out, she’s similar to Violet in many ways. It would make sense for them to team up as the ultimate venin-killing weapon if need be. 

5) Naolin is alive (and is the Sage)

Naolin was Tairn’s rider before Violet. As far as we know, he gave his life to bring resurrect Brennan and died due to burnout. This is where things gets a bit tricky. 

Naolin was a siphon. We saw at the end of Iron Flame that Sloane Mairi was able to drain all of Lilith Sorrengail and her dragon Aimsir’s life force to imbue the ward stone at Basgiath with power. Despite being a first-year and having recently manifested, Sloane did not burn out in the process. 

For Naolin to have burnt out, he would have needed to exhaust all of his and Tairn’s power and send it into a dying Brennan. That could be why Tairn also “nearly died” in the process. On the other hand, he could have siphoned raw power from somewhere else, such as the ground… 

However, if he survived and is now a venin, or worse, the General of the venins, what happened to his bond with Tairn? That brings us to the slightly scarier theory: did Tairn kill Naolin because he turned venin? That would take a huge toll on a dragon and could be the cause of his near-death experience.

However, if that is the norm among the dragonkind -- to kill one’s rider if they turn venin -- the relationship between Xaden and Sgaeyl gets a lot more complicated. The navy-blue daggertail is known for doing whatever she wants, but this may not be a transgression she is allowed to make by the Empyrean.

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