cover art title for Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Your Handy Guide to the Monsters That the Fourth Wing Heroes Are Fighting

It’s always about draining power from where you shouldn’t, isn’t it?

Rebecca Yarros’ The Empyrean Series—which currently consists of two books, Fourth Wing and Iron Flame—took the bookish side of the Internet by storm because there are few things fantasy readers love more than stories with dragons. Everyone is a dragon stan. It’s me, I’m everyone.

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Even though I personally believe the series does have some major issues when it comes to both characters and the plot—as well as there having been several real-life critiques of Yarros herself and certain choices she made—it’s safe to say that there are plenty of people waiting for the third installment of the series, Onyx Storm, to come out in January of 2025. These are, after all, undoubtedly entertaining books that will keep you hooked until the end, even though their story beats are pretty predictable.

And one of those story beats that you could see coming from a mile away, as soon as Fourth Wing opened, is the one concerning the terrible magical monsters our main characters have to face off against. So as we wait to see how the battle for the safety of the nations both Navarre and Poromiel continues in Onyx Storm, let’s recap what exactly the venin are and why they are so dangerous.

Beware of spoilers ahead for both Fourth Wing and Iron Flame!

What are the venin in Fourth Wing?

Venin, sometimes known as Dark Wielders, are people-turned-almost monsters who wield magic by taking their powers from the Earth itself—referred to as “the source”—rather than through their bond with a dragon or a gryphon like the riders and fliers do. It’s a process that goes against nature and so corrupts the soul, giving them their distinct bloody eyes surrounded by an intricate net of red veins.

Venin can create wyverns, which are dragon-like creatures completely made up of magic rather than being actual living things—so while a rider will channel magic from their dragon, a venin will channel magic into the wyvern. Venin and wyverns reside in The Barrens, on the eastern side of the Known World, right on the border with the nation of Poromiel—it’s a place completely devoid of life since the venin have been draining it of its magic for centuries.

By the time our main character Violet Sorrengail begins her training at Basgiath War College, she believes that no one has actually seen a venin for centuries—emphasis on “believes.” She has read about them in the folk tale book her deceased father has left her, which is a big clue as to there being more to these venin than simply being scary bedtime stories—and like her, most of the people in Navarre believe that they and their fearsome mounts only belong in folklore.

The legend about the creation of the venin actually tells the story of three brothers—one who bonded with a dragon, the other who bonded with a gryphon, and the third who was so jealous of the magic the other two could wield that he drew magic directly from the Earth, losing his soul in the process.

What can the venin do in Fourth Wing?

Venin have all sorts of magical abilities thanks to their unnatural source of power. They can create a varied number of wyverns, for starters, which all share a sort of hive-mind and can fly and fight without the venin actually having to ride them. They can also project pain into their adversaries, manipulate gravity, wield a particular form of fire, and are also immune to dragonfire—even though they can be killed when hit with pure power, like Violet’s lightning.

Their great weakness, though, is the particular metal alloy that powers Navarre’s wars. It’s fatal to them both when forged into weapons and when it’s in the wards. In fact, a venins’ reserve of power is greatly reduced when they are on this side of the wards—even though Jack Barlowe’s character arc in Iron Flame revealed that they’re not completely cut off and someone can even turn venin when inside Navarre’s wards.

What else is there to know about the venin in Fourth Wing?

Besides some very important characters turning venin at the end of Iron Flame—looking at you, oh brooding shadow-wielding wingleader—it’s important to know that venin are also organized in a sort of hierarchy which is based on both their magical power and their age.

Initiates are at the lowest levels, something that can be recognized because their eyes are not yet completely red but only feature reddish rings. Asim are the next level, with varying shades of red in their eyes but without the spiderwebbed veins around them that are typical of Sages, the ones that take care of instructing initiates. At the very top of the hierarchy are Mavens, even though very little is known about them since not a single one of them has ever been captured and studied.

(featured image: Red Tower Books)


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.