Violet Sorrengail is about to begin her first year at Basgiath War College. She has spent her entire life up until this point training to be a scribe, like her late father, but her mother, the Commanding General, demands that Violet become a Rider instead, that is, if she can make it through Conscription Day. Mira, Violet's older sister, pleads with their mother that Violet isn't even… well, if we're being honest, strong or healthy enough to make it across the parapet. Fragile or not, it doesn't matter, Violet must become a Rider or die trying. Fucking great. Mira, already a successful dragon rider, tries to teach her younger sister everything she can to help her succeed and gives her dragonscale armor and rider boots and takes most of the books out of her pack, including her favorite book of fairy tales she was gifted from their father. As they head toward the parapet, Mira fills Violet up with advice, telling her to avoid the people with rebellion marks, especially Xaden Riorson, to not make friends, only alliances, and, you know, last and most important, to not die.
Violet climbs the staircase up to the parapet, essentially a balance beam entirely too high up in the air which is supposed to be similar to being on dragonback, and she of course ignores Mira's warnings and makes two friends immediately, even sharing her riding boots with one, Rhiannon, to give her a better chance of making it across. She also sees Xaden and swoons because he's absolutely freaking gorgeous, but he stares at her and she thinks he's going to murder her at his first opportunity since her mother is responsible for his father's death. His father is responsible for Violet's brother Brennan's death and he led a rebellion, so Violet can hate Xaden almost as much as he seems to hate her. He might not murder her first thing since he's a third year wing leader and pretty important, but Jack Barlowe, an asshole in line behind Violet, decides he's going to try. Rhiannon and Violet make it across, though Violet trips and bashes her knee but the other friend falls to his death. As Jack tries to chase Violet down just as she crosses to the other side, she holds a dagger she carried with her up to his balls. He decides he's not going to kill her, yet.
After making it across, Violet runs into her best friend Dain who is a second year and a squad leader. She's excited to see him and even more excited when he sends Rhiannon off to tell another in leadership that he wants both of them put in his squad. Violet thinks he's doing this because he's happy to see her and she also thinks that maybe they'll become more than friends even though relationships with leadership are frowned upon, but no, he's pretty disgusted that she is here as a rider and plans to sneak her out to the scribes because she's so fragile and weak. She made it across the freaking parapet with one bad boot and threatened a guy's balls, didn't she? That's not good enough for Dain because she also got injured along the way, but she refuses to go to the scribes. Her mother would probably have her killed if she did.
Dain promises to protect Violet but there's literally nothing he can do, especially when, after everyone lines up after crossing the parapet, Xaden swaps Dain's squad with one of his own, putting their group under his watch. Great. Now he can essentially kill her for any small transgression! Dain keeps trying to sneak Violet away, but she refuses. After the squad swap, several dragons land nearby and it's the first time some cadets have seen them so close up. One runs away in terror and is promptly burned to death by dragon fire. Do not fuck with dragons. After this, the cadets learn about their classes and schedules and that they'll be learning history and talking about battles in the more than four-hundred-year long war that they'll all soon be fighting in. Well, they will be if they can pass their classes, make their way through the Gauntlet, a grueling test of strength and agility, make it through Threshing to be chosen by a dragon, gain powers from the dragon and not explode beforehand, and then survive until graduation.
Violet is an excellent student since she wanted to be a scribe but she's not so good when it comes to anything physical, which is unfortunate as cadets have to spar with each other and can kill each other without penalty as long as they don't attack while sleeping. Rhiannon and Sawyer, another first year, offer to help Violet fight if she helps them with their studies. It's a good thing because they watch as Jack Barlowe snaps a cadet's neck on the mat. When it's Violet's turn, she spars with Imogen, a second year with rebellion marks, and is stabbed in the ribs, but luckily she's wearing the armor Mira gave her. Since Imogen couldn't stab Violet, she breaks her arm instead.
Dain rushes Violet to the healers who have been taking care of her her entire life. Dain doesn't want them to call the Mender, a healer with a dragon's gift to save anyone from pretty much anything, so he can send her to the Scribes, but Violet insists. After she's mended, Violet goes to her bunk and finds a gift left for her by Mira, a book that their brother Brennan wrote before Mira started at Basgiath. Violet loves it and begins reading immediately. Luckily the first thing she reads is where to find who is going to fight during sparring. Now she can be prepared to take on her attackers, and she plans to do so with poison.
Violet sneaks out one night to gather mushrooms and berries to use against her opponents and happens upon a secret meeting of marked ones led by Xaden. It's against the rules for more than three marked ones to gather together, and at first, Violet thinks of telling Dain, but then she realizes they're not doing anything malicious and decides not to, even though they start asking Xaden when they can kill her. He says he will handle her, which sounds pretty terrible, but after the group disperses, he catches her and shares that he has the ability to wield shadows so he knew she was there. Instead of handling her he just kind of gives her advice instead and suggests that she throw daggers at Jack Barlowe to get him to leave her alone. That's the exact opposite advice that Dain gives her when she runs into him the next day. He wants Violet to stay away from him, grabs her face and pleads that she run away to the scribes again, but she refuses.
The next day, the first year cadets have a class about dragons and learn that there aren't many who will be at Threshing to choose a Rider, so that's not good. They discuss the different types of dragons, reds, greens, browns, oranges, blues and black. There aren't any blue ones willing to bond this year but that's probably good because they're particularly vicious if Xaden's blue daggertail Sgaeyl is any indication. There's only one black dragon in the area and he's definitely not going to bond with anyone because no one has seen him in five years. He's one of the biggest dragons around and has a morningstar tail, making him a killing machine. Black dragons are the smartest and most discerning and the only other one around belongs to General Melgren who has the signet power to see the outcome of any battle. He's very very powerful. Signet powers come from the Rider but are powered by the dragons. Talk changes to the other black dragon's former rider whose signet power was siphoning and the class learns that he died trying to resurrect Brennan, Violet's brother. After class, the professor tells Violet that, though she has very impressive siblings, that she is smarter than both of them. What a compliment!
It's time now for sparring. Jack taunts Violet and she takes Xaden's advice and throws daggers at him, which of course makes him angry. Dain freaks out because he doesn't want to see her get hurt, but she does just fine for the next few weeks of sparring since she poisons all her opponents. That works and no one seems to notice except Xaden, who takes the place of one of her opponents who got sick before their match could begin. Xaden easily and sexily disarms Violet of the several daggers she wears, calls her Violence, and teaches her the best ways to take down opponents without poisoning them. Dain is appalled that Xaden didn't kill Violet and, shocking no one, gently touches her face and suggests again that she run away to the Scribes because it's almost time for the Gauntlet.
The Gauntlet is a terrifying timed challenge that is supposed to simulate ways riders will interact with their dragons during battle. There are hanging balls and rotating logs and spinning wheels and vertical climbs with ropes between each challenge. Cadets can use the ropes to retry a challenge but that will add a time penalty, which no one wants to have. The cadets have a few weeks to practice before they will face the Gauntlet for real and proceed to Threshing. If they don't make it through the Gauntlet, then they die. After those weeks, Violet has never made it to the top because she's too short and has no idea what she's going to do. Dain offers her the Scribes again, and this time she actually thinks about it. Xaden encounters her the night before and they have a semi-heartfelt conversation about how she's allowed herself to hope she will succeed and he tells her that the right way to do things isn't the only way before leaving her alone.
It's finally Violet's turn to go up the Gauntlet after seeing several of her friends make it to the top. She has a plan but she's not sure it's going to work, but she does it anyway. When she gets to the part she's failed at over and over again, a chimney climb, she pulls a rope over and uses it to make it all the way up, knowing that she's going to earn a penalty, but not technically cheating. After the chimney is a nearly vertical ramp that she's never faced before and she knows she won't be able to make it up on her own, so she runs as fast as she can then plunges one of her daggers into the wall and uses it to climb the rest of the way to the top of the Gauntlet. She did it! Amber Mavis, one of the other wingleaders, accuses Violet of cheating but Violet, with all her scribe training, quotes the actual rules to Amber and states that she brought that dagger with her from home and carried it over the parapet, which means, according to the rulebooks, it is a part of her and perfectly allowed to be used during the challenge. Xaden agrees with Violet. She's conquered the Gauntlet and now gets to go before the dragons!
Before Threshing, the cadets have a chance to walk amongst all the dragons. They are instructed to chat and act normally so Violet talks to Rhiannon about her family and then they talk about the folktales they all heard when they were children about Venin, magic wielders that steal their magic from the earth who created their own giant flying monsters, Wyvern, that are almost exactly like dragons, except they are bigger and have two legs instead of four. While they walk and talk, they encounter a feathertail dragon, a very small yellow dragon. All the jerk cadets joke that it should be killed or that Violet should bond with it because they're both small and pathetic. Two of the more annoying ones get burned to death and then Violet worries that's going to happen to her, too, especially when two green dragons start sniffing her. She realizes that they are smelling her dragonscale armor and tells them the scales came from her sister's dragon, Teine.
When the day of Threshing arrives, all the remaining cadets enter the forest, hoping to be chosen by a dragon. Hours pass and Violet doesn't feel a connection to any of them, but then she sees Jack Barlowe and two of his cronies go off in search of the golden dragon to kill it. Violet won't let that happen, so she follows them and stands up for the little dragon while trying to convince it to fly away to safety. Xaden arrives with his dragon Sgaeyl, but is not allowed to step in to stop what's happening. The three men attack Violet so she tosses a dagger into Jack's shoulder and he runs away like a coward. The other two continue to attack her and she manages to fight one off for a bit and knock him out, but then, when things look most dire, Xaden takes a step forward. Before he can do anything he’s not supposed to, a huge black dragon appears and burns one of the attackers to death and tells Violet, inside her head, that she should kill the attacker she knocked out. She refuses and then he demands she climb up on his back. The giant black dragon that no one has seen for five years has chosen Violet and the little golden dragon flies away as if it wasn't almost just killed.
As Violet rides her dragon, he tells her his name, which is kept a secret from non-riders. He is called Tairneanach, or Tairn. They are flying to meet up with the rest of the dragons after Threshing to report that they have bonded to the generals, but Violet is so small that she has trouble staying on his back. Most dragons would let a rider fall to their death if they are unable to stay seated, but Tairn catches Violet each time she slips. They land and when it is Violet's turn to share her dragon's name, she does, but then she hears a smaller second voice in her mind too. It's the little golden dragon, Andarnaurram, Andarna for short, and she has chosen Violet as well. Two dragons?! That can't be allowed! The dragons gather and confer. Dain of course doesn't believe that she will be allowed to have two and tries to get Violet to choose Andarna instead of Tairn because he's too powerful for her since she's so fragile. Good thing it's not up to him, it's up to the dragons, who have decided that both dragons are hers.
After the Empyrean, the gathering of dragons, make their decision, everyone celebrates. Most of Violet's classmates survived and bonded with dragons. She has to explain what happened and how she came to have two dragons, which involves telling her friends that she was attacked. Dain is upset that Tairn is bonded to Violet because he is mated to Sgaeyl which means that Violet and Xaden are now a pair, whether they like it or not. Mated dragons can't be apart from each other for more than a few days, which is going to be very interesting. All the new riders are then marked with relics by their dragons, almost like tattoos, and Dain comes to see Violet's, which involves unlacing her vest. Violet sees her own back through Andarna's eyes and loves the beautiful black and gold dragons across her shoulders. Dain then tells her he would do anything to keep her safe, grabs her face and kisses her, but instead of feeling ecstatic that her best friend finally like-likes her, she feels… nothing.
After waking up in her own room the next day instead of the barracks, now that she's a rider, Violet gathers with her friends to eat and finds that everyone is much nicer to her since she's bonded to Tairn and Andarna, even Imogen and several others with rebellion marks. It then occurs to her that all of the marked ones are being nice to her because her fate is tied to Xaden's. She sees him across the room, sexily eating an apple, and feels tingly. She knows that Xaden has told them to help keep her, his mortal enemy, alive. Damn it. Why is he so beautiful but also so dangerous? No time to think about that now! It's time to practice dragon riding! Violet is terrible at it and falls off so many times, but Tairn always catches her. Later, to help make her stronger, Imogen begins training her.
A month passes and Violet starts working in the archives a little, taking books and scrolls back after classes and picking up new ones. She encounters her friend Jesinia who is a first year scribe now and asks her to see if they have a copy of the folktales she and her father used to read together since she had to leave her copy behind, but Jessenia has never heard of such a book and can't find any indication that they've ever had it in the library. That's… weird. Basgiath has a copy of like, every book ever, unless it's forbidden. But it's fairytales? Violet leaves the library a little confused.
While eating with others from her squad, Violet finds out that one of her friends, Sawyer, has manifested abilities of metallurgy. That's so cool but he's afraid he's going to stab himself with a fork or something while eating and then they talk about what will happen if they never manifest a signet… they’ll pretty much just explode. Later, after flight lessons, Violet runs into Dain who is furious at her for falling off Tairn all the time. Fuck that guy! He asks why she keeps falling, which means she has to explain all her faults which isn't a pleasant thing. Dain really needs to stop being a dick. Their fight is interrupted by another cadet who starts screaming that he can hear voices. He has manifested his signet power, too, and his is mind reading, which isn't allowed. Xaden arrives by Violet’s side and tells her to start thinking of random knowledge that she has unless she wants all her secrets revealed, so she does, but then Garrick, Xaden’s friend and fellow marked one, starts to say something about the mind reader revealing something important, maybe their secret meeting that Violet knows about? Xaden wraps the cadet up in shadows and then Professor Carr, who teaches the cadets about their powers, rushes up and snaps his neck. Damn.
That night, while Violet is sleeping and dreaming of her father, Tairn shouts in her head for her to wake up. Seven cadets who didn’t bond with dragons, wait no six who are unbonded, are there to kill her in hopes of taking Tairn away from her. Violet recognizes one who is bonded as she runs away. One of the attackers is Oren who was one of the three that attacked her on Threshing day. Violet’s room is so small and she really doesn’t know what to do trying to take on six cadets at once. Tairn is in her head, trying to help her out and also telling her to hold on as long as she can because Xaden is coming. Just as they’re about to kill her, Andarna screams MINE! inside Violet’s head and time stops. What. The. Hell. As Violet backs away from her frozen attackers, Xaden arrives and time resumes. He uses his shadows to kill every single attacker at once, except for Oren. He slashes his throat with a dagger.
Violet is in full freakout mode after this attack and whatever happened with time, so as Xaden’s marked friends, Garrick and Bodhi and some others, come to clean up the bodies, Xaden helps Violet put on her shoes, gently checks to see if she has any broken bones, and then takes her out a secret way to the flight field. As they walk, they flirt mercilessly but also angrily with each other and Violet wishes she didn’t feel so turned on by Xaden all the time. They make it to the field and find Tairn and Andarna, and Sgaeyl is there, too. Tairn and Sgaeyl talk inside both Violet and Xaden’s minds, but only Violet can hear Andarna, who reveals to Violet that she stopped time. As a feathertail, she can directly give her powers to her rider, but that’s dangerous. If anyone else knew that about feathertails, they would absorb all their powers, just like the Venin do in Violet’s old fairytales. Violet promises not to hurt Andarna or use her time stopping power unless in extremely small increments and absolutely necessary, but Andarna knows that, and so do Tairn and Sgaeyl. Xaden asks if Andarna is their baby dragon and feels hurt that Sgaeyl would keep that from him, but no. Andarna’s parents were killed before she hatched and so Tairn and Sgaeyl took her under their wings. As Xaden and Violet head back after their dragons leave, he asks how the attackers got into her room and Violet tells him that a rider let them in but ran away before he got there.
The next day, while the cadets are gathered to hear morning announcements, all of Violet’s friends see her injuries, which include strangle marks on her neck, and they’re disgusted that anyone would attack another cadet while they are sleeping. That’s like… the only rule they have. Xaden swaps one of his marked ones, Liam, into their section under Dain’s command and makes him Violet’s bodyguard. She’s furious of course, and doesn’t think she needs a bodyguard, but she was literally almost just murdered by seven people, plus, if she dies, Xaden does, too, and we can’t have that happen. The commandant speaks to the cadets after the announcements, which is extremely rare, and he alerts them all to a breach of the codex that happened the night before. Dain finally realizes that something happened to Violet and is mad that she didn’t tell him immediately that she was attacked.
Xaden is called up to speak and Violet watches him swooningly, realizing she wants him and only him. Xaden explains what happened the night before with the six unbonded cadets and one rider. He says he executed the cadets but the rider left before he arrived. Then he reveals who the rider was. Wingleader Amber Mavis, who accused Violet of cheating during the gauntlet. She shrieks that she was only doing what is best for the wing, killing off a weakling, but how it was done is not allowed. Dain attempts to use his signet power, seeing memories, on Violet because he doesn’t believe that Amber would do such a thing, but he tries to use his power without Violet’s permission. Not only does she not want him to touch her without asking, she can't let him see that Andarna stopped time. She instead asks Tairn to share her memories with the dragons who have gathered, which is never done, and then the dragons share with their riders. Everyone is disgusted with Amber who Tairn then burns to death in front of everyone. Violet didn’t want her to die, but she’s made that mistake too many times in the past and Tairn won’t have it.
A week or so passes and Violet, with her constant companion Liam, heads to archives duty. While they wait on Jesinia to gather their materials, Violet asks Liam about how he and Xaden know each other. They were adopted by the same person after their parents were killed after the rebellion, which Violet didn't know was a thing. She also thought that only Liam's mother was killed, that's what she read anyway, but he informs her that he had to witness his father's death as well. It seems that not all the information she learned when she was studying to become a scribe is correct. Xaden has also helped Liam survive and taught him how to fight and has done so much to help all of the marked ones. When Jesinia returns, she's got a scroll that needs to be delivered which accidentally falls and opens. As Violet retrieves it, she sees that a town on the southern border has been ransacked and the wards are weakening. That can't be good. Violet rerolls the scroll, expecting to hear more about this when she goes to battle brief later… but she doesn't. Instead, the lessons are about battles from hundreds of years ago. They also learn that whichever team wins the Squad Battle that's coming up soon will get to see what life is like on the front lines of war. That's supposed to be a good prize to win?
At sparring practice later, Violet is training with Rhiannon, but then Xaden and Garrick spar shirtless in the middle of the room and basically everyone ogles them. Dain snaps at everyone and Violet and Rhiannon start practicing again. Tairn roars in Violet's head that she should be working harder which flusters her and she gets knocked down. Jack starts mocking her and threatening her again and tells her he's going to challenge her soon and will snap her neck, but she stands up to him and calls him out for running away during Threshing. One of his remaining sycophants offers him some orange and he freaks out, but then Xaden and Liam and Garrick and Imogen move in to protect Violet so he leaves. Xaden starts in on her, too, about blocking Tairn and not wearing her armor, but again Violet stands up for herself. Tairn and Andarna decide that she is ready to start channeling magic since she was able to defend herself.
That night, Violet is frustrated with herself about ogling Xaden and decides she needs to get laid, but the only one she wants is him. Then energy overwhelms her and she crashes to the floor. Tairn's power is immense but then it rolls over her rhythmically again and again and she realizes that the power is now only focusing on one part of her anatomy. Oh great. Tairn and Sgaeyl are … busy. Violet runs outside in the winter air to try to cool herself off and runs into Xaden who is suffering with the same affliction, just less so because he knows how to block his dragon from his mind. After some intense and longing looks and threats to climb Xaden like a tree, he agrees to teach her how to shield. She is able to do it impressively fast and envisions herself inside the archives with a big lock on the door that she puts Tairn and his power outside of. She can still feel his power, and his lust, but it is much much easier to handle. Also easier to handle? Xaden. He finds Violet astounding and then they kiss and it's amazing. Even though neither of them really want to, they go their separate ways before they do anything they'll regret.
Violet of course tells Rhiannon what happened with Xaden the next day and then worries that things are going to be weird between them, but like, they already are really on account of all the sexual tension. Violet worries what her life with Xaden is going to be like after he graduates because their dragons can't be separated for long. Before they can talk more about that, Rhiannon shares what happened to her the night before. She developed her signet! She's able to summon items by making them disappear and reappear at will! Amazing! They go to class after that but Dain stops Violet to talk. He's still upset about Violet not telling him she was attacked and getting help from Xaden. She stands up for herself again and basically tells Dain to get over it and the fact that she and Xaden are tied together now because of their dragons.
Time passes and all of Violet's friends develop their signet powers while she is still left behind. She feels like if she doesn't develop hers soon she's going to explode, but she's got more important things to worry about. Jack Barlowe is challenging her in their next sparring match and she's afraid she's not going to survive. She has a plan, but will she be able to pull it off? They begin fighting and Violet is quick, but Jack breaks all the rules and throws knives and then uses his signet powers on her, which seem to electrocute her. As she's violently shaking and about to pass out, she shoves a vial of orange oil into his mouth and he almost immediately goes into anaphylactic shock. Xaden is impressed with her ingenuity, but not impressed with anything else about her fighting skills. He decides that he's going to take over her training on the mat and goddamn is it sexy, and so are the daggers he had made for her.
February passes and March arrives. Xaden takes Violet out of her classes one day for flight training. Dain puts up a fuss as per usual, but as Xaden and Violet head to the field, they encounter the commandant, Dain's father, Colonel Aetos, and… Violet's mother, the Commander General. They turn their noses up at Xaden and ask Violet about her inability to wield and if she's gained any powers from Andarna, but she doesn't let on that Andarna gave her the ability to stop time. Xaden is surprised that Violet didn't tell her mom, but they don't exactly have the best relationship. She and Xaden continue on to the flight field and Violet is excited to see that Andarna is flying with them this time.
Now it's April and time for the Squad Battle. There are challenges that each squad goes through like sparring and flying and they're given points based on how well they do. Violet's squad is close to winning, and if they manage to come out on top of the final challenge, they will. The final task is to bring something to the battle brief room that would give an advantage to their enemies and Violet knows just what to do. She convinces her squad to break into her mother's office and take something from there. They all use their signets in some way to make it into (and out of) the office and search. Violet reads missives from other areas that seem to be begging Commander General Sorrengail to send reinforcements. Violet had no idea how bad things were outside of Basgiath, but that's not what she's supposed to be focusing on. Then she finds exactly what they need to take. The map that has every battle station and everything important about the war marked on it. Of course they win. Violet feels like she won even more when Xaden smiles at her.
So since they won, Violet’s team heads to Montserrat, a town that is relatively safe but still front lines. This makes Violet happy because, surprise, that’s where her sister Mira is stationed. It makes Rhiannon happy because that’s where her family lives. She and Violet plan to sneak out one night to visit, but of course they run right into Mira, who luckily goes along with them. While Rhiannon spends time with her family, Violet and Mira catch up. Mira has a badass scar that she got from a gryphon, a massive eagle-lion, that the enemies ride and channel power from instead of dragons. Violet complains about not manifesting a signet and they also talk about Dain. Mira expected them to be the best of friends or maybe more but no, he’s such a dick. Xaden however… Mira wants Violet to be safe about him since he’s the son of the rebellion leader, but Violet can’t help but trust him. He’s done nothing but help her. As they leave Rhiannon’s house, Mira tells Violet she has that old book of folktales for her that she made her leave behind on conscription day, which makes her very, very happy. Something that also makes her happy, even though she can’t let on that it does… when Xaden shows up.
Apparently, Sgaeyl and Tairn can’t be separated for more than three days, so Xaden’s basically been freaking out since Violet left. Now that he's here, he's got to act like just one of the squad instead of a wingleader and attend all the meetings and lessons everyone else is going through. In one pretend battle brief led by Mira, while everyone is scheming and forming the best ideas to attack the gryphons and while Dain is constantly complaining about Xaden being there, Xaden speaks inside Violet's head. What! Violet asks Tairn how he's doing that and her dragon explains it's just like talking to Sgaeyl. They all have a bond. Xaden says very flirtatious things to Violet while she can't say anything back, which they both seem to enjoy, though Violet does flip him off and elbow him several times.
After the session, Mira drags Violet, Dain and Xaden outside to yell at them, mostly Dain and Xaden. She yells at Dain because she knows he's being and has been a dick and tells him his petty attitude is ruining his chances of progressing to wingleader. She yells at Xaden because she's afraid Violet is going to miss out on lessons the next year because their dragons are mated and she'll have to leave to be with him. Xaden puts Mira in her place about that. In case she didn't notice, he is the one who came to her, he did not force her to leave her assignment. As they begin to argue more, they all get alerts from their dragons. There's a group of gryphons heading their way. Mira begs Violet to leave and Xaden to keep her sister safe, then takes off for battle. Violet doesn't want to leave, but Xaden pleads for her to so she doesn't get hurt, for his sake. He kisses her passionately as Tairn swoops down to fly her away. He and Sgaeyl follow.
Some time passes and Violet is worried that Mira was killed in the attack near Montserrat, but she finally finds out that no one died. It's a good thing she learned that because now it's time for the War Games, so she needs to have her wits about her. She also learns how to speak back to Xaden in his mind, so they get even more secretly flirty with each other. He has also made a saddle for Tairn to wear so she can keep her seat during flight. It's an amazingly thoughtful gift, just like the daggers he had made for her, but it's also helpful for Tairn who doesn't have to waste his magic and energy keeping Violet on his back or catching her every time she falls. The squad finds out that they are supposed to collect an egg from the other squads and also keep a flag protected at all costs, meaning nothing is against the rules and everything goes in this fight. Jack Barlowe of course takes this to the extreme and is fighting to kill everyone he encounters. Liam and his dragon Deigh approach Jack and Jack stabs Liam with a sword and he falls. Violet is terrified of losing Liam who has been her sidekick, protector and friend for the past few months. She uses Andarna's power to stop time so she and Tairn can reach Liam before he crashes to the ground and dies. After Liam and his dragon are out of harm's way, and Andarna is quietly resting, Violet feels a humongous surge of power and hatred at Jack. She's been worried that her signet would never come and she would explode with pent up power, but now she unleashes it as a huge bolt of lightning that destroys the tower Jack is on, collapsing it and sending Jack tumbling, lifeless, down to the ground. His dragon is sad, but Tairn is ecstatic. Violet is a lightning wielder!
And she’s also a killer, which she has extreme trouble coping with. Dain tells Violet that she never has to use her powers again, but Xaden arrives and basically tells him to fuck right off with that nonsense. She laments that Rhiannon can essentially teleport stuff, Liam can see long distances, Sawyer can manipulate metal, Mira can extend wards, Dain can see people’s memories and she is a lightning-controlling murderer. Xaden tells Violet that she has the power to save cities with her signet, or entire kingdoms even, but she still struggles. Rhiannon helps Violet get back to her room and comments on the weird relationship she has with Xaden, and when Violet argues that she doesn’t have one… Rhiannon begs to differ. Rhiannon is right.
Later that night, while Violet is feeling sorry for herself and also very, very angry, Xaden comes to her room. After some banter and compliments and offers of being Violet's punching bag, the two of them end up having very passionate, shadow-swirling, lightning-crashing sex and it’s everything the both of them have been wanting for months. After they’re finally finished and her room is practically destroyed and, it turns out, the forest was nearly set on fire from her lightning, they clean up and spend the rest of the night together in her bed and it’s amazingly peaceful even though Xaden tells her not to fall for him. The next day, Professor Carr comes knocking at Violet’s door and takes her out for training to control her signet. She struggles to make the lightning strike until Professor Carr suggests she put herself back in the same position she was in before when she was able to use her powers. That’s… uh… not going to happen, until she reaches out to Xaden in their minds and he shows her images of herself through his eyes. She floods with passion and is able to call the lightning with ease, if not accuracy.
Xaden comes to Violet’s room later and they try not to be awkward around each other as they clean up her mess of a room. Violet wants to know more about Xaden and asks where he goes when they’re not together and he gives the name of an outpost, Athebyne, but nothing more. That seems to be enough for Violet who understands that wingleaders, especially ones as powerful as Xaden, are often called away to take care of duties. As they continue to clean, Violet sees that in their sexcapades, they damaged the book of folktales she got back from Mira that belonged to their father. While she’s looking at the binding, she sees a hidden note to her from her father. The note talks of folklore being passed from generation to generation and how it only takes one desperate generation to change or even erase history, but he knows she’ll make the right decision when the time comes. Uh… what does that mean? Her father did get a little weird after Brennan died, but, does that explain this letter? Violet and Xaden discuss venin and wyvern for a bit, Xaden telling stories his father told him about the venin biding their time and planning to steal all the magic in the kingdom. Violet thinks that Xaden is sad about his father, so she tries to change the subject, but they end up being very flirtatious again until they decide they better not end up falling for each other. Well… Violet has already failed miserably at that, and probably Xaden has too, if anyone is being honest with themselves.
Graduation is coming soon, which will be difficult for Violet and Xaden, but first, there’s a Reunification celebration that the king is putting on and one more part of the war games. Reunification is a fancy way of celebrating the death of all the rebels, so Xaden and the rest of the marked ones are not enjoying themselves. In fact, Xaden’s not even around anywhere. Liam escorts Violet up to see the king who is walking with Violet’s mother. The king discusses Violet’s powers and then talk turns to the marked ones, who the king, Violet’s mother and General Melgren seem completely disgusted by. Violet’s hackles rise, especially when they talk about Xaden and how it’s good that Tairn and Sgaeyl are mated so she can keep an eye on him. Violet realizes that Liam is super uncomfortable, plus she wants to find Xaden, so they leave the celebration.
Violet finds Xaden in the middle of the parapet, which she hasn’t been on for nearly a year, and now, dressed up in her fancy outfit she wore to the celebration, she heads out there to be with him. She hates that he’s alone while everyone is essentially celebrating his father’s death. Before Xaden can be too upset with her for dangerously walking out on the parapet, Violet tells him she doesn’t care that he told her not to fall for him because he’s clearly already fallen for her. He’s always there for her, at her side, helping her out, teaching her things, making her daggers and a saddle, and taking care of her. She leads him off the parapet and up to his room, to take care of him for once. Violet and Xaden are together for hours and she confesses that she loves him and then she shatters his window with her electric orgasms.
Unfortunately their time together is cut short because Basgiath is under attack. Garrick comes to let them know that they need to get to the flight field. Xaden puts his jacket on Violet, which is precious and Rhiannon notices immediately, but then they’re out getting their instructions and learn that there isn’t actually an attack, but that this is the final event of the war games. Colonel Aetos announces that the wards are down in several places and that many villages are under siege from tons of gryphon riders. Xaden and Violet are sent to separate areas, Xaden to the same little town he mentioned he was sent to earlier, which it turns out, is outside the dragons’ wards, but then he comes back and tells Dain that Violet, Liam and Imogen will be coming with him. Tairn tells Violet that everything will be okay and of course she trusts him, and Xaden, too. Dain argues that Violet will be safer with him and then says that this is what Xaden has been scheming all along, to take Violet away and hurt her to get revenge on her mother. That’s just ridiculous, although Violet does think that Dain’s father is sending Xaden to that area outside the wards as punishment. But it doesn’t matter because now they’re leaving.
They fly for hours, Andarna attached with a little harness to Tairn’s saddle, and stop for a break near the outpost at Athebyne, and then Xaden takes Violet aside and they kiss. Unfortunately after that… gryphon riders arrive. Xaden turns protectively to shield Violet, tells her he’ll explain, and then tells the gryphon riders that they’re early. UH, WHAT. Xaden is helping the gryphon riders! He’s a traitor just like his father! And so are all the other marked ones because they are all right here, too. WHAT! The gryphon riders, actually called fliers, have arrived early to pick up their shipment of weapons to alert Xaden and the others that the venin are approaching and will soon attack. WHAT AGAIN! Venin are… real? Violet has a lot of trouble understanding what is going on, and she’s furious, but she’s not only angry at Xaden for keeping all this from her, she’s also mad at both her dragons because they will have known about this, too. But wait, didn’t her father leave her a message warning her of this and telling her he knows she’ll make the right decision? The fliers wish Xaden good luck in getting a Sorrengail to fight for anyone outside the borders.
Xaden tries to explain to Violet what is going on, that the venin are real and that the weapons he's given the gryphon fliers are made from the same thing that powers the wards and the wards are why the Venin have never gotten close to Basgiath. He tells her that he's never lied to her and isn't lying to her now but he needs to know if she's going to go with him to Athebyne and if she's going to tell Dain what she's seen because if she does, everything he's been doing to protect the people outside the wards will be lost. She agrees to go but is very wary and her trust is completely broken. When they arrive at Athebyne, it's completely deserted, but Liam can see something approaching in the distance. There's a missive from Colonel Aetos that says Xaden has a choice to abandon their enemy or abandon command of his wing. Oh shit. Dain's father knew they were helping the gryphon fliers at Athebyne, and Xaden knows how. Dain's memory reading power. He took the name of this outpost from Violet's memory. Without her permission. All he needed to do was touch her face, which he did all the time. And now the Venin are coming. They've been sent here to die.
Things go downhill quickly. Seven gryphon fliers arrive and tell Xaden and his group to leave because four Venin are coming and it only took two of them to bring down an entire city. And then they see wyvern, too. Xaden asks everyone what they want to do and everyone agrees that they will stay and fight, even Violet. Xaden gives Violet daggers that will kill the Venin and tells her to stay alive so he can tell her everything she wants to know. She hates that she still loves him but she does, and then they launch into the air on their dragons and send Andarna away to hide. There are at least six wyvern but more keep showing up. It's an entire horde. The fight is horrible but Tairn helps Violet realize that the Venin and wyvern are just like dragons and their riders… if one dies, their companion dies, too. And in the case of Venin, when one of them dies, every wyvern they created will die, but it takes a long time to realize that. Too long.
The battle is painful. Violet uses her lightning power, but she cannot control it enough to strike true when she needs it to, so she burns a lot of her energy and Tairn's, too. Xaden uses his shadows to protect people on the ground and Liam, Imogen, Garrick and Bodhi fight alongside the gryphon fliers. Unfortunately, Deigh, Liam's dragon is killed by a wyvern which kills Liam, too, and it's heartbreaking. Violet is filled with rage. After seeing her friend and his dragon die, Violet decides she will stop at nothing to kill every single monster left. She and Tairn fly off, but soon a Venin jumps from a wyvern and plunges a sword into Tairn's back. Tairn's not really bothered by a tiny sword, but Violet is furious. She unstraps herself from her saddle and goes to fight. Xaden surrounds her in shadows but the Venin stabs her with a poison dagger before she is able to kill it, but kill it she does, causing several wyvern to fall from the sky as well, which is when Violet realizes they are connected.
There looks to be only two Venin left by the time Violet realizes the connection and one of them looks to be the leader. She tells Xaden to kill the other one as she uses every ounce of her strength and Tairn's to go after the leader. Andarna comes to help and with their combined powers, time slows as Violet pulls one thread of lightning directly into the leader. He dies and even more wyvern fall from the sky. As Violet slips from Tairn's back, completely drained of power and full of poison, Xaden grabs the final Venin with a lasso of shadows and stabs it. The rest of the Wyvern die as well. Before Violet can hit the ground, time stops again and Andarna catches her. She's not strong enough to hold her for long, but she manages long enough.
Violet flickers in and out of consciousness and only catches snippets of what is going on around her. She knows that Liam and one of the gryphon fliers died. She knows Xaden is terrified because she's dying. He wants to take her to the menders at Basgiath, but that flight is twelve hours and she doesn't have that long. Xaden knows one more place he can take her, so he does, but Imogen doesn't really think it's a good idea. Bodhi and Garrick tell her to shut up. Xaden carries Violet's body to someone as he tells her she has to live. Violet thinks she recognizes the voice that greets him.
Xaden spends the next few days at Violet's side as she recovers. She can't die. He constantly thinks of all the time they spent together, both the good and the bad, and vows he will do everything he can, whatever it takes, to get her to love him again. Violet finally wakes up and at first doesn't remember that she felt so betrayed by Xaden, but then she does. It gets worse when she realizes where he's taken her. The city that was supposedly destroyed during the rebellion, Aretia, Xaden's home. As she takes in the fact that this city still exists and she didn't know about it, which means it's been erased from history just like the Venin and Wyvern, Xaden tells her she still loves him and, though he didn't tell her everything he should have before, he's trusting her now with his life and everyone else's, too. She hopes that somehow the missive that was left at Athebyne and the following wyvern attack was a coincidence and voices this to Xaden. Someone else responds to her though, telling her that it was not a coincidence. That someone is her brother, Brennan, who welcomes her to the revolution.