“A dragon without its rider is a tragedy. A rider without their dragon is dead.” -Rebecca Yarros, Fourth Wing
Hello, fellow readers! Have you ever wondered what a bookshop would be like past midnight? Following the midnight event of the Waterstones book shop in Leeds for the release of Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros on Monday 6th November, I can now tell you. Similarly to Larry Daley’s experience in Night at the Museum, the books came alive. At least, Rebecca Yarros’ Fourth Wing and Iron Flame did.
The event took place on the second floor of Waterstones in the café area. The café was divided into the four distinct Quadrants that the college in Fourth Wing operates on: Riders, Healers, Scribes, and Infantry. Naturally, I sat in the Rider’s Quadrant – who wouldn’t want an opportunity to be paired with a dragon?
Once settled, the booksellers began to host a quiz. Admittedly, my friend and I failed miserably at this. We had not received the memo to reread Fourth Wing in anticipation of the sequel release, which was truly a mistake on our part. Nonetheless, we did not score the lowest at the event, reaching a comfortable 24/40 instead. The winner scored an impressive 35/40 and was rewarded with book tokens to spend on anything they wanted within the shop, though I would imagine they spent it on their copies of Iron Flame!
Upon entering the shop, we were given one raffle ticket, and throughout the night, the booksellers paused the event to pull raffle tickets out of a bowl. The prizes up for grabs were themed lanyards, t-shirts, and a couple of posters. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, but Waterstones provided every attendee with an Iron Flame bookmark, so my need for swag had already been appeased!
After completing the quiz, the attendees broke off into a selection of different games and tasks. On the floor, next to the boardgames section, the booksellers had laid out a makeshift parapet. For those unfamiliar with Fourth Wing, the parapet is a narrow wall between the rider school and the rest of the college. All cadets must cross the parapet to be enrolled as a rider. This may sound simple, but the parapet is extremely high and slim. The protagonist, Violet, even had to cross it in a storm. It is an extremely tense moment in the first book, and I was excited to be able to get a miniscule taste of what it would feel like.
The parapet had been marked with tape and at the end of it was a pin-the-tail-on-the-dragon. Before walking the parapet, we were blindfolded and spun three times and then directed to the end of the parapet by our friends. Unfortunately, the communication between my best friend and me broke down when faced with our lefts and rights and I almost ‘wandered to my death’. Luckily, I still made it to the end and successfully stuck the tail on the dragon.
As it got closer to midnight, we completed Fourth Wing themed wordsearches and crossword puzzles. The café was also serving delicious dragon-decorated cakes, so my friend and I mingled with the booksellers and other attendees while we snacked.
At 11.30 PM, the booksellers let us loose on the downstairs floor. I wandered the fantasy section and regretted not being a millionaire. At 11.45 PM, the attendees began to queue for the release, so my friend and I joined the queue and prepared to count down to midnight (and get our hands on Iron Flame!). At midnight, everyone cheered – it felt like New Year’s Eve. Finally, we reached the front of the queue and purchased our copies.
I had never been to a midnight book release event before and I loved every second of it. It is rare for readers to be thrown into a room together and be able to celebrate a book which they all adore. Reading can sometimes feel like a very lonesome passion, but on this night, I felt a strong sense of community. I like to think I got a sense of what it felt like for Violet once she had settled into her Quadrant. Alas, no real dragons were able to attend the midnight release. However, there were plenty of dragon jellycats up for purchase. If you go shopping at Waterstones and wonder where they have all gone – there is one sat beside me as I write this.
Overall, I highly recommend attending a midnight release event for a book you love. I had a fantastic evening. To all my fellow Sarah J. Maas fans: keep an eye out on Waterstones Leeds’ Instagram in January. There may be another midnight release in the works!
Edited by: Sonja Stojiljković