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Empyrean Series: Military Ranks explained

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Written by: Cory

Empyrean Series - Military Ranks explained

If you do not have a military background, chances are, reading Fourth Wing and Iron Flame can get a little confusing with their ranks. Rebecca Yarros usually writes military romance, and the Empyrean Series is basically a military romantasy.

I’m here to explain some of the ranks to you and their order so you can sort of grasp who is who. When the rank is available for any character, I do add them to the wiki for those characters so it’s a little easier to understand.

A fair disclaimer, though. These are the US Army ranks and many countries have different military rank names. Rebecca Yarros is an American writer, and her husband used to be in the military. I assumed she will be relying on US army ranks.

In her world of the Empyrean Series, Rebecca Yarros does skip some ranks which makes it a little easier to understand how it works. I will also give you examples in here of characters to understand it all better. I only included the commissioned officers, and not the enlisted. And if you are confused, what is the difference: the primary difference is that commissioned officers receive a formal commission and are responsible for leadership and decision-making, while enlisted personnel do not hold a commission and primarily follow orders and carry out tasks assigned by superiors.

For Commissioned Officers US Army (Please note that this is a general list, and the specific ranks and titles may vary in different branches of the U.S. military)

  1. Second Lieutenant (2LT)
  2. First Lieutenant (1LT)
  3. Captain (CPT)
  4. Major (MAJ)
  5. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC)
  6. Colonel (COL)
  7. Brigadier General (BG)
  8. Major General (MG)
  9. Lieutenant General (LTG)
  10. General (GEN)
  11. General of the Army (GOA)

Empyrean Series Military Ranks

Alright, so now let’s dive into the military ranks for the Empyrean Series. As you can see they are very similar. Rebecca Yarros skipped a few ranks which made it a little simpler for us to understand (and remember) the positions and the ranks. Of course, there is nothing to say that future books in the series won’t include more ranks. To make it easier for you to understand how it works, I also included candidates and cadets.

Pre-rank in Empyrean Series



Candidates and cadets. Candidates are those who are basically undertaking an entry exam to become cadets. This is similar to how real life works. In the world of Empyrean Series, candidates must cross the parapet to become accepted into the Riders Quadrant.


These are young individuals who are in the process of training and education to become future officers in the forces. They are officially enrolled in the Riders Quadrant. Military cadets receive instruction in leadership, military tactics, physical fitness, and other relevant subjects. And of course, they need to bond with a dragon and survive to be able to become riders.

When first years complete a series of tasks and eventually bond with their dragon, they become riders. While still cadets, their title does become elevated.

Here is how the cadets are organised while in Basgiath War College. We are going to take Fourth Wing as example, since they are the most important in the book.

Fourth Wing has a wingleader and an executive officer (second in command). This was Xaden Riorson as wingleader and Garrick Tavis as second in command.

Fourth Wing has three sections: Claw Section, Flame Section and Tail Section. Violet and Rhiannon are part of the Flame Section. Every section has a section leader and an executive officer.

Each section has three squads: Squad 1, Squad 2, Squad 3. Each squad has 15-20 cadets, a squad leader and a second in command. Violet and Rhiannon were put in Squad 2. Dain Aetos was the squad leader for squad 2, Flame Section, Fourth Wing.

Riders Rank in Empyrean Series

  1. Lieutenant
  2. Captain
  3. Major
  4. Lieutenant Colonel
  5. Colonel
  6. General
  7. Commanding General


Third year graduates became Lieutenants in Empyrean Series. They do not specify that they are Second Lieutenants, as they would be in real life. Graduated from Basgiath War College seem to immediately become Lieutenants and allocated posts. Examples are Xaden Riorson and Garrick Tavis.

In real life, this is a little different. After successfully completing the four-year program at the United States Military Academy (West Point), graduates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst offers a 44-week Commissioning Course for British Army officers.


After some years of service as a Lieutenant, you get promoted to Captain. An example of this is Mira Sorrengail. She was a Lieutenant in Fourth Wing. She is mentioned in Iron Flame as being a Captain.

In the military, a Captain is typically a mid-ranking officer. They are responsible for the training, discipline, and overall readiness of their company.


In the military, the rank of Major is typically a higher-ranking officer position than Captain. Majors often serve as company commanders, leading a company of soldiers. They are responsible for the training, discipline, and overall well-being of their troops. Company commanders play a crucial role in mission planning and execution. Majors can also serve in staff positions at various levels of command. In the context of Empyrean Series, for example, Major Burton Varrish is the vice commandant at Basgiath War College.

Here are two examples of Majors Empyrean Series: Major Burton Varrish and Major Ferris.

Lieutenant Colonel

A Lieutenant Colonel ranks above a Major and below a Colonel. A Lieutenant Colonel holds significant leadership roles in military units. They may command a battalion, a squadron, or serve in various staff positions, depending on their branch and specialization within the military.

An example of a Lieutenant Colonel in Empyrean Series is Brennan Sorrengail (Brennan Aisereigh).


Colonel is a senior military officer rank. Colonels hold significant leadership positions within the military. They may command a regiment, a brigade, or serve in various high-level staff positions, depending on their branch and specialization.Promotion to the rank of Colonel is a significant career achievement and often opens the door to further advancement to higher ranks.

In the context of the Empyrean Series, we have Colonel Aetos (Dain’s dad) and also Colonel Kaori and Colonel Markham. As you can see, colonels often serve in staff roles at higher headquarters (in this case Basgiath War College), where they play a crucial role in planning and coordinating military operations, logistics, intelligence, and other key functions like training.


The term General is used to denote a senior officer who typically holds a high level of authority and responsibility within the military hierarchy.

Generals are senior leaders within the military and hold key positions in planning, commanding, and coordinating military operations. Generals may command large military formations, such as divisions, corps, or entire theatres of operation. They are responsible for the strategic direction and overall success of their units. Generals may also serve in high-level staff positions within the military or government, where they provide advice on military strategy, policy, and planning.

An example of a General within the Empyrean Series is General Lilith Sorrengail, Violet’s mother. We also have Mavens (General Venin).

General of the Army (Commanding General)

The title “General of the Army” is one of the highest possible ranks in the United States Army and is equivalent to a five-star General. The title “Commanding General” can refer to the individual holding the highest command position in a particular unit or theatre of operations. However, “General of the Army” is a specific honorary rank, and it’s worth noting that the United States has only had five individuals who have held this rank:

  1. George Washington
  2. John J. Pershing
  3. George C. Marshall
  4. Douglas MacArthur
  5. Omar Bradley

In the Empyrean series, Melgren is the commanding general of all Navarre’s forces. Please note that in Iron Flame we learn something crucial. While presently, only the commander of the riders can be the commanding general, Violet does mention that they used to be separate positions. “Healers, infantry, or even scribes could be the General of the Armies until about two hundred years ago with the second Krovlan uprising. After that, the commander of the riders commanded all Navarre’s forces.”

What about the Commandant?

A Commandant is typically a military officer who holds a senior leadership position in a military organization or training institution. The title “Commandant” is often used in reference to officers who oversee specific units, facilities, or training academies. Their roles and responsibilities can vary, but they generally involve leadership, administration, and training oversight. Basgiath War College has Commandant Panchek, who wants Sorrengail’s job, then General Melgren’s.

I hope this was helpful, and you can now have a deeper understanding of how the military ranking works. I know it took me some time to wrap my head around it, and I thought you’d find it easier to visualise it, too.

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Hello! This site is dedicated to the Empyrean Series by Rebecca Yarros. I’ve made this place to explore the rich world of Empyrean, full of characters, theories, and places. Each post is carefully researched and updated with the newest details from the series. This site is also a great spot for discussing theories about the Empyrean Series. 🐉
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