Empyrean Series Theory: Xaden Riorson is a morally grey character.

Xaden Riorson - Empyrean Series - Is he a good guy?

Enthralled by the enigma of Xaden Riorson, you find yourself adrift in a dream-like trance. Envision him, a silhouette tall and statuesque, carved with sharp contours that speak of a rugged, untamed grace. His lips, lush and full, whisper tales of silent audacity, a subtle rebellion against the mundane. His posture, a portrait of nonchalant arrogance, emanates an air of cool indifference, as if challenging the world with a single glance.

Imagine him there, an ethereal figure against the stoic backdrop of an ancient stone wall. His arms, a fortress unto themselves, are crossed in silent defiance. His gaze, intense and unwavering, is like a siren’s song, piercing through the veils of your soul, beckoning you into uncharted waters.

Shadows gather around him, a spectral dance of light and darkness, yet in their embrace, you find an unexpected solace, a sense of belonging in the chaos. His aura, enigmatic and elusive, is a call to the mysteries of the night. He is bonded, to the ruthless navy-blue dragon, defiant of all rules.

Xaden’s allure is akin to a forbidden fruit, a temptation wrapped in the allure of the unknown. You know the wisdom in keeping your distance, yet his beauty, so lethal and mesmerizing, draws you closer with each breath. He is clothed in the elegance of darkness, his muscular form adorned in sleek black flying leathers, the boots rising to mid-calf. His flight jacket, a guardian of secrets, only partially conceals the swirling mark of rebellion at his neck, a symbol of his unyielding spirit.

At this moment, the world fades away, leaving only the magnetic pull of Xaden Riorson, a figure both daunting and irresistible. He might be the wielder of shadows, but he is good, right?

Or is he?

Did I capture your imagination? Good, because this is how I envision Xaden every single time I come across his name in Fourth Wing and Iron Flame. He’s just so damn irresistible. But… and yes, there is a ‘but.’

I don’t actually think Xaden Riorson is a good guy. Ok, ok, before you jump, hear me out. I promise, I do have a point.

Xaden Riorson sounds good on paper.

Xaden Riorson sounds so good in theory. Let’s go back to Fourth Wing. He’s helping Violet. He wants Violet. He’s trying to protect Violet. He’s also asking his “brother” Liam to watch over her. He’s drawn to her in every possible way.

It’s clear by the end of Fourth Wing that Xaden really loves Violet. He’s in love with her in such a profound way; it makes our hearts swell. He wants to do anything to save her. He even puts the whole rebellion movement in danger by saving her instead of well… the whole world. Because Violet is his new gravity. It’s his universe. Sounds romantic, and it is. I love it. You love it. BUT…

Is Xaden Riorson a good guy?

Kinda. Sorta. Despite his promise to not keep secrets from Violet, he keeps secrets from Violet. Maybe he doesn’t know how to open up or how to approach this, but the result is all the same. He’s hurting Violet.

It’s ok, that doesn’t make him a bad guy, right? He’s a 23-year-old new adult who’s finding his feet, especially in love. It’s the first time he’s actually in love, so let’s give him credit.

And before you ask, no, I don’t think Xaden is acting in a way that’s purposefully meant to hurt Violet. I think his love for her is so real and so profound. BUT…

Xaden Riorson is a morally grey character. Just like Lilith.

Xaden in Iron Flame

In Iron Flame, Xaden shows a lot more of his true colours. Let’s go right to the beginning when we learn from The Assembly that he does not want to negotiate with Tecarus if that puts Violet in danger in any way.

Fast-forward, Xaden almost kills Tecarus, not giving a bleep about potentially severing ties with a whole kingdom. Justice for Violet is far more important. This clearly jeopardizes a lot of alliances and politically is not a good move. But it is a good move romantically, for love.

He doesn’t care about raising the wards in Aretia, but he cares about raising the wards in a place where Violet is, and stays safe. He doesn’t care about the rebellion plans formed for years, but he hunts and drops wyvern carcasses to send a message and save Violet.

He isn’t concerned about the people of Navarre, as long as Violet is safe behind the wards in Aretia. Do you see where I’m going with this?

YES, the grand finale. He sacrifices himself and becomes a venin to ensure that Violet survives and is safe. He jeopardizes everything, EVERYTHING to ensure that she goes on.

Wait. Wait. Isn’t it the same with Lilith? She kept her children safe. As long as her kids were fine and protected under the wards, she was fine to carry on with all the lies and sacrifice thousands of innocent lives.

Isn’t it the same as Xaden? He’d sacrifice the whole world for Violet? I think so. He said so himself.

What does this mean?

A few things, really. It means that Xaden Riorson is not a hero. He is Violet’s hero, but not the continent’s hero. Definitely not Empyrean’s hero given that he chose to become a venin, which is everything the dragons are fighting against.

Xaden Riorson is a type of antihero, just not in the most traditional way. And I’m here for it. I believe Xaden will not fight for what’s right, but he will fight for Violet. It’s for Violet to save the world and for Xaden to support her on her journey. And yes, I think along the way, he will make some terrible mistakes, but given the choice, if it ever comes to it, Xaden will burn the world if it means saving Violet.

BUT… I am afraid, not the same goes for Violet. I honestly believe Violet is pure. The true hero in the book, and the one who would pick the good of the world over her own heartache of losing Xaden. So Rebecca Yarros might have just spelled it out for us in the books:

“You will be the death of me.” Because yes, I do believe, one way or another, Violet will be the death of Xaden, in the most literal way possible.

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8 responses to “Empyrean Series Theory: Xaden Riorson is a morally grey character.”

  1. I’m trying to digest what you just said. I fought it every bit of the way but at the end of each paragraph…. Point made… and I can’t argue. In IF one of the pre-chapter comments made by Lyra or the other First Six whose name starts with but is evading me, haunts me. Something to the effect of “nothing kills true love more than opposing ideals” and it makes my stomach sink.

    Considering, the author has basically said she doesn’t stick to tradition, I honestly don’t know if I can read the rest of the series until the final book comes out and someone gives no other spoilers other than their love, in the end, remains intact.

    1. Amanda noooooo. You’ll love the next book! I do think it will be a HEA. I also think that just because Xaden has to literally die, it doesn’t mean he won’t come back one way or another.

      1. It makes me wonder about his mother, if this will be a sort of redemption arc we see that she helps “save him”. On the other hand I wonder if this is a kind of Harry Potter having part of Voldemort’s soul in him type thing . Hopefully once the 3rd book is out it will give better perspective.

        1. I think so. I created this theory in my head as to why she needed to go and it just makes sense. I feel she will come back for sure.

  2. I mean totally the truth. He even basically says it. He acknowledges that fact to Violet. He would let the world burn for her. A hero would sacrifice their love for the world. A villian would sacrifice the world for their love and someone in between would watch it burn while trying to shield their love from the fire. I totally agree but it’s less a theory and more directly confirmed.

    1. I think I’m trying to go gentle on this one because everyone loves Xaden and I think it’s difficult to sometimes appreciate that morally grey characters are actually really cool. And even better than just plain hot heroes. He’s not a villain, for sure. But yeah, he’s that someone inbetween.

  3. This reminds me a bit of Anakin Skywalker slowly turning to the dark side. Scary thought.

    1. UGH! Please don’t! We need lovely Xaden!

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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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