Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Book Review #562

Title: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Genres: YA, Fantasy, Scifi

Format: e-ARC

Source: Netgalley UK

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Pages: 400

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. 

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ 

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed. 

cw: torture, rape threats, misogyny, alcohol addiction

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is an exciting read in the beginning but as the story progresses, somehow I lost my interest. This is a reimagining book inspired by Wu Zetian, the only female empress in China with a twist wielding magical mecha powered weapons against the enemy called Hunduns.

I was totally hooked about 40% into the book and I kept telling myself not to give up. That it might get better afterwards but sadly, I was wrong. For me, it didn’t really get better. I was pretty much just forcing myself through it.

I am all for badass female characters and Wu Zetian isn’t an exception as she is fierce, strong and a queen. She sticks with her principles throughout the book and I definitely like that about her. She refuses to back down from misogyny and a whole system where women are always going to be lesser than men. She’s the pinnacle of a revolution and good for her.

I am surprised by this myself but the romance is probably my least favourite out of everything. It feels a bit forced. For a powerful girl who relies on two man isn’t really up to par by what she values. It seems a bit contradicting.

The ending was so unexpected but I’m not sure if I want to continue reading this story. I’m afraid this just isn’t for me but if this is something you might enjoy, you should totally pick it up because there are so many others who ended up really liking it.

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