Review | Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao (ARC)

Title: Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Published: September 21, 2021

Genre(s): sci-fi, fantasy, young adult

Read as: ARC, ebook

Rating: 5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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. (Goodreads)

This year I have loved some books and I have hated some books. I have given glowing recommendations and scathing reviews. However, of everything I’ve read, I think Iron Widow is the first book this year to have me really and truly excited. Shouting on Twitter about this book excited. Thinking about this story constantly excited. Already trying to find fan art even though the book isn’t released yet (as of this writing) excited.

Ya’ll, this story is phenomenal.

Zetian is one of my favorite female protagonists that I have ever had the privilege of reading. This young woman is a roller coaster of emotions and determination. The strength of her character is simply astounding. She is in turns angry and scared and wanting to exact retribution and is not letting anyone stand in her way. What I love most about Zetian is that even when she is afraid or nervous, especially when she is afraid and nervous, she never backs down. She acknowledges those feelings of fear and finds it in herself to set them aside in order to accomplish whatever task it is set before her. The confidence and bravery she finds within herself throughout this story is magnificent. I love when a character is just so completely unapologetic about their goals despite others attempting to make her feel shame.

Then we have the general basis of this story. Zetian’s world was attacked by other worldly beings who are trying to wipe out the human race and absorb all of their resources. Humans, being the stubborn creatures that we are, instead find a way to use those resources to create these enormous monsters of metal that can be imbued with power from their operators to take on the threat. The thing is, these powerful weapons need two people to use them. The pilot, who is this culture is always a male, and the concubine, the female. Being a male lead society that looks down upon females, the concubine is almost always killed during these battles. Zetian’s beloved sister is believed to have been killed this way which is the jumping off point for her journey toward retribution.

This book is simply amazing. It never slows down, never stops, and around every turn is Zetian with her two partners at her side, taking on the world. There is emotion, action, questionable choices with consequences, violence, love…I could go on. Within these 400 pages you will find a little bit of everything woven together to make one spectacular story. And, folks, the twist at the end will leave your head spinning! I cannot recommend this book enough.

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