Book Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

A book review on this strange and incredible mix of fantasy, sci-fi and ancient Chinese mythology. A wonderful read.

Title: Iron Widow

By: Xiran Jay Zhao

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 391

Release Date: September 21st, 2021

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads:

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.


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I really wasn't excepting how crazy this story was and how the author Xiran Jay Zhao was able to weave Mythology and Fantasy together into a wonderful tale.

Zetian is an incredible character. She's strong, vindictive and on a mission, but when she realizes she has a power that rivals the best pilots, she uses that power to fulfill her darkest desire and murder the man who killed her sister in cold blood.

The description of the battles with the giant monsters piloted by powerful humans are amazing. It feels like a mix between Pacific Ridge and the Great Wall of Chine. Its a really interesting paring, but it works so amazingly well. 

Favorite Quote:

“I've been told endless lies since I was born. That I was not kind enough, considerate enough, humble enough, honorable enough, pretty enough, pleasing enough. And if I failed to meet the needs of those around me, I did not deserve to live.

Propaganda. All of it. Propaganda to keep me chasing after the approval of others on my bound and broken feet, as if being a good servant is the only thing I should be proud of.”

I gave this book a solid 5 stars out of 5. This book kept me guessing throughout the whole story. I loved the descriptions and fantasy elements. And lets not forget the cliffhanger at the end. I can't wait for the next installment in this series.

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