Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Print Length: 400 pages
Read Date(s): October 1, 2021 – October 5, 2021
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.
My Mini Review
First of all, I just have to comment about how utterly stunning the cover of this book looks. The picture does not do it justice, and I am thrilled to have a copy on my bookshelf. I was highly anticipating this release, and I moved it to the top of my TBR list as soon as I purchased it. For the most part, I loved it. It took on the injustices of sexism and classism while weaving a compelling tale of a woman who discovered and harnessed her own power, shattering every barrier in the process. The writing didn’t really grip me from the beginning, though, and felt a bit choppy, but I enjoyed it more after I got used to it. The world-building was interesting; although, I felt it took a bit of a back seat to the messaging, which did begin to feel a bit preachy and repetitive during the middle part of the book. The battle scenes were engrossing, and the last 100 pages of the book kept me so engaged I had to read them in one sitting. The characters were all interesting and had very diverse backgrounds, which created gripping character dynamics. I particularly loved the way the power throuple came together because of the way it turned the love triangle trope into something different. I just wished more of the book was devoted to their relationship and the three of them working together because it was one of my favorite things about the book. Even though I liked her and enjoyed seeing her rage out, kick ass, and come into her own power, Zetian’s character felt a bit flat to me. She was motivated primarily by rage throughout the story even though the circumstances changed somewhat, and I felt like she didn’t really learn anything over the course of the story. Her rage just became a little more warped with a larger focus, which kind of turned her into a power hungry monster towards the end. I’m curious to see if she bounces back from the anger and rage or becomes a new version of the very thing she has raged against all this time, a tyrant imposing her will. The epilogue blew my mind and set up some interesting details for the next installment, which I will definitely be picking up when it comes out. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a lot despite the few things I didn’t like. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Iron Widow? If so, what did you think?