On my Mid-Year Book Freak-out blog, I talked about my most anticipated book releases for the second half of 2021. One of those books was Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book, and it’s so damn good!!! I’ve never read anything like this before, and this book has blown my mind.
Beyond the Great Wall, mecha aliens lurk, and the only way to battle them is on Chrysalises, giant transforming robots piloted by a boy-girl pair. However, for centuries the girl pilots often die from the mental strain. At 18 years old, Zetian offers herself to the army as a concubine-pilot, with the ulterior motive of assassinating the pilot responsible for her sister’s death. Zetian gets her revenge, kills the pilot through the psychic link between the pilots, and emerges from the cockpit without a scratch. From here on out, Zetian is labeled an Iron Widow, a female pilot who can sacrifice the boy to power the Chrysalises instead. To tame Zetian, they pair her with Li Shimin, the strongest, most terrifying pilot in Huaxia. However, this doesn’t stop Zetian; she is determined to find out why the pilot system works in such a misogynistic way, smash down the patriarchy, and prevent any more girls from being sacrificed.
This book was such a fantastic read! I have never read anything like this before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved Zetian. She is all the feminist fire I aspire to be and more. I loved how the author didn’t shy away from portraying Zetian’s deep desire for vengeance. I hate when authors soften main characters as their story progressesto make them more likable, and Xiran didn’t do that with Zetian. Zetian is the takes no prisoners heroine we all need, and she will obliterate anyone who dares get in her way. Her relationship with Yizhi is next level; the amount of love, understanding, and trust they have is beautiful, no jealousy, no possessiveness, no bullshit. Then add Li Shimin in, and you got yourself the best poly relationship in a YA novel. Honestly, this book kept me on the edge of my seat, and the ending was such a shock (in the best way), I never saw it coming. Also, the way this book talks about misogyny, women’s rights over their bodies, lives, and future is the feminist agenda everyone needs to get on board with. PERIOD! I would’ve liked a little more world-building, get things more fleshed out, but overall, it was a fantastic read. I rated this book 4/5. Book drops September 21, 2021.