BOOK REVIEW: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Series: Iron Widow #1

Release Date: 21 September 2021

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Page Count: 400 pages


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.


Iron Widow is absolutely EPIC!!! Going into it, all I knew was it had a mix of historical Chinese setting and futuristic sci fi with a poly relationship and it delivered on every single level!!

I couldn’t put it down because the story was so gripping and the writing is absolutely beautiful. Wu Zetian, our protagonist, is incredible fierce and powerful and I adore her so much. It’s the feminist book we deserve and I enjoyed every moment. The rush I felt when they fight the misogyny and rise above the obstacles is indescribable.

The other main characters are Li Shimin, aka Iron Demon, who’s actually a cinnamon roll and deserves everything. And Gao Yizhi, Zetian’s best friend and other love interest, who is a sweetheart but also deadly.

While romance is not the focus, it is very well done and I loved how the relationship developed between all three. It’s the first time I’m reading a poly relationship in a YA and it was so refreshing!!!!

I sort of had a small suspicion about the ending but to have it confirmed and the magnitude of it really surprised me. I’m so hyped for the sequel and this one isn’t even out yet!!!!!!😭

Overall, I highly recommend it to everyone! One of my new favourites this year!!!!

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review

TW: Violence and abuse, footbinding, suicide ideation, discussion and references to sexual assault (though no on-page depictions), alcohol addiction, and torture

Buy It: Amazon | XOXO, Sierra (book box) Penguin Random House Canada

Official Art (on Author’s website)

Zetian and Shimin

Art by 妄猫Sama on Weibo

Shimin and Yizhi


Yizhi and Zetian

Art by 辞客ck on Weibo

Vermilion Bird

Art by @msquared_art on Twitter

About the Author 

Xiran Jay Zhao is a first-gen immigrant from small-town China who was raised by the Internet​. A recent graduate of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, they wrote science fiction and fantasy while they probably should have been studying more about biochemical pathways. You can find them on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Iron Widow is their first novel.

Author links:

Website | Goodreads | Insta | Twitter | Youtube

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