Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

Some books you can tell immediately that you will love them. Iron Widow was one of those for me. Within a couple of chapters I was so engrossed in the beautiful writing and in love with the characters that I knew that I would love the book – and I was right. This is a book that will capture your heart. I know quite a few (reviewer) friends who have read it and all of them feel similarly – so do give this one a try!

Many thanks to Penguin Teen and NetGalley for the eARC, all opinions are my own.

RELEASE DATE: 07/09/2021 (UK) / 21/09/2021 (US/CAN)


SUMMARY: 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. (from Penguin Teen)

OPINIONS: Friends, this is SO GOOD. Everything just fits together so damn well. It is a brilliant book in every way – I started telling everyone around me to read this because I was sure I was going to love it as soon as I was just a few chapters in. Zetian is such a badass bitch who doesn’t take no shit from anyone. And silly me was originally not even going to pick up Iron Widow because I thought, eww, mechas, not for me. But I would have missed out. I’m so glad that I had friends who were raving about it and made me want to read it.

Think of this as anime vibes in smart and compelling book format. And with the most gorgeous cover art. Iron Widow plays with so many YA tropes and just turns them upside down and it’s glorious. Zetian goes out, seeking revenge. Gets revenge, and instead of being punished, she proves herself invaluable. Oops. A love triangle starts blossoming. Oops, a poly triad forms instead. It is one of the best YA novels I have ever read. And it’s a DEBUT. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next and I can assure you that I will be getting myself a shiny hardcover or special edition the moment it is available.

Seriously, this is so good that I don’t even know how to coherently write about it. Just, get it for yourself. It’s brilliant and you need it. If you’re intrigued, you can add Iron Widow to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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