REVIEW|| Iron Widow- Xiran Jay Zhao // A spectacular and intense book a highly recommend

Synopsis:  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.

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1)
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.

Publication Date: Sept 21st (US), Oct 7th (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, abuse, torture, alcohol addiction, suicide ideation, mentions and threat of rape.

Ratings: 5/5

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Iron Widow is truly one of the best books I have read this year! A book inspired by the rise of the only Chinese female emperor set in a world of mechas and a story which outrightly challenges misogyny with a character who is so formidable and full of rage, and a love triangle which ends in a polyamory relationship. Yes, this book is just as good as it sounds.

A story which will intrigue you

The Iron Widow is a story about vengeance for Wu Zetian who wants to assassinate a pilot for the vengeance of her sister’s death and by extension also destroy the biased pilot system which works against the female pilots. Shimin and Yizhi, the other two characters of the trio who are just as intriguing will catch your attention right from their first appearance and will completely take you by surprise for the rest of the book.

The story is fast paced and will keep you interested right from page one, it goes on with its twists and turns and everything in between and will leave you wanting more. This books is not just about vengeance as it also talks of destiny, misogyny, oppression and politics and the role all of this play in the lives of our characters. The author does an amazing job in incorporating parts of Chinese history in the story too and it’s just so good to read and thoroughly enjoyable. This book takes a lot of themes and puts them all together so well in a way which will surprise you and make you fall in love with it.

Characters you can’t help but root for

I know I said how amazing the story is but for me the absolute heroes of the book were the characters. They were absolutely stunning and well-written. All of them so different from each other and still bound together by their hearts and destinies. Our main character is Wu Zetian, who is unhinged and maniacal and kind of terrifying. Her passion for vengeance is great but this passion isn’t just self serving and I really loved how justice for her meant for all or none. She is resourceful and smart and unapologetic and honestly one of the best characters I have read about. She challenges misogynists in their face and will never back down from a fight. Her sense of self is amazing to read about and the way she takes control of her life is admirable.
Li Shimin is the tough looking feared by all but is actually the softest boy we all love to read about. I just truly loved him so much and his story was emotional and heartfelt. Our third character is Gao Yizhi aka the gentle and soft nerd who you will immediately fall in love with. Their dynamic is fun and the way they all complement each other with their gentleness and ruthlessness is truly amazing. I also loved how the overused trope of the love triangle actually becomes a polyamorous relationship with so much love and support and that’s all I will say because you need to read this one yourself.

This book at its core is about war, a war with oneself and war with the system which is designed to make you fail. Our protagonists make it a point to fight both of these head on and without backing off. Through this, we also come to know how different our characters are and the way they come together and become part of something bigger. It progresses naturally and one particular thing I love about this book is how everything- right from plot to character actions just make sense, it’s written and implemented so well.  The book also never fails to focus on the real villain which is misogyny and greed and how it actively plays a role right from the lowest level to the highest powers.

The world building and writing

I loved the world building which was a mix of modern setting mixed with historical elements. I loved the system of mechas and the piloting system and the way it was mixed with the theme and plot of the story was amazing. The writing was so good that one moment you’re on page one and the next thing you know, you’re already halfway through! More than anything, this book was just so much fun to read. I could feel myself enjoying the story and the characters and for that reason alone I feel I would highly recommend this book!

Overall, Iron Widow is is a fast-paced and immersive story which will keep you hooked with an unhinged protagonist you will root for, a healthy polyamorous relationship and an ending which will leave you absolutely speechless. If you’re looking for an intense fantasy read, Iron Widow would be perfect. This book is also perfect for fans of The Poppy War and Ember in the Ashes series!

Thank you the author and publisher for providing me with an ARC through Netgalley. All opinions are my own. 
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