Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Series: Iron Widow #1
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Released: September 21st, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Misogyny, femicide, rape (referenced), abuse (physical and emotional), torture, alcoholism, suicide ideation

4 1/2 kitties

The Iron Widow is the first novel in a series of the same name, written by Xiran Jay Zhao. This is one of those books that has been getting a lot of ink – and with good reason. I’m so happy to see it making so many different lists, and I hope that many readers get a chance to read it!

Huaxia depends on Chrysalises – giant transforming robots – to protect the Great Wall and the people within. Each mecha requires two pilots, a boy to take command and a girl to help take the strain. It is often the girls who pay the price.

Zetian knows this all too well. What started as a quest for revenge quickly turned into something else as power sweeps through her world. Now Zetian has had a taste for it, and she’s never going to let go.

“He should be the Iron King, and I should be the Iron Queen. Yet Iron Demon and Iron Widow is all they’ll let us be.”

Holy cow. If I could choose one a handful of books to read over and over again, you better believe that Iron Widow would make the list. This delightfully complex novel has so much to offer, and I’m just captivated by it all.

To say that I was blown away by Iron Widow would be the understatement of the century. Zetian is so very much my hero, as is Xiran Jay Zhao for creating this novel. It simultaneously tackles patriarchy, revenge plots, and a quest for power. And it does so with style.

Did I mention that there are giant mecha battling alien mecha? That’s a thing I didn’t know I needed in a setting such as this. It reminded me of a better thought-out version of Pacific Rim. I mean no offense to fans of the movie – as I myself am one. is just that good.

Honestly, the marketing pitch for Iron Widow is freaking amazing: “Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in a polyamorous reimagining of China’s only female emperor.” Um. Yes, please! I saw that description and knew that this book was one worth reading. I wasn’t disappointed, let me tell you that much!

Thanks to Penguin Teen and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.


About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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