Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

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.

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 5 Stars

Wow. Wow, wow wow. This book came out of freaking nowhere and hit me like a TRUCK. I literally just finished and I’m trying to gather my wits as I write this review. This was pitched as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaids Tale, and I definitely can see and agree with the comparison. Just…wow. Maybe I should step a way for a moment because I’m honestly still shook as hell from the ending. I can genuinely see that I didn’t see it coming.

Okay, thoughts are semi-composed now and I think I can coherently write a review. First of all Zetian is the kind of MC I wish I’d been lucky enough to read as a teenager. She’s strong, fiercely loyal, and firm in her convictions. The way she grew over the course of the book was perfect because you could see how the relationships she was forming shaped her, but she stayed just as badass and determined.

This book has a polyamorous relationship and it was so incredibly well done. Honestly, once things came together, I couldn’t see the three of them interacting any other way. The way the author wrote them, they just fit.

The mix of history and futuristic sci-fi was incredibly well done, and I loved the dystopian vibes that the book provided. The mental realm and the magic was unique. It took me a while to fully grasp and I can honestly say that I think I have so much left to learn, but I never felt overwhelmed by it, instead I was curious and hungry for more information. I can’t wait to see how things progress in the next book after the whirlwind ending of this first book. Holy crap, I still can’t fully processed everything that happened.

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