Let me start by saying I have not been on a book tour in almost a year. I was too busy. However, I knew I wanted to talk about Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao because you will not find a fantasy book that comes close to the sheer amount that the book made me want to throw it across the room (in a good way). Thanks to Caffiene Tours and Shealea @shutupshealea for hosting this tour. I am so grateful for Shealea and this tour company for being transparent and always being clear in their policies. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.
Characters – I could literally scream. I loved every character. Zhao could write whole books about the side characters, which is incredible. (Sorry that my thoughts are so messy, I just cannot recommend this book enough!!!!)
Romance – yes!!! No love triangle!! There is a polyamorous relationship and the characters fit so well together. Their chemistry is amazing!!!!
Worldbuilding – I was too focused on the perfect plot and characters, BUT the worldbuilding pulled me in and did not me go – I finished IW on my phone at Target!!!!
Plot – AMAZING. This book reads like the perfect action movie with romance. I would pay to see IW adapted.
Re-readability – YES 100%!!!!!! The entire book is so action filled and perfectly balanced with all the elements I just told you my thoughts about. You will not read a book like this in 2021. Iron Widow is life-changing, especially for me as an Asian women, and it’s great to see sexism and the patriarchy called out and challenged in a fantasy novel.
Favorite Quotes – names have been redacted
Here are my favorite quotes and some quote graphics for the quotes from Iron Widow. They are from the e-ARC so I will update this review when I read a final copy. Quotes may have changed from the e-ARC to the final version. NO SPOILERS NO SPOILERS NO SPOILERS.
“Blood dribbles from the table and from [redacted’s] fingers. A sheen of sweat glistens where his head wrapping meets his forehead. His chest heaves rapidly. His eyes meet mine.“
“When he looks me in the eye again, a small smile cracks across his face. A startling sensation shivers through me, like a hundred butterflies fluttering free in my chest.”
“Everyone wants me dead.”
“You’re not something I could ever come across again.”“Oh, shit.” My voice teeters toward an edge, high-pitched and airy.
Then again, I don’t belong to anybody, and I never will.
“No matter what anyone says, I’m proud to call you my co-pilot, [redacted].”
“I think this whole concept of women being docile and obedient is nothing but wishful thinking. Or why would you put so much effort into lying to us? Into crippling our bodies? Into coercing us with made-up morals you claim are sacred? You insecure men, you’re afraid. You can force us into compliance, but, deep down, you know you can’t force us to truly love and respect you.” Read this again then re-read it 1000000000000 times.
Tour Info – support everyone on this amazing tour!
Launch post with schedule: https://caffeinebooktours.wordpress.com/2021/08/22/iron-widow-tour/
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 website — https://xiranjayzhao.com/
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/xiranjayzhao/
Twitter — https://twitter.com/XiranJayZhao
YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/c/xiranjayzhao
Title: Iron Widow
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Cover: Ashley Mackenzie
Publisher: Penguin Teen Canada
Publication date: 21 September 2021
Age group: Young Adult
Genres: Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
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.
- POC (East Asian)
- LGBTQ+ (Bisexuality, polyamory)
Trigger and Content Warnings
- Violence and abuse, footbinding, suicide ideation, discussion and references to sexual assault (though no on-page depictions), alcohol addiction, and torture
Amazon — https://amzn.to/2UBMGrU
Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/52459864