Iron Widow - book cover
Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Publisher : Penguin Teen
  • Published : 21 Sep 2021
  • Pages : 400
  • ISBN-10 : 0735269939
  • ISBN-13 : 9780735269934
  • Language : English

Iron Widow

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller!

Pacific Rim
meets The Handmaid's Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!

An Amazon Editors' Pick for Best Young Adult

An Indigo #1 Teen Book of the Year

"The action-packed plot, involving battles both physical and mental, is original and incorporates queer themes and Zetian's unwavering, cathartic feminism." -Kirkus Reviews

"[An] incredible novel, fun and exciting, sometimes horrible to read, but in all the ways that make you fall in love with a character." -Tor Online

"Like its ferocious heroine, Iron Widow is brutal, bloodthirsty, and full of rage. Zetian's fight to shatter patriarchal definitions of power makes for a truly thrilling read." -Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

"A primal scream of a book, Iron Widow delivers on all that fury and more, combining meticulous pacing and brilliant world building to make a truly epic read." -E.K. Johnston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Aetherbound

"Zetian is the take-no-prisoners heroine you'll love to cheer on as she crushes everyone who tries to bring her down." -Rebecca Schaeffer, author of Not Even Bones

"A bold and brash story that will grab you by the throat from page one. Zhao expertly weaves a story that polishes off classic sci-fi themes and re-imagines them in a lush futuristic world inspired by Ancient China. With an unapologetic heroine who pushes so far beyond the boundaries of expectations, the reader will go on a journey of twists and turns that will make them gasp with each page turn. Thrilling, heart-wrenching, and epic!" -Kat Cho, internationally bestselling author of Vicious Spirits
"In Iron Widow, Zhao crafts a thrilling, brutal tale with jaw-dropping action and a fierce and unyielding heroine. Zetian is unstoppable, and I dare you not to cheer her on." -Elizabeth Lim, bestselling author of Spin the Dawn

"Iron Widow is a gut punch from the very first pages. The action is riveting. The story relentless. The heroine ruthless and unapologetic. Zetian is here to set the world on fire, and her pursuit of vengeance is thrilling and empowering to behold. Sit back and enjoy the show-and stay the hell out of her way." -Nicki Pau Preto, author of Crown of Feathers

"A searing, cinematic, gut-punch of a tale, Iron Widow is both wickedly fun and brutally incisive when it comes to the Chinese history and culture it draws inspiration from. There's no resisting Wu Zetian; once she sinks her claws in you, you'll be racing alongside her to a shocking, subversive end." -Joan He, New York Times–bestselling author of The Ones We're Meant to Find...

Readers Top Reviews

Holy mother of swear words! This book was absolutely jaw dropping in it's scope and intensity. I absolutely loved it. Can't say enough good things about. The love trinity/triangle thingy isn't weird and it isn't forced. It's sweet and natural and really well written and not in any way x-rated. The 3 main characters are fairly well written with interesting personalities but I do wosh ee could get more to the meat of their backgrounds. Really loved it.
Star Wand
Wu Zetian is one of my favorite historical figures. So anything about her I will dive into wholeheartedly. THIS WAS SO GOOD! Once I started reading it I could not put it down. Merging Chinese culture and history with mecha and technology, this was a treat, and while I was reading it I could see the mecha, the characters in my head. Netflix turn this into a film! Zetian in this is as cold and calculating as her namesake, but she has her reasons. All she does is in the name of improving the lives of the girls in her country. The book does not shy away either from themes of polyamory and bisexuality. Really, one of the best original works I have read in a long time. I cannot wait for the next book!
I've been looking forward to reading this for months now, and I was honestly worried I was going to be disappointed simply because I'd spent so long getting hyped up for it, but this book was worth the wait. I ended up getting both a hard copy and an ebook version because I was so impatient to read asap, and the ebook is covered in highlights and notes. The world that's been built up is complex and interesting, and as a reader you're given a nice amount of information to piece together as you see the characters developing and reasoning through as well. Speaking of the characters, when I was reading the ebook version I kept checking how far into the book I was because I loved the main three so much and didn't it to be over. The ways they interact with each other and the world around them, how vastly different they are and how much that presents a challenge and a strength, and how they can be dangerous but also loving and occasionally hilarious.
This book was described as Pacific Rim meets the Handmaid's Tale in a blend of Chinese history meets mecha science fiction. Absolutely apt comparisons! This is a world in which a women's value is solely defined by their willingness to sacrifice themselves to the war efforts by becoming concubine-pilots. Knowing it is highly unlikely they will survive, their only honor is derived from sacrificing their bodies and minds to their male pilot counterparts in order to defeat the mecha-alien invaders, the Hundun. Other comparisons I found myself making: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Gundam. and Blade Runner. (just other imagery and worlds that sprang to mind as I was diving into this world.) The way the author writes reminds me of an artist. They use such lush imagery and description in detailing out this world that I can't help but think of them physically painting this picture. I was both mesmerized and horrified by some of the descriptions. (I had visceral reactions to the descriptions of the foot-binding ritual and the first time Zetian was forcefully encased in the armor during her first battle). Revenge Anguish Rage Purpose Guilt Sacrifice I felt it all!! The main characters were phenomenal! Zetian, Yizhi, and Shimin. Zetian's rage and unwavering determination to question the status quo. Yizhi's devotion and willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure Zetian and Shimin stay safe. Shimin's honorable heart and desire to right the wrongs of his past. - I loved the relationships- I loved the balance that the three of them brought to each other. "The triangle is the strongest shape." I truly enjoyed this book!! The only thing that really stopped me from giving it a full 5 stars was the chaotic pacing of the story (at times). There were many times it felt so inconsistent- moments that would be really fleshed out and well developed only to then jump immediately into major moments with no real mention of how they got to that point. But I. Cannot. Wait. For the continuation of this story. The ending left me breathless- I need to know what happens next!
Rebel queen
Ever have one of those books that even before you finish it, you slow down reading it because it's so bloody (lol) amazing and you want to hug the experience of reading it for the first time for as long as possible? Cause i TRIED. I tried that and i still finished it at 4am this morning. I am heartbroken (not from the book, the book had so much *shakes fist holding knife at the patriarchy in it that it made my gym work out super emphatic this morning), i need more, i've only subbed a mental image of Dylan Wang in my head for the Yang Guang character and i need to sub more in. I am no good at book synopses, but our heroines journeys from her hometown in the countryside (peasant class) in order to seek revenge against the man/institution who caused her sisters death. The country has this whole gnarly handmaids tale vibe that completely writes off half the population and only considers them for menial labor, or as pleasure objects, or in the case of the heroine and her sister, sources of Qi energy in their continuous war. Pros: fast paced, many twists and turns, SO INTERESTING, i adore the rich Chinese mystical / magical systems...the descriptions of the characters. Brilliantly done. Cons: only one, one tiny one. I was dying for more than two chili peppers of spice. I read "polyamorous" and rubbed my hands together gleefully. It was tastefully done. I like it when it's....not. Brilliantly, brilliant written. Pro tip, if you follow the author on the clock app, she has a bunch of cool character introductions and anime art of them.