Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Pacific Rim meets Handmaid’s Tale in a futuristic Chinese setting.

Inspired by China’s only Empress, Iron Widow is the story of Wu Zetian getting revenge on the man and organisation that murdered her big sister. 

Her society has been plagued by massive mechanical creatures called Hunduns. To protect their world, society fights back with giant mecha called Chrysalises. There needs to be a balance of yin and yang to pilot these mechas, meaning there needs to be a male and female pilot working together. However, being a female pilot is a guaranteed death, so girls in the army are considered throwaway concubines. That is until Zetian joins, murders her male pilot and starts throwing the patriarchal system upside down.

This story made me feel powerful as a woman. It made me want to go out there and punch sexist men in the face. Zetian is the type of girl we need more of in literature: strong, unforgiving and brutal. She would happily kill anyone who dared challenge her or threaten to harm other women. She wants to prove that women are worthy and not men’s objects, that women are smart, deserve to be heard and respected. 

I don’t want to spoil the novel too much because I want everyone and their mother to read this book. Still, Xiran Jay Zhao did such a good job not sugarcoating how damaging and gross sexism is. They did not pull any punches and reminded us that even though this is a fiction novel, the BS that happened in the book still happens in modern society.

As a firm hater of love triangles, I have officially changed my mind. The only love triangles I accept are actual triangles that come together into a sturdy shape. I petition that all love triangles should be like Xiran’s.

If you are thinking of gifting anyone books this year, make it Iron Widow. This book is fantastic, and I want it so desperately to get picked up by movie producers so I can see the amazing mechas in all their shining glory!

Personal Rating: 6/5 stars

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