This book is reviewed by Vidula. To see more of Vidula's reviews please visit her Instagram page.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is about Wu Zetian, an eighteen year old girl who lives in the world of Huaxia. There, boys team up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant robots used to fight the aliens beyond the Great Wall. However, the girls often die from the mental strain, leading to a misogynistic system. Determined to assassinate the man who killed her sister, Zetian signs up to be a pilot. But when she kills him, she is labeled as an Iron Widow, and she finally gets the power she was hoping for. Now, she must understand how the system works and dismantle it from the inside out. Right away, I was intrigued by the setting of this book; it was really interesting to see the convergence of technology, fantasy, and history. The feminist premise also drew me in, and for the most part, I think the author did a good job highlighting the inherent misogyny in Zetian’s world and her anger and resistance against it. I also loved how the book drew inspiration from Chinese history. However, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I thought that the characters and their relationships could have been written better, since I didn’t really find myself invested in them. I also would have liked a better explanation of the magic system; because I didn't fully understand it, I found myself confused at times. Finally, the pacing of the plot felt irregular, which also led to confusion. Overall, this book had an interesting premise, but it didn’t really live up to its potential for me. However, I think other readers may really enjoy it, so I would encourage people to give it a try! I would give this book a 7.3/10!