BLOG TOUR: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao | Book Review

A huge thank you to Shelea from Caffeine Book Tours for giving me an opportunity to be a tour host of this amazing book!


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.

On-page RepresentationTrigger and Content Warnings
❁POC (East Asian)
❁ LGBTQ+ (Bisexuality, polyamory)
❁Violence and abuse, footbinding, suicide ideation, discussion and references to sexual assault (though no on-page depictions), alcohol addiction, and torture

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.

Iron Widow is a retelling of the rise of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor of imperial China. She reigned during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and was one of the most effective and controversial monarchs in China’s history. ( World History Encyclopedia )

This book is so awesome!

How awesome you ask? I’m a contemporary genre type reader trying to get out of a reading slump and this book got me out of it!

It’s that good! I love how adventurous emotional, inspiring and reflective it is.

I love how the MC is willing to take risks no matter how the situation is.

I love this book so much! I love the way it was written. It’s amazing. She’s the character I want to be. I loved that she’s standing up for herself, destroying patriarchy and breaking down stereotypes. I loved the intensity of emotions, the pace of the story and how compelling it was. This is a new favorite!! I would highly recommend this book!


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.

I was diagnosed with a mental illness that can be debilitating at times. I am still in the process of learning how to live with my new normal.

I know it’s dark and twisty sometimes but I want you to know that you are not alone and help is available.

Please do not self-diagnose. A consult with a licensed professional (Psychiatrist/Psychologist) will tell you what you are experiencing.

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