Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Wu Zetian enlists to be a concubine pilot even though it means she could lose her life. For nothing is more important than seeking vengeance for her sister’s death.

However, her plans go awry when she discovers that the Prince-General she plans to assassinate is the least of her problems, and there are horrifying secrets kept hidden from the people of Huaxia.

Xiran Jay Zhao’s writing is all action-packed, pulsating in and out of scenes with a cinematic flair. The descriptions are vivid and so intricate that it can take you a while to understand the details she is elaborating on.

Copyright © 2022 Meera Nair

It took me a while to get used to the magic system because there’s just so much to understand. The last I remember of a world where humans pilot robots was watching the Power Rangers TV series as a kid.

This coupled with elemental magic and the rules of the world made for a thoroughly engaging reading experience.

The world the author creates is a fascinating mix of dystopian sci-fi, Chinese culture, and corrupt politics.

I feel that some of the dialogues could have been refined a bit more. It appeared a little over the top at times or as trying too hard to establish an image of a certain character.

Apart from world-building, one of the most powerful aspects of Iron Widow is its social commentary.

From gender inequalities to class hierarchies and toxic family environments to crimes against women, the author addresses various such social concerns expertly through Zetian’s indignant persona.

The dynamic between Zetian, Yizhi, and Shimin was a lot of fun to read about. What started out as a fantasy trio battling corruption soon turns into more and I loved that!

Yizhi’s backstory isn’t as much of a focus as Shimin and Zetian’s is; It would’ve been great if we had gotten to know more about him, his background, etc.

The experiences that the women characters go through are truly horrifying. So it was very satisfying to see Zetian reclaim some of the power and agency that so many people have been wrongfully denied in Huaxia.

That said, I think Zetian’s character sometimes presents a dissonance between what she thinks is her goal and how she acts.

The main conflict gets resolved quite early in the book, and so I was wondering what is in store for us, readers. But there are so many layers to the plot that you’ll find yourself caught by surprise at how things twist & turn right up until the end.

I also listened to the audiobook while reading which helped with pronunciation and such. I need to be able to retain words while reading a book in order to remember elements of the story better, and the audiobook definitely helped with that.

Except for a couple of minor things, I really enjoyed reading Iron Widow and would love to read more instalments set in this world.

Published by Meera Nair

A 27 year-old freelance Content Writer, who spends all her free time ensconced in the pages of a book or writing to her heart's content about topics that excite the creative spirit in her.

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