Rating: 4 / 5
I received IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao in an Illumicrate box and participated in the readalong they hosted, but then promptly forgot to post my actual review. Slowly I’ll get caught up on my backlog (at least I hope so)!
IRON WIDOW is a SciFi/Fantasy inspired by Chinese history. Women are used as concubines to help the male warriors power giant Chrysalises which are machines that can transform into powerful shapes to defend the wall. Women have few choices in life, even though becoming one of these concubines will generally kill them.
Zetian lost her sister to this system, so she has signed on to get her revenge. When she manages to not only kill the pilot who killed her sister, but to also survive the experience, she is paired with the most powerful pilot, Li Shimin. This is essentially considered a death sentence, but Zetian is not one to give in easily.
I really loved the unique world this author developed and I loved getting to know the multiple layers of the characters. They have all been put into situations that aren’t theirs by choice and they’ve been scarred and erected walls around themselves. The relationships that they begin to form were great to follow.
This isn’t always an easy read, the women are treated horribly and I really hated the way Zetian was treated by her own family. The women are all struggling to survive and that doesn’t always make for fast friendships. Still, some of the least likely characters turned into powerful allies.
This book had some really heartbreaking moments and it left a lot of room to see where the story goes in the next book. I will definitely be looking forward to continuing the story!