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Summary

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA listeners.

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.

©2021 Oneworld Publications (P)2021 Penguin Random House Canada Limited

What listeners say about Iron Widow

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A Great Start!

This is a fantastic book, and perhaps some of the best sci-fi/fantasy based on a real lived understanding of Chinese culture. This is the author's first book to my knowledge, and it's a fantastically original and interesting concept for her debut. My only criticism would be that the performer could do with being somewhat more versatile with male characters (though she remains fantastic) and that stylistically the book could be a little more complex, with some imagery being repeated a little too much. It is YA fiction however, and though I'm certain the author is capable of more, she writes extremely well for her audience, never speaking down to them but also preventing any pretension. I eagerly await the next work of Xiran Jay Zhao!

2 people found this helpful

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Couldn't put it down!

Super engaging and keeps you on your toes to the very last word. Love it love it love it!

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Great set up to a rich storyline

Loved the world building, the author balances the extraordinary and mundane in a way which makes the world almost believable

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Great fresh concepts

Great fresh concepts. Really interesting characters .

Only criticism is the last 8 off chapters were just rushed.

I hope there is a second book . As this feels a tad incomplete- but I am very invested .

Story tellers voice was great also .

Highly recommend if you like other worldly narratives, fantasy , diverse characters , culture , science fiction and good storytelling.

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Absolutely incredible

This is the kind of book that can change the world, it's a middle finger to every enforced gender role, every racist trope, every butchered made up "exotic" name in a fantasy story. It's not about redemption and yet the story itself feels like it's redemption for a whole genre of literature.

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this girl really can

absolutely amazing book, its girl power and intrigue, I will recommend it so much going forwards, can't wait for the sequel!

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Couldn’t stop listening

Honestly this is one of the best stories that I’ve heard in so long. I bought the audible and the rendition was flawless.

The story is immersive with fantastic mythos. The world is rich and deep and characterisations wonderful. I can’t recommend this enough. I don’t want to say much and give it away but there’s action, love, adventure, epic battles. No whiny girl torn between boys as many YA heroines are instead there’s a girl who has a small existence who learns lessons or languages that help explain who and how she is. I loved it.

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Good but obvious

Cool world/setting, kinda stiff protagonists (a bit forced at times) and transparent message. Enjoyed overall but it's very clear what beliefs and values the author wants you to have in order to connect with some parts of the story. Would still read again or watch if adapted as a movie, though.

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Highly recommended

A great story, but I was most impressed by the evocative language. Lots of beautiful writing. looking forward to the sequel

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Wow

Mate this was such a wild book that got me hooked by chapter 3 and I couldn’t let it go (I finished it in one day) and wow.
I can’t wait to see where this series will take me and all I know if that I’m going to suffer but be happy about it.
Also the narration was really good and I could feel the rage and other emotions from the main characters on the voice.