• Iron Widow

  • By: Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Narrated by: Rong Fu
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's 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

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-08-21

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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  • LauryDolphin
  • 05-31-22

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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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Rehaana Shakespeare
  • 05-17-22

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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  • Zoey
  • 05-07-22

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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  • olga
  • 04-22-22

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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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-18-22

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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  • Leah Derham
  • 04-03-22

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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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-23-22

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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  • Dead Bad Wolf
  • 02-22-22

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.

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  • Jonathan Jackson
  • 02-11-22

Interesting but predictable story - fantastic narration

First up, I absolutely loved the narration of this audiobook - 1st class and will look for other books she’s narrated.
As for the story, I was interested initially as it was an Asian author writing a female led fantasy set in a version of China.
It started off strong and has some really important messages within the book, but the plot falls a bit flat at times and I really struggled to support the main character ironically.
Overall worth a listen but it’s not one I would rush to recommend

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-09-21

best book I've read in a long time

wow! this book blew me away. I'm very picky with books and it's a struggle to find books with interesting plots and characters. I love the combination of SciFi, history, feminism and Polyamory it sounds like a chaotic combo but the author does a beautiful job of weaving it together. I love how realistic the main character is and how unapologetic she is when it comes to fighting an oppressive patriarchal system. I think vengeance and rage are emotions fround upon especially in women, there's these characteristics often pushed onto women to be forgiving caring and self sacrificing there's non of the bullshit here. I can't wait for the second book !

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-25-22

amazing, please read!!

this book is absolutely phenomenal!! the worldbuilding is really creative, the plot is great, and don't even start me on the characters... the narrator did a really really good job and made it such as enjoyable experience. i really would recommend you read this because it's seriously good!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-16-22

Breathtakingly exhilarating adventure

The audio version made the narrative come alive, with the reader expertly navigating both the Chinese names with the English story telling and the emotional roller coastal ride of the narrative. Excellent!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-27-22

Fierce

Haven't read any anime/style books before so it was different to get my head around but the prose was absolutely formidable and I loved it

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jaimee Raper
  • 03-14-22

Really cool

This book is a really cool take on a futuristic society, complete with a pacific-rim style setting. It has likeable characters and good world building, as well as just a good story. It's not a book for everyone, but if you enjoy sci-fi or ancient china or just cool imaginative worlds, then this is for you.

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  • Elizabeth
  • 02-28-22

Oh my god read this book.

This was genuinely one of the most incredible books I’ve written. Such a strong female lead, such incredible love interests, such amazing displays of poly situations. I can’t wait for more.
I hope in the next one it’s more steamy… :)
But this was absolutely wonderful. Read this book. You will not regret it.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lauren Wilson
  • 01-09-22

I wish there were 3 more books I could binge

Couldn’t put this book down from start to finish. Heavily suggest for those who love progressive sci-fi narratives.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-22-21

Interesting World but mostly falls flat.

While the world and conflict is engaging, the characters are unpleasant and every twist seems given away by the premise. Even from the prologue the major twists are easily guessed. The characters do awful things and you're expected to cheer. Overall, it feels like the interesting parts screech to a halt to focus on characters that aren't worth the page count they are given.

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  • Hannah
  • 11-30-21

This is hecking good.

if you're here because you've heard good things. yes this book lives up to them quite well. If you're here without context, this book is loaded with queerness, urgent desperation, knife edged sweetness and righteous violence.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kristine
  • 11-26-21

book of the year

Very Bi Rights, Very Pacific Rim
the author really makes you care about these characters and you end up cheering on war crimes
Chef's kiss, highly recommend