Book Review: Iron Widow

By Xiran Jay Zhao 

1 Star 

Iron Widow is a young adult science fiction novel by Xiran Jay Zhao that takes place in a reimagined ancient China. In Huaxia, giant transforming robots are used to fight a war against alien creatures known as Hunnu. These robots are controlled by a pair of a boy and a girl. After these battles, the girl almost always dies, having lost all of their Qi, or life force. The story follows the protagonist, Wu Zetian, a teenage girl who becomes a pilot in order to avenge her sister’s death.  


I'll start by saying that I have a lot to say about this book. Because the author is one of my favourite YouTubers and they make interesting content, I was excited to start reading. Although the book claims to be about China's only powerful female emperor, it has little to do with ancient Chinese history. The only thing the female lead has in common with the real empress is her name. I was kind of intrigued when I learned that the book was science fiction, but I was so let down. The book's premise could have been captivating, but it's poorly executed, and the world-building is weak. I think this stems from the fact that the writing itself is not great, it’s very simplistic and corny, which is a problem even if it’s Y/A. On the plus side, the book is simple to read and can be finished fairly quickly.  



The characters don't seem like real people because they are all so stereotypical and tropey. Wu Zetian's just boiled down to "female rage"; she is unlikeable and hypocritical, and even though the plot twist involving her love interests is different and new it is essentially "insta-love" and appears to come out of nowhere. I don't know why this book is so well-liked, maybe it’s just me. I only recommend Iron Widow to people who want to just turn their brains off and breeze through an easy read, and not readers who want an actual good story. 


Reviewed by Tayyeba 

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