With society threatened to be overrun with Hunduns, it is necessary for humans to utilize Chrysalises in order to fight against these mechanical creatures. But in order to function these machines needed to defeat these invaders in their surroundings, a boy must be a pilot while a girl acts as his concubine. It is common for the girl to die when in the Chrysalis for an unexplained reason, however, it is seen as the one of the most honorable things a girl could do in this sexist society.
When Zetian’s older sister is killed in this process by a famous pilot, she has made it her goal to avenge said sister through murder. So she signed up to be a concubine for that pilot herself and kills him swiftly. But this accomplishment only creates hysteria surrounding Zetian, earning her the name “Iron Widow” who killed off boys in the Chrysalis instead of the other way around.
In a way to control her extraordinary mental strength, they pair her off with another pilot, Li Shimin, who has been notorious for killing off every girl he is paired with as well as other actions he has done in the past. Whilst attempting to survive every battle with Shimin, she also wishes to avenge more than her sister and all of the girls killed in battle with the pilots everyone praises. Do girls die just because that is their fat in the Chrysalis or are there other factors at play hidden in the darkness of secrets?
Though this is Xiran’s first novel, it is one that I will never forget and admire so much. I was reading this book in the New York train for 2 hours and when I reached my final destination, I wish I could stay and read more. Do you know the feeling when you wish to read through a book fast so you know what happens next but also wish to read it slow since you don’t want to finish it too fast and feel sad? That is exactly what conflict I had when reading this book. It has wonderful representation of strong female characters, queer romance, and asian culture I was glad to learn about. If I must recommend a young adult fantasy book to someone, this would be the book I would tell them to read. I rate this book a 10/10 stars and wish for anyone and everyone to read this spectacular book. I cannot recommend enough!
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is available to download for free from Libby.