Iron Widow
February 6, 2022 1:48 PM - Subscribe

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers. 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.
posted by snerson (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this! I thought the world building was excellent and the exploration of the relationships was really strong. And Zetian is a super smart badass.
posted by obfuscation at 2:51 PM on February 6, 2022

This is not, in my opinion, a book without flaws. I thought adjectives were overused and sometimes oddly idiosyncratic, and every plot twist was telegraphed a long way in advance. But I also thought it had a real power to it, a power coming from the main character's justified rage.
posted by kyrademon at 3:12 PM on February 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

This book was like having your favorite song turned up too loud: a little rough, but so good.

The characters were vivid and strong. Things were a little over-the-top at times -- the dialogue, the pace, the reactions -- but that all drove the plot forward from peak to peak without dragging.

It was clearly the opener for a longer series, but had a self-contained story that stands on its own.

I really enjoyed this book as a closer for 2021!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:49 AM on February 8, 2022

I liked this a lot. I jokingly recommended it a friend as Neon Genesis Evangelion: Ancient Chinese Riot Grrrl Remix
posted by Rinku at 12:45 PM on February 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I loooved this book. It started out as a ball of not-pretty rage, which might be the first time I've seen that, and then slowly the camera (the protagonist's POV) pans out into seeing all the different people hurt by this system AND why the people in charge are afraid to let it change.

I didn't love the Michael Bey-esque ending battle, and I'm suspicious about where things are going, but I am really looking forward to the sequel.

I also liked that it worked out well as a stand-alone.

Also, I listened to this on audio books rather than reading it and it was really good that way. I think I liked it better than I would have, had I read it, because I tend to be more forgiving of clunky dialogue with audiobooks, for some reason. (I discovered this with the Expanse series.)
posted by small_ruminant at 6:01 PM on May 19, 2022

Probably the angriest thing I've read since the SCUM Manifesto.
posted by one for the books at 12:49 AM on April 2

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