Sunday, January 23, 2022

Book Review: "Iron Widow" by Xiran Jay Zhao

Title: Iron Widow
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Series: "Iron Widow" #1
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Page Length: 394 pages
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Rating: 5 // 5 stars

You guys. This book! 

Iron Widow is one of those books that I was incredibly excited to release in 2021. I've had it sitting on my shelf since it came out and I consistently found myself looking at it with the burning desire to pick it up and read it. And I finally did. 

I loved this book. I had high expectations for it and I was not disappointed. While the book didn't exceed those expectations, it did meet them and I was quite happy. I feel like the best way to describe that feeling is that this book was exactly what I expected it to be (and what I wanted). The majority of my expectations did come from hearing so many people raving about it online and, I have to say, I think this book could be raved about even more

So, right off the bat, my favorite part of this book was the characters. I, personally, am a character-driven reader. A plot can be amazing but if the characters aren't written well then I tend not to enjoy it as much. But a 4-star plot could still lead to a 5-star rating if the characters are on point. This book had great characters.

My favorite was, of course, the main character Zetian. She is just...amazing. She's badass, she's angry, she's fierce but she's also at a huge disadvantage in this patriarchal world. I found her to be such a great character to read from and I cannot wait for more of her in the next book. It was also refreshing to read about a badass female character who does the wrong things because she's been pushed to the edge. I think the phrase that best describes my feelings about her are "I support women's rights...but more importantly, I support women's wrongs." Zetian, my murderous baby <3 Also, Li Shimin and Yizhi were so well written and I am very attached to this trio. 

Now, there's two love interests and one of my favorite parts of the book was that it flipped the traditional love triangle on its head and gave a poly romance to us. Now, this was heavily in the marketing and promotion for this book and I was incredibly excited. I've been reading reverse harem and poly romances in indie books for years now and I've always hoped it would become more mainstream. I will say, I did expect more of a focus on the romance from how talked about it was. I think the next book is set up to further explore this and hopefully have more of it developed on page.

The world was very intriguing. It's based off of precolonial China but does stand as its own fantasy/sci-fi world. There is a bit of world building to decipher but it was easy to learn. I don't read much sci-fi so this world and the way the battles were fought were brand new to me. It was really refreshing and exciting to read a story like this with technology and magic combining themselves. 

The writing style was perfect for me. I've been digging myself out of a reading slump and highly descriptive or verbose writing has been a struggle. This book and the way it was written was perfect for my brain. The pacing and writing had me reading hundreds of pages without even realizing. Combined with the plot and characters, this book definitely fits into the category of "books that made me forget I was reading."  

Overall, this book was amazing. It was queer, it centered a polyamorous romance, it was full of feminist themes and issues, and it was just amazing. It really highlighted the difficulty in dismantling systems of oppression and how deeply ingrained in people they can be. It was dark and painful but also full of passion and, dare I say, hope. I cannot wait to see where the sequel takes us and, once again, I stan Zetian and her murderous desires.

Please be aware that, although it is YA, this book deals with a lot of difficult topics and themes. Remember to prioritize your mental health first and foremost. Content and trigger warnings include: murder & death, torture, forced body modifications, abuse, violence, sacrifices, misogyny/sexism, alcoholism, depression, anxiety & panic attacks, themes of colonization, talk of sexual assault, and more. Please read responsibly. 

Thanks for reading!

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1 comment:

  1. Great review! I also enjoyed this one, though it took me some time in the beginning to understand what was going on haha! I'm excited to see what else this author comes out with! :)