Book thoughts: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

IRON WIDOW by XIRAN JAY ZHAO, pictured with a slice of homemade pandan chiffon cake. 

Sometimes a book comes along and it’s just that very book that you need. Iron Widow was it for me. I read it on the 6 hour drive from the Bay Area to LA, a drive that took longer than usual thanks to impatient drivers and some accidents (including one that happened to the car right in front of me, luckily I braked in time!!). 

Angry impatient drivers. Ugh. When we finally reached our destination, I took refuge in this book for a while. 

Wu Zetian is 18 and offers herself up as a concubine-pilot. So yes, that very Wu Zetian, former Empress of China, inspired this character. But it’s set in a very different China, one where giant mechs called Chrysalises battle aliens. These mechs are piloted have to be piloted by a boy and girl pair, to provide the right qi needed. 

Zetian offers herself as a pilot-concubine. Her plan is to kill the boy who made her sister concubine and killed her. When she gets her vengeance, she becomes known as the Iron Widow. 

Zetian is ruthless yet I couldn’t help but root for her. She lives in a society where women are subservient and dispensable, their feet meant to be bound, their heads bowed. Who wouldn’t be full of anger? Who wouldn’t want to rage against the system? 

A bold take no prisoners heroine is exactly what I needed. You probably do too.