#IntlYALitMonth: Iron Widow

Iron Widow

Trigger warning: This book contains scenes of violence and sexual assault that some readers may find triggering to read.

Zhao creates a magical world where elements of Chinese history, mythology, Transformers and a dash of Hunger Games are all combined into a nail biting fight to save humanity

In a futuristic world, civilization is under attack by Hunduns, giant mechanical bugs.   Men pilot giant Chrysalises, which take the forms of creatures from Chinese mythology, to ward off these alien invaders.  Unfortunately, the pilots must pair with concubine pilots in order to channel their chi into these giant fighting machines, often killing the women pilots.  Zetian signs up to become a concubine pilot in order to exact her revenge on Yang Guang, the most powerful Chrysalis pilot and the person responsible for her sister’s death.  Revenge comes with consequences drawing Zetian deeper into the male dominated world. 

Zetian is a strong lead character based on the only female emperor of China, Empress Wu Zeitan.  This book explores the ideas of feminism, power, identity, love and social values.  Zhao takes an unapologetic look at both historical and modern systems of power and how a single person can push back to find their own place in society, even if it is a difficult path to follow.

“How do you take the fight out of half the population and render them willing slaves? You tell them they’re meant to do nothing but serve from the minute they’re born. You tell them they’re weak. You tell them they’re prey. You tell them over and over, until it’s the only truth they’re capable of living.”

I love when a book inspires one to dig into different topics and learn more.  After reading this book I researched foot binding, Empress Wu Zetian, and Chinese mythology.  Zhao does a masterful job of weaving together different parts of Chinese culture and history into an action-packed powerful narrative that will appeal to even the most reluctant reader.

Book Reference: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Publisher: Penguin Random House Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN 9780735269934


New York Times Bestseller

An Amazon Editors’ Pick for Best Young Adult

An Amazon Editors’ Pick for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

A Polygon Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of 2021

An Indigo #1 Teen Book of the Year

An Indigo Best Teen Book (2021)

An Indigo Best Teen Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book (2021)

A Barnes & Noble’s Best YA Fantasy & Adventure of 2021

A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens (2021)

A Canadian Children’s Book Centre Favorite Book of the Year (2021)

WINNER of the 2022 Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy

WINNER of the 2022 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Nominated for the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Andre Norton Nebula


Publisher’s Weekly


School Library Journal

Arra Katona is the Teen Services Coordinator for Jefferson County Public Library.  She holds an  MLIS from University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana and has worked in public libraries for over 20 years.   She is also the chair of the Colorado Teen Literature Conference.

JULIA E. TORRES is a nationally recognized veteran language arts teacher, librarian, and teen programs administrator in Denver, Colorado. Julia facilitates teacher development workshops rooted in the areas of anti-racist education, equity and access in literacy and librarianship, and education as a practice of liberation. Julia’s work has been featured on NPR, AlJazeera’s The Stream, PBS Education, KQED’s MindShift, Rethinking Schools, Learning for Justice Magazine, School Library Journal, American Libraries Magazine, and many more. She is a Book Love Foundation board member, Educolor Working Group member, a Book Ambassador for The Educator Collaborative, and a co-founder of #DisruptTexts. Her co-authored title Liven Up Your Library: Design Engaging and Inclusive Programs for Teens and Tweens is just the first of many forthcoming publications for librarians and educators. Learn more about Julia on her website juliaetorres.com or on social media @juliaerin80

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s