Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 14 to 18
- Grade: 9 to 12
An instant #1 New York Times bestseller!
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.
About the author
- Nominated, White Pine Award
- Nominated, Green Mountain Book Award
- Winner, Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
- Winner, Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Short-listed, Aurora Award - Best YA Novel
- Winner, Barnes & Noble Children's & YA Book Awards - Young Adult
- Winner, British Science Fiction Association Award
- Nominated, Nebula Award
- Nominated, GoodReads Choice Award
XIRAN JAY ZHAO is a first-gen immigrant from small-town China who was raised by the Internet. A recent graduate of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, they wrote science fiction and fantasy while they probably should have been studying more about biochemical pathways. You can find them on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Iron Widow is their first novel.
Instant #1 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 Favourite Book of the Year (2021)
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2021
A Cultured Vultures’ “21 Best Books Of 2021”
One of Book Riot's "20 best science fiction books of all time"
A 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee, Best Young Adult & Science Fiction
Nominated for the Science Fiction Writers of America's Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
WINNER of the 2022 Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
WINNER of the 2022 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
"The action-packed plot, involving battles both physical and mental, is original and incorporates queer themes and Zetian’s unwavering, cathartic feminism." —Kirkus Reviews
"[This] duology opener will appeal to those seeking high-energy, feminist, queer narratives." —Publishers Weekly
"[An] incredible novel, fun and exciting, sometimes horrible to read, but in all the ways that make you fall in love with a character." —Tor Online
"Iron Widow is an exciting, action-packed sci-fi story and a scathing indictment of patriarchal culture." —Shelf Awareness
"This novel will shock readers with its mind-blowing denouement." —CM: Canadian Review of Materials
"Iron Widow is a groundbreaking YA novel." —The Oxford Student
"Zhao has done an impeccable job at developing a totally shippable polyamorous relationship." —The Strand
"Like its ferocious heroine, Iron Widow is brutal, bloodthirsty, and full of rage. Zetian's fight to shatter patriarchal definitions of power makes for a truly thrilling read." —Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
"A primal scream of a book, Iron Widow delivers on all that fury and more, combining meticulous pacing and brilliant world building to make a truly epic read." —E.K. Johnston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Aetherbound
"Zetian is the take-no-prisoners heroine you’ll love to cheer on as she crushes everyone who tries to bring her down." —Rebecca Schaeffer, author of Not Even Bones
"A bold and brash story that will grab you by the throat from page one. Zhao expertly weaves a story that polishes off classic sci-fi themes and re-imagines them in a lush futuristic world inspired by Ancient China. With an unapologetic heroine who pushes so far beyond the boundaries of expectations, the reader will go on a journey of twists and turns that will make them gasp with each page turn. Thrilling, heart-wrenching, and epic!” —Kat Cho, internationally bestselling author of Vicious Spirits
"In Iron Widow, Zhao crafts a thrilling, brutal tale with jaw-dropping action and a fierce and unyielding heroine. Zetian is unstoppable, and I dare you not to cheer her on." —Elizabeth Lim, bestselling author of Spin the Dawn
"Iron Widow is a gut punch from the very first pages. The action is riveting. The story relentless. The heroine ruthless and unapologetic. Zetian is here to set the world on fire, and her pursuit of vengeance is thrilling and empowering to behold. Sit back and enjoy the show — and stay the hell out of her way." —Nicki Pau Preto, author of Crown of Feathers
"A searing, cinematic, gut-punch of a tale, Iron Widow is both wickedly fun and brutally incisive when it comes to the Chinese history and culture it draws inspiration from. There’s no resisting Wu Zetian; once she sinks her claws in you, you’ll be racing alongside her to a shocking, subversive end." —Joan He, New York Times–bestselling author of The Ones We're Meant to Find
"Absolutely epic. This is the historical-inspired, futuristic sci-fi mash-up of my wildest dreams. Iron Widow charges headfirst into a world of giant mechas and uncompromising characters. The brutal beauty of Xiran Jay Zhao’s writing kept me glued to the page from start to finish." —Chloe Gong, New York Times–bestselling author of These Violent Delights
"I . . . stayed up till 3 a.m. to finish." —Lisa Gardner, New York Times-bestselling author