The cover of Iron Widow, which is a pretty badass cover
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is a secondary world fantasy and start of a series, though the rest of the series isn't out yet. The book has won a lot of best of fiction awards and hit best sellers lists. Iron Widow follows Zetian, a scifi version of Wu Zetian, the only female Chinese Empress in her own right. In this world, giant magical mecha-suits piloted by a male-female pair fight off attacking alien-esque mecha-suit-material bug things. The male pilots often drain the female pilots of their energy until they die. One pilot did that to Zetian's sister and now Zetian is out for revenge.
This book required quite a bit of world set up for me to get it, but once things clicked, I was in. I wanted Zetian to enact her revenge and boy oh boy, I was not disappointed. Even knowing that, I didn't predict most of this book, which is great because with all the research I've done about plotting I don't get surprised often anymore.
My list of downsides is really short for this one. Neither of the love interests made me root for them a ton until the end. One was a little too self-hating (ala Edward Cullen) and one was a little too entitled/clingy (ala Edward Cullen). You see the issue. But they both became better toward the end of the novel, which I suppose is the point of character growth.
This book is for you if you liked the vibe of the Cinder series by Marissa Meyer, the magic is present but there's so much more happening situation in the Green Bone saga by Fonda Lee, and the sister out for revenge plot of The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. It's not for you if reading about the loss of a sister or romantic partner isn't for you, or if the mention of rape (not of an on-page character) isn't for you either.
Have you read Iron Widow? Are you excited for the sequel Heavenly Tyrant in 2023? Let's discuss in the comments!