You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t want to pick up this book upon looking at this cover!
  • Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Debut
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Background: Chinese
  • Instagram: @xiranjayzhao; Twitter: @xiranjayzhao;
  • Release: 09/21/2021 (Go ahead and pick it up but know you are likely not ready)
  • Publisher: Penguin Teen Canada
  • Favorite Character: Without a shadow of a doubt, Zetian! If Zetian’s anger could be bottled up and sold, I would buy multiples of it because it’s just so delicious and mind-blowing! The fact that she EMBRACED her anger rather than attempted to suppress it made me adore her even more!
  • Favorite Quote(s): This is a comment Zetian made and its “But I dont care how indebted I am to the elders or the gods. If they don’t respect me just because I’m from the “wrong” half of the population, I’m not respecting them back.” When I say that I shouted, I did…my note was “AYE!” but it was a simplification of the level my Spirit felt that…its a whole a$$ mood! Here is a quote: “What is it about gender that matters so much to the system, anyway? Isn’t piloting entirely a mental thing? So why is it always the girls that have to be sacrificed for power?”-Zetian. When I tell y’all I felt that mic drop deep down in my being…*whew* I just adore her!
That’s Zetian most of the book, IMO

First, I just have to acknowledge that I FINALLY feel mentally up to the task of writing about a singular book and I so appreciate you all’s patience with me as I navigate my own mental health and the need to back away from reviewing/reacting to one book. I want to be fair to & honor the books and the authors who take their time to give us the gift of these books and the place I was at wouldn’t have observed that. You all also deserve the best I can give in terms of the posts that I put out into the world (not saying that the lists aren’t my best but these posts are quite different from those). So Thank you thank you thank you for continuing to roll with me through everything!

I don’t have Oprah’s money or fame but I do appreciate y’all!

Second, there are so many words to say how much I loved Iron Widow but more specifically, it’s main character Zetian! When I received the email from netgalley featuring this book and saw the title & cover, I just HAD to request it and I’m so glad I was approved. This book was everything I didn’t know that my Spirit needed. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to read a book with an angry girl who just didn’t give a f**k about how other’s viewed her and questioned everyone in her path. I ate this book up like I hadn’t had a meal in weeks. Reading this book was what that felt like as someone who has experienced so much anger and never seen someone else transmute it in the way they wanted to. I seriously loved this book as I finished it in less than 48 hours and only regret that it wasn’t longer!

I sure did, with zero shame and enjoyed every single moment of it!

Iron Widow is the book that inspired my post To All The Literary Angry Girls, which listed books with other Angry Girl characters. I knew then that I wanted to write about this book but was not completely ready to write about it in a way that did it justice. Also, I didn’t want to run the risk of talking about it too early that the post would get buried before release as I read it back in mid-August. Even though I didn’t write a full out post at that point in time, I had been talking incessantly about it to everyone that would listen because I loved it so very much. For me, it felt like Angela Bassett walking away from the burning car after pouring the gasoline & setting it on fire (one of my all time favorite movie moments & also the moment she tells the officials she knew about it with a cigarette in her hand & nonchalance written all over her body) but make it futurist and Asian… Iron Widow & Zetian just had that same energy that made it & her so iconic!

Reading this book felt EXACTLY like this and I LOVED IT!

What can I say about Zetian?! She…Is…EV.ER.Y.THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! From the moment her voice emerged in the book, I was absolutely hooked and I just wanted to “hear” everything she had to say, whether she thought it or it came out of her mouth, and I had to see what moves she would make. Sis was like a master Chess player cause she was strategic AF. One moment, she would be contemplating what to do and next, she had mofos on their backs, it was like ish happened JUST that fast and I LIVEEEEEEEEEEED! She could also be extremely calculating. You just knew she was going to play the long game so that her prey would REALLY feel it when her wrath came down! I also loved how unpredictable she was in what she would do and she never disappointed…there wasn’t a dull moment (as cliche as that is).

Me, when I had a feeling she was plotting or about to let someone have it…either way, I Lived for Zetian!

Something else I loved is how observant Zetian was and that she didn’t try to play naive or coy. She is not a girl of pretenses and while she might not call everything out as it is happening, she kept notes & receipts like the world’s most effective record keeper. We know that she goes into the life of a concubine pilot to avenge her sister (this is in the synopsis so no spoiler here) but her level of plotting is simply magical…so much so that she had me looking like a star-eyed emoji most of the time! The way that her brain worked was just *chef’s kiss*. Zetian always kept it real like there was an absence of sugar because she kept everything so raw no coating could possibly be found. She wanted to show things as they actually were and not as everyone wanted to be blinded to. It’s like if someone asked for rose-colored glasses, she would be like “nah, you’re going to look through a magnifying glass so you can see everything” (in my mind at least).

I mean…Gia Gunn said it but replace “do” with “see” and you got Zetian!

Zetian saw what was happening, especially to the women/girls, around her and she used it as fuel. She didn’t attempt to extinguish her anger/fire, she let it intensify so she could burn everything down and I was more than okay with this. Sometimes, you just have to tear ish down to get your point across because being dainty & passive isn’t the way in the world she (and really, we) live in. While she went into the world of concubine piloting for one thing, she ended up doing so much more, really shaking ish up before she left people clutching their pearls and tucking their tails between their legs. She’s so determined and wouldn’t let anyone get in her way, it’s incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Y’all…I think I found my literary twin flame *swipes a tear*.

And God help whoever DIDN’T move out of Zetian’s way!

Seriously though, there is so much that I loved about this book. The world building, the anger levels, the BAWSE that Zetian is and even some of the secondary characters. I highlighted so many things in the e-ARC and wrote mad notes throughout, that’s how invested I was in this story. Just thinking back on some of the situations that Zetian was in and how she handled them makes me want to give her a standing ovation because homegirl definitely deserved it. If you can’t tell, I’m definitely fangirling over Iron Widow and how incredible Zetian is.

Me, giving Zetian the standing ovation she deserves & not giving a damn if anyone wants to join me

With the way the book ended, we DO know that there will be a sequel and I can NOT wait for it! I just need more of Zetian and her epic & iconic intensity (I wish I had better words to encompass all that she is)… I’m just hooked on this story and am still going through withdrawal months later! There is plenty more that I could say but then we would be here all day and I’m not completely sure you want that…or doooo you?

Do you? Cause you know I can do this all day! LOL

Is there any books that had fed your Spirit the way Iron Widow fed mine? An even better question is have you read this book yet?! If you haven’t, I highly suggest you fix that ASAPUALLY, especially if you love a great Angry Girl character seeking revenge with zero f**ks to give and ish to burn down along with a system to change! You won’t want to put it down and I’m pretty confident that you won’t regret the time you invest in this story! So run to your favorite bookstore or library to pick up a copy if Iron Widow isn’t already in your TBR!

Listen to the Rock folx!

Well Y’all, I’m going to end this here because I’m sure you all have lives to get back to and I’ve got a book to finish (what else is new?)! If you want find & follow me in these interwebs then you can on Instagram @bookishgirlmagic, Twitter @bookishgrlmagic and Clubhouse @bookishgrlmagic where you can typically find me in book centered clubs/rooms (which I’m not on super often, just an FYI but for sure on Tuesdays and Fridays). Also subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already because it gives me the blissful feeling of drinking a bubble tea when I see new subscribers! Until the next post, I’m out!

But you know I’ll be back next week!

Published by bookishgirlmagic

I’m reader who has a fierce love for books written by authors of color & belief in the importance of supporting them! My mission is to amplify their voices and work so this generation and all the others after them will have literature that will reflect them.

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  1. i really want to read iron widow, and your review is making me even more excited for it!! everything is so well put here: amazing job with this review!!

    one book that made me feel absolutely amazing in all these ways is ana on the edge, a book about a 12 year old non-binary figure skater figuring out gender, friendship, and life as a whole!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope you are able to get your hands on soon! It is so SO SO good and made me feel all of the things!

      That book sounds awesome! I love that there are more middle grade books coming out that represent the vastness of the kids today and even the ones we once were! If you are looking for another MG rec, The Insiders by Mark Oshiro is amazing! The MC & one of the secondary characters are gay and another one of the secondary characters is nonbinary! It was an amazing and heartwarming read about the same!

      Liked by 1 person

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