Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

The basics

Title: Iron Widow


Series: Iron Widow #1

- Iron Widow (2021)

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Goodreads Summary:

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.

Read a full summary of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao below. If you can’t remember what happened in Iron Widow and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

What happened in Iron Widow?

  • Wu Zetian’s Big Sister was killed by Yang Guang while they were battling together in a giant robot. Zetian has vowed to get REVONGE, because girls keep getting sacrificed for their power in the war against the Hunduns.
  • Before she is taken to the city, Zetian talks to her bff Yizhi and he tries to stop her… by offering to marry her. He’s from a super rich family and thinks this will be okay because he can match any price. Reader, this was not okay.
  • Zetian goes off to the city and immediately murders her first co-pilot, Yang Guang, by breaking out of his brain space and destroying him. Oops.
  • The council basically realise that Zetian is super powerful because no girl should be able to break out like that… and it’s also bad that she killed such a powerful Prince.
  • So Zetian gets paired up with Li Shimin, also known as the Iron Demon, because he’s super strong and powers the Vermillian Bird robot. He’s super depressed and an alcoholic because he has the most qi ever, and he also killed his entire family at one point. They put him on death row for this but because he had so much power they figured they could use him for robot fights.
  • Zetian and Shimin become a little closer. He’s an alright guy, just a bit of a mess for reasons previously stated.
  • Yizhi shows up because OF COURSE. He needs to look out for Zetian. Also fair. I don’t really love rich boys but Yizhi is okay. He and Zetian sleep together at some point.
  • Zetian and Shimin continue fighting together and they eventually get married and sleep together too. The trio is super okay with polyamory which is an EXCELLENT portrayal btw.
  • Zetian finds out that the whole power balance thing is rigged, and girls are just as strong as boys but the girls are being sacrificed so people will keep sending their sons off to war (because they’re certain they’ll survive).
  • Zetian and Shimin waterboard An Lushan which I fully support (please don’t send the cops).
  • Zetian and Yizhi kiss the balance is restored and the three go about their days.
  • Except then terrible things happen and Zetian kills her parents, and then Yizhi kills HIS father for being a dick, and Shimin dies when Ma Xiuying attacks the Bird during battle.
  • To be fair, Xiuying’s children were being threatened but still. Shimin!
  • We also find out that humans are aliens and the Hunduns are the native species on this planet the humans have inhabited.
  • Zetian declares herself Empress.
  • Oh and then the gods show up and recover Shimin’s body from the destroyed robot and then start blackmailing Zetian.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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