Well, Iron Widow is a wild ride of a book, every bit as intense and entertaining as promised. (Note that if you think giant fighting robots are dumb, you may not enjoy it as much as I did!)(I mean, giant fighting robots are dumb, I am objectively aware of that. I have no idea why I think they are cool, but all the coolness is well and truly explored in this book!)(Also, familiarity with and appreciation of various anime tropes make it more likely that you'll enjoy Iron Widow.)Xiran Jay Zhao has a clear and emphatic Message being conveyed through all the fun mayhem, but I never felt like I was being hit over the head with it—probably because I was too busy cheering Zetian while she hits lots of obnoxious things over the head, metaphorically and literally.
Zetian is about as bad-ass as they come. She's loosely based on the only female emperor of China, whose ascension to (and retention of) power is pretty mind-blowing when you consider the society she lived in. Xiran Jay Zhao recreates that society for us, exploring all its systemic misogyny through Zetian's visceral daily experience of it. Zetian's anger is the moral compass she uses to navigate this world so impossibly stacked against her, and it's so refreshing! (I'm not a violent person, I promise! I was actually a little worried that this book would be too dark and edgy—and yeah, it goes darker places than I was hoping, but, well, history.)
Too bad. I am exactly the kind of ice-blooded, rotten-hearted girl he fears I am. And I am fine with that.
May he stay unsettled.
I'm all for themes of forgiveness and reconciliation in the real world, but the real world also has some pretty horrific things in it and we should be angry about them. This book is that anger.
With giant fighting robots.