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  • Iron Widow

  • Written by: Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Narrated by: Rong Fu
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (262 ratings)

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Iron Widow cover art

Iron Widow

Written by: Xiran Jay Zhao
Narrated by: Rong Fu
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Publisher's Summary

2021 GoodReads Choice Award

2021 Nebula Award

An instant number one New York Times best seller!

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA listeners.

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.

©2021 Xiran Jay Zhao (P)2021 Penguin Teen

What the critics say

2024, Washington Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, Nominated

2023, Green Mountain Book Award, Winner

2022, Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, Winner

2022, Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Winner

2022, Aurora Award - Best YA Novel, Short-listed

2022, Barnes & Noble Children's & YA Book Awards - Young Adult, Winner

2021, British Science Fiction Association Award, Winner

2021, GoodReads Choice Award, Nominated

2021, Nebula Award, Nominated

Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller!

An Amazon Editors’ Pick for Best Young Adult

An Amazon Editor’s 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”

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

"[This] duology opener will appeal to those seeking high-energy, feminist, queer narratives." (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Iron Widow

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful surprise

When I went into this book I was a little hesitant, not usually being a fan of giant mechs. But I have to say, my worries were immediately put to rest. It really doesn't feel like any giant mech stuff I've ever seen or read.

This is defiantely worth listening to, I loved every second of it!

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A book you won’t be able to stop

This book has action chapters that kept me up late saying “one more chapter.”
The romance is slow growing and more naturally paced for the story.
The story is fresh and with little western influence. Western audiences will not be lost though. Xiran Jay Zhao has made sure that anyone can enjoy their story.
With Rong Fu narrating I have a better understanding of how to pronounce names and non English words from the story.

Those who enjoy dystopian, fantasy and fictional socio-political books will enjoy this.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Absolutely brilliant

This audiobook was beautifully performed and extraordinarily well written I was gripped from start to finish. Culture is high lighted was amazing and the issues that effect us today were so beautifully written into this story. This is truly a masterpiece and gosh I hope this story will continue cause man oh man am I invested. 100/10 would recommend

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    5 out of 5 stars
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This is sooo freaking good!!!

I am kicking myself for letting this sit unread for months before I got to it.
Amazing dystopian sci-fi with intense relationships and even more intense fight scenes.
This is like mixing Hunger Games with Tron and then adding entirely new bits to both.
GO READ THIS BOOK!!!
The audio made it easier to keep the characters sorted, and the pronunciations accurate.
The narration was delightful on this one.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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AMAZING

This book is an amazing read both audio and non-audio. I got the same giddy feelings of enjoyment while listening to Iron Widow as I did when reading the physical book. The narrator is excellent!

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A bloody battle and an iron will

I loved the voice actor and really enjoyed the story as well. I love Zetian. Really need to buy the book now as a trophy for my shelf.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved it!

The narration, first of all, is great! Her pitch, cadence, and acting are all perfect and she pronounces all the names correctly (as far as I can tell)!
The story has exciting battles, challenges, and a bit of romance. The characters are all flawed and feel more realistic because of it. The main character herself is very passionate about her cause but also a hypocrite when she meets opposition. However, I wouldn't call it a character flaw or poorly written because anyone who experiences trauma and betrayal, will be passionate about getting justice.
I recommend this book if you're looking for something exciting and action-packed, with a female lead and perspective!

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Representation I never thought I'd see

Polyamory. This is the first time I have ever seen this representation and it made me cry with joy on multiple occasions.
The story is incredible, beautifully written and the performance by the reader was enthralling.
It gave a grim reality of society with blooming hope that there are those who fight to do right and make it better.
Long live the Iron Widow.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great read

I was engaged every second. The relationships and world building were so interesting, I cannot wait for the second book. The narrator did a great job conveying the emotions of each character. I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not normally into sc-fi.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved this story

I loved the adventure and thought provoking relationships. The hints of Chinese culture added a layer of historical interest.

Narrator has a nice clear voice which is enjoyable for listening

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