Parents' Guide to

Iron Widow

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Compelling, violent blend of fantasy, sci-fi, empowerment.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 1 parent review

age 15+

Most Ferocious Heroine I Have Ever Read

Iron Widow shatters the patriarchal system in which this story is set. Through a violent past and present the main character fearlessly fights what is expected of her every step of the way. Sometimes shocking and sometimes with unintended consequences she does everything in her power to buck the system. There is a love triangle with all three parties equally loved and loving toward one another. The violence can be dark with descriptions of foot binding and water boarding being two examples. Alcohol addiction is part of a storyline but in a non-traditional way. There is a handful of swears (f***). Overall, this is a primal empowerment story in a sci-fi situation with some fantasy mixed in. It is the first book in a duology with the second, Heavenly Tyrant, due for release in late August.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (3 ):

Author Xiran Jay Zhao's sci-fi/fantasy debut doesn't pull any punches and packs a real wallop. Emotional intensity drives Iron Widow forward as much the thrilling action does, and both are balanced nicely by moments of genuine warmth and humor. It's a unique imagining of a far-future world that draws heavily on Chinese history, culture, and the power of qi.

Make no mistake, antihero/protagonist Zetian wants to burn the patriarchy to the ground, and will destroy anything and anyone who gets in her way. But readers can understand, empathize with, and even root for her as her past, and the shocking realities of her present, are revealed. It's a good opportunity to talk with mature teens about how, when, and if violence is an acceptable way to bring about change in the face of so much misery.

Book Details

  • Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Topics: Magic and Fantasy , Robots
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Penguin Teen
  • Publication date: September 21, 2021
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
  • Number of pages: 400
  • Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: February 1, 2022

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