Spoiler Free Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Title: Iron Widow

Author: Xiran Jay Zhao

Pub. Date: September 21st 2021

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Format: eARC

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Pages: 400 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBRO.FM | AMAZON

For more Bookish Photos, click on the photo and follow me on Bookstagram <3’s!

*•.¸♡ ᴍᴀʏʙᴇ, ɪғ ᴛʜɪɴɢs ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴅɪғғᴇʀᴇɴᴛ, ɪ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɢᴇᴛ ᴜsᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜɪs. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴄʀᴀᴅʟᴇᴅ ɪɴ ʜɪs ᴡᴀʀᴍᴛʜ ᴀɴᴅ ʟɪɢʜᴛ. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴄʜᴇʀɪsʜᴇᴅ. ʙᴇɪɴɢ ʟᴏᴠᴇᴅ. ʙᴜᴛ ɪ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴏ ғᴀɪᴛʜ ɪɴ ʟᴏᴠᴇ. ʟᴏᴠᴇ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ sᴀᴠᴇ ᴍᴇ. ɪ ᴄʜᴏᴏsᴇ ᴠᴇɴɢᴇᴀɴᴄᴇ. ♡¸.•*

This turned out to be the Feminist AF Sci-Fi story I needed to reignite my craving for SFF as a whole! It also made one thing very clear and that’s that I enjoy a good revenge plot especially when it’s executed by a female MC who feels she has nothing to lose. Zetian has been groomed from birth to accept her role in society as the weaker gender, her sole purpose if enlisted to fight in the war against the Hunduns (evil robots) is to serve as sort of an amplifier/conductor of Qi (spirit pressure) for the males. Accurately pitched as Red Rising meets Pacific Rim, in this world we have our main characters fighting in giant Chrysalis robots against the Hunduns over the wall. A Chrysalis is controlled by a male pilot and his female “Concubine.” While in battle, their bodies remain dormant in the husks of the Chrysalis while they battle using spirit pressure. Many times, the males thoughts & feelings will overwhelm his concubine and kill her. This is understood and accepted by all, until Zetian comes along with a mission to avenge her sisters death. What begins as a plot for revenge against one pilot turns into a much greater mission to strike against the patriarchy and question a system designed to keep women subservient and/or dead.

CW: Death of a loved one, domestic violence, murder, attempted rape, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, misogyny, war themes, descriptions of forced foot binding, and organ removal

This book was hella quotable with social commentary delivering truths on the patriarchy and I absolutely loved it! My rating is a 4.5 only because the finale didn’t match up with the level of climax built up, it felt just a smidge rushed towards the very end.  This still wasn’t enough to take away from the story, I found myself fully invested in the characters and overall world building. I’m not yet sure if I’d consider Zetian an unlikeable character, she harbors a ton of anger which I found justified given the crummy deck of cards girls are dealt from birth. We see her experience emotional and verbal abuse from her father as well as the physical pains of having her feet bound at the age of five. Zetian is always in a state of pain and in many ways she uses that as fuel to power through her quest for revenge. From the start when we meet her she makes it clear that she will not consider anyones life (including/especially family) who at some point treated her own life as dispensable. Zetian’s hate/love relationship with Li Shimin was well developed, I honestly felt at some points that they’d never get on the same page. I enjoyed seeing Zetian come to certain realizations with regards to the world they live in and the whole Pilot/Concubine set-up. There were some awesome discoveries at the end that really set-up for the next book in this series. This is a fast action packed Sci-Fi with bits of romance sprinkled throughout haha! it’s def more plot heavy. Our main characters are all queer, the Polyamorous relationship that developed was *Chefs Kiss*! it legit was the perfect balance of sweet and rough around the edges. I have some theories as to where the story will go next and hope to the Book Gods that at the very least we get a cover for the follow-up early in 2022 *fingers crossed*


🖤FOLLOW LAIR OF BOOKS🖤

Instagram: @LairOfBooks

Twitter: @LairOfBooks

Goodreads: LairOfBooks

The Story Graph: LairOfBooks

Librofm Referral Code

SPOILER FREE REVIEW: STRANGE GRACE BY TESSA GRATTON

Title: Strange Grace

Author: Tessa Gratton

Pub. Date: September 18th. 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 320

Content Warnings: Human sacrifice, Death, Trauma, and Torture…There’s probably a whole lot more that I’m missing since this in fact is THE darkest read I’ve ever read, please note trigger warnings for graphic imagery.

Buddy Read: Melanie, Julie, and Candace

*Thank you Simon & Schuster for the ARC copy in exchange for an honest review

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

    

“Every seven years their best boy is sent into the forest from sundown to sunrise, on the night of the Slaughter Moon. he will live or die on his own mettle, and for his sacrifice the devil blesses Three Graces”

In Three Graces the people live without death, disease, or injuries in exchange for their best boy. The most purest of heart & loved by all the people is raised to be sacrificed as a “Saint” every seven years to the Devil who lives in the forest, a bargain that started when a Grace witch fell in love with the Devil. When the Slaughter moon comes early at the 3 year mark, all are left wondering what went wrong with the last sacrifice. For three of the youths living in Three Graces, it’s an opportunity to give their lives some purpose…

Mairwen- A Grace Witch who has always been pulled in by the dark magic that lives in the forest. The Daughter of a Grace Witch & a Saint, Mairwen dreams of the day she can do more than just brush the borders of the Forest. Mairwen is definitely what I’d consider a daughter of the night, she collects bones and makes trinkets out of them. Mairwen does NOT fear the Devil. Fearless & strong, Mairwen also loves Rhun & Arthur who each face their own challenges.

Rhun- Our towns chosen Saint, loved by all and descended from a long line of Saints sacrificed to the Devil & the forest. Rhun is fully prepared to die for the people of Three Graces who believe him to be the best boy. However, Rhun also knows that his love for Arthur if discovered will most likely take him out of the running for “Saint.” Still, Rhun doesn’t hold back his love for either Mairwen or Arthur. What I love about Rhun is that he respects Arthur’s boundaries & understands that Arthur isn’t ready to acknowledge there are feelings there to begin with.

Arthur- The Outcast of Three Graces as a result of his mothers decision to raise him as a girl. Arthur’s mother believed she could protect him from ever having to be considered for sacrifice by keeping his gender a secret. This however backfires when at a young age he is exposed in front of others and made to question his own identity. My heart bleeds for Arthur who I just want to protect at all costs! Arthur’s also the only one who sees how messed up Three graces really is and how toxic masculinity runs deep in its core. Arthur waivers between needing to prove something to this town and basically saying SCREW YOU! Arthur is not one to self sacrifice for this town however he loves both Mairwen & Rhun most and for them anything goes.

Strange Grace lured me in with its beautifully mysterious cover with a tree and red leaves never once thinking it would wrap its roots around my every waking thought. I LIVE for dark atmospheric reads but Tessa Gratton seriously elevated the bar on what I consider Dark Fantasy going forward. I LOVED every minute of my reading experience with this book & the imagery I was left with alone makes this a stand-out read. Gratton gives us a Polyamorous relationship and a mostly all queer cast of characters. Gender fluidity is discussed from the POV of one of the main characters who was made to live as female at an age when they didn’t know the difference. This character grows up to be someone who wants so badly for there to be no hard lines of distinction between what makes one male or female. This is the first book I’ve ever come across in YA Fantasy to weave in so many important discussions on gender & sexuality and I cannot sing its praises enough! The writing might haunt you & break you but I guarantee it will leave its mark on you 🖤


FOLLOW LAIR OF BOOKS ON…

Instagram: @LairOfBooks

Twitter: @LairOfBooks

Goodreads: LairOfBook