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Iron Widow

Instant New York Times No.1 Bestseller

Xiran Jay Zhao

Instant New York Times No.1 Bestseller 

Science fiction and East Asian myth combine in this dazzling retelling of the rise of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history.

‘This is the historical-inspired, futuristic sci-fi mash-up of my wildest dreams.’ Chloe Gong

‘Raging against the patriarchy in spectacular style.’ Observer, best books of the year

‘Think The Handmaid’s Tale meets Pacific Rim and buckle up.’ Shelley Parker-Chan

‘Like its ferocious heroine, Iron Widow is brutal, bloodthirsty and full of rage.’  Julie C. Dao

I have no faith in love. Love cannot save me. I choose vengeance.

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises – giant transforming robots that battle aliens beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that their female co-pilots are expected to serve as concubines and often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, her plan is to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But after miraculously surviving her first battle, Zetian sets her sights on a mightier goal. The time has come to stop more girls from being sacrificed.

  • Publication date: September 8, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861542116
  • RRP: £8.99
  • Pages: 400
  • Publication date: October 7, 2021
  • ISBN: 9780861542093
  • RRP: £14.99
  • Pages: 400
  • Publication date: October 7, 2021
  • ISBN: 9780861542109
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 400


‘A ferociously original fusion of Chinese history and mecha sci-fi, this is a fast-paced thrill-ride.’


‘Absolutely epic. This is the historical-inspired, futuristic sci-fi mash-up of my wildest dreams.’

Chloe Gong, author of These Violent Delights

‘This wild anime-inspired reimagining of the biggest, baddest figures in Chinese history takes on the patriarchy and smashes it – with giant robots. Think The Handmaid’s Tale meets Pacific Rim and buckle up.’

Shelley Parker-Chan, author of She Who Became the Sun

‘Like its ferocious heroine, Iron Widow is brutal, bloodthirsty and full of rage. Zetian’s fight to shatter patriarchal definitions of power makes for a truly thrilling read.’ 

Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

‘In new publishing, fantasy with strong feminist themes dominated. Raging against the patriarchy in spectacular style is Iron Widow (Rock the Boat), in which Xiran Jay Zhao reimagines the life of China’s only female emperor in a fusion of history and sci-fi action.’ 

Observer, books of the year

‘A primal scream of a book, Iron Widow delivers on all that fury and more, combining meticulous pacing and brilliant world building to make a truly epic read.’

E.K. Johnston, author of Aetherbound

‘Zetian is the take-no-prisoners heroine you’ll love to cheer on as she crushes everyone who tries to bring her down.’

Rebecca Schaeffer, author of Not Even Bones

‘A bold and brash story that will grab you by the throat from page one. Zhao expertly weaves a story that polishes off classic sci-fi themes and re-imagines them in a lush futuristic world inspired by Ancient China. With an unapologetic heroine who pushes so far beyond the boundaries of expectations, the reader will go on a journey of twists and turns that will make them gasp with each page turn. Thrilling, heart-wrenching and epic!’

Kat Cho, author of Vicious Spirits

‘In Iron Widow, Zhao crafts a thrilling, brutal tale with jaw-dropping action and a fierce and unyielding heroine. Zetian is unstoppable, and I dare you not to cheer her on.’

Elizabeth Lim, author of Spin the Dawn

Iron Widow is a gut punch from the very first pages. The action is riveting. The story relentless. The heroine ruthless and unapologetic. Zetian is here to set the world on fire, and her pursuit of vengeance is thrilling and empowering to behold. Sit back and enjoy the show – and stay the hell out of her way.’

Nicki Pau Preto, author of the Crown of Feathers trilogy

‘A searing, cinematic, gut-punch of a tale, Iron Widow is both wickedly fun and brutally incisive when it comes to the Chinese history and culture it draws inspiration from. There’s no resisting Wu Zetian; once she sinks her claws in you, you’ll be racing alongside her to a shocking, subversive end.’

Joan He, NYT bestselling author of The Ones We're Meant to Find

‘Zhao has gifted us with this addictive, thrilling chaos, led by one uber-talented female assassin. Interwoven with a rich tapestry of East Asian mythology, this is a unique and piercingly powerful book, which any sci-fi fan will lap up.’  

Sue Cheung, author of Chinglish

Xiran Jay Zhao

Xiran Jay Zhao is the #1 bestselling author of the Iron Widow duology. A first-gen Hui Chinese immigrant from small-town China to Vancouver, Canada, they were raised by the internet and made the inexplicable decision to leave their biochem degree in the dust to write books and make educational content instead. You can find them @XiranJayZhao on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, TikTok for fun short videos, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is their first middle grade novel.

Author page

More books by Xiran Jay Zhao

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