~ First Lines Friday – #14 (September 3, 2021) ~

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words.

What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

“The Hunduns were coming. A whole herd of them, rumbling across the wilds, stirring up a dark storm of dust through the night. Their rotund, faceless bodies, made of spirit metal, glinted under the silver half-moon and sky full of glittering stars.

A lesser pilot would have had to fight off nerves to go meet them in battle, but Yang Guang wasn’t fazed. At the foot of his watchtower were just outside the Great Wall, he compelled his Chrysalis, the Nine-Tailed Fox, to launch into action. It was as tall as a seven- or eight-story building and bristly green. Its metallic claws pounded across the earth, shaking it.”

Do you recognize the lines?

Hint: This is the first novel in a new sci-fi series set in its own world with characters inspired by historical figures from across Chinese history.

Hint 2: It is described as including representation of a bisexual couple in a polyamorous relationship.

This week’s book is:

Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao!

Expected publication: September 21st 2021, 400 pages

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. 

I am very excited to read this start to the Iron Widow series. The concept of a Chrysalis sounds fascinating as it sounds reminiscent of Pacific Rim. It is set in China with a female pilot trying to prove herself in a male-dominated society. There is some romance, action, and an interesting sci-fi world, so I cannot wait to finally read this novel and hope it is worth continuing on with the eventual sequel.

  • Have you read Iron Widow or is it on your TBR?
  • What did you think of the first lines?

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