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391 pages, Hardcover
First published September 21, 2021
Annihilate every center of power, so everything will collapse into chaos and people will have no choice but to obey the new most powerful thing—me.
It is not me who is wrong. It's everyone else.
Dread hollows through me.
I smell a whiff of fear in the temperature-controlled air.
A sharp breath lances up his nose.
"This world does not deserve my respect. It is not worthy of my kindness or compassion."
This story is Asian, queer, and all about abolishing the patriarchy and gender roles that every society tries to make people fit with their judgement, expectations, and laws. “Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in a polyamorous reimagining of China's only female emperor” is the perfect tagline for this book! And this story is truly so powerful, so beautiful, and so high on my recommendations lists for you all!
Okay, on to the giant transforming robots and what the story is actually about! In this world, Huaxia is trying to protect the Great Wall against Hunduns and their alien mechs (who have already developed and established their own society and way of life on the other side of the wall And Huazia has modified versions of these robots that they call Chrysalises, and constant waves of battle are happening and being broadcasted for the people to watch and be entertained by. The pilots of these mechs are able to transform them into East Asian mythical creatures, and sometimes they are able to gain more special abilities under very specific circumstances when two pilots are able to bond together, weave their qi together, fight stronger together, and have a big adventure in battles together. But there are so few bonded pilots in this world.
But in Huaxia, young boys are hailed as heroes for piloting these machines, but it always takes two pilots, no matter how much society wishes to forget about the evils of the other seat. Young girls are given up by their families to serve the army and have their qi tested to see if they would be able to help pilot alongside a powerful boy. The thing is, most times the boy completely invades, using a psychic link, and uses up every ounce of lifeforce the girl has, killing her during battle.
"I wouldn’t live and suffer for anyone else, but I would die to avenge my sister."
"love isn’t some scarce resource to battle over. Love can be infinite, as much as your heart can open."
"I close my eyes, picturing myself taking command of a Chrysalis, towering over buildings and smashing the earth with my colossal limbs or luminous qi blasts. I could crush anyone who’s ever tried to crush me. I could free all the girls who’d love to run away."
“He will not kill me. He does not get to make me a statistic.”
”The only utterly good people in the world are either naive or delusional.”
”The entitled assholes of this world are sustained by girls who forgive too easily.”
“Perks of refusing to play by the rules: you don’t have to choose between the boy who’d torture a man to death with you and the boy who welcomes you back with pastries.”
“But I have no faith in love. Love cannot save me.
I choose vengeance.”
“It takes a monster to slay a monster.”
“If we want something, we have to push back against everything around us and take it by force.”
“Yizhi looks at me like a beautiful immortal who’s floated down from the Heavenly Court, only to stumble upon the concept of cannibalism.” (Wh… what does this mean?)
“His chains rattle in what sounds like a motion of jolting up.” (Who is her editor??? Because whoever they are, fire them.)
"I flexed some connections."
"I was collectively rising above that bullshit."
"You’re the baddest of bad boys. The ultimate alpha male." (Kill me now.)
"But I have no faith in love. Love cannot save me. I choose vengeance."
"If we want something, we have to push back against everything around us and take it by force."
"Do you honestly expect me to believe you're some misunderstood, secretly sweet guy?"
"Yes, because love doesn't solve problems. Solving problems solves problems."
"You'd better not be tangled up in a love triangle."
"Female. That label has never done anything for me except dictate what I can or cannot do. No going anywhere without permission. No showing too much skin. No speaking too loudly or unkindly, or at all, if men are speaking. No living my life without being constantly aware of how pleasing I am to the eye. No future except pushing out son after son for a husband, or dying in a Chrysalis to give some boy the power to reach for Glory.
This is it, the supposed pinnacle of female existence. What I've been taught to wish for, what so many little girls dream about. I have been permitted to share a pilot's glory, instead of merely dying to fuel it.
Some of us were born to be used and discarded. We can't afford to simply go along with the flow of life, because nothing in this world has been created, built, or set up in our favor. If we want something, we have to push back against everything around us and take it by force.
How do you take the fight out of half the population and render them willing slaves? You tell them they're meant to do nothing but serve from the minute they're born. You tell them they're weak. You tell them they're prey. You tell them over and over, until it's the only truth they're capable of living.
"You need to make sure he doesn't misuse those this time," Sima Yi says, leering at me.
"How do you misuse glasses?" I scoff.
"Well, supposedly, you smash the lenses, sharpen the biggest fragment on the floor of your bunker, hide it in your collar, and try to slit a soldier's throat with it."
"All right, let me make this clear: Wu Zetian, you inspire me. Whenever I lose hope that the world can change, I remember you. I remember how you fight for what you want, no matter what anyone says, no matter what stands in your way." He draws me into his arms and murmurs into my hair. "You're my polar star. I'll go wherever you guide me."
How do you take the fight out of half the population and render them willing slaves? You tell them they’re meant to do nothing but serve from the minute they’re born. You tell them they’re weak. You tell them they’re prey. You tell them over and over, until it’s the only truth they’re capable of living.
// buddy read with melanie!!
Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinion in any way.
All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.