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Xiran Jay Zhao

Xiran Jay Zhao immigrated to Canada from China. They are a graduate of Simon Fraser University where they studied biochemistry while also writing “outlandish sci-fi and fantasy books.” Zhao describes themself as “raised by the Internet” and maintains numerous social media accounts. Their first novel, Iron Widow, became an instant New York TImes bestseller. It is part of a planned duology.

Fiction (Juvenile / Young adult)

Iron Widow

Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, 2021.

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

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.

Awards and Honours

2022 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize (BC and Yukon Book Prizes)(Finalist)
2022 Locus Awards–Young Adult Novel (Finalist)
2022 Locus Awards–First Novel (Finalist)
2022 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award (Winner)
2022 Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy (Winner)
2023 White Pine Award (Honour Book #1)

Fiction (Juvenile / Middle grade)

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022.

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.


Xiran Jay Zhao personal website

Publisher Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division

Publisher Penguin Random House Canada

Author Profile by Inderjit Deogum in Quill & Quire website, posted 25 May 2022