Arts, Books

Shakespearean Tragedy Meets the Thriller Genre in ‘Foul Lady Fortune’ 

★★★★★

It’s 1931 Shanghai and brutal murders plague the city with unrest and suspicion as the threat of the Japanese Imperial Army intensifies. Through an insidious experiment, Rosalind Lang, a trained assassin, resurrects. Her wounds inexplicably knit back together, and her age remains preserved from the time of her death four years prior. 

Rosalind has become immortal.

Laced with deadly secrets and betrayal, Chloe Gong’s new book, Foul Lady Fortune, explores the complex depths of remorse, vengeance, and love as a retelling of the Shakespearean play, As You Like It.

Following her debut duology—These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends—Gong’s Foul Lady Fortune is a brilliant masterpiece that weaves together the vital strands of the historical noir, fantasy, and thriller genres. Fans of Gong’s debut series can reunite with familiar characters—though the novel is enjoyable without prior introduction to the main character, Rosalind, and other supporting characters.

Gong described her new duology as “a Chinese period drama meets a Marvel movie”—a captivating blend against the classic backdrop of a Shakespearean tragedy. 

Rosalind is the personification of guilt and grief, as her agonizing backstory consistently haunts her treacherous journey throughout the novel. 

“Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps—this was a game that haunted Rosalind late into her eternal nights, a useless exercise of cataloging everything she’d done wrong to end up where she was today,” Gong writes. 

After betraying her family and the Scarlet Gang, Rosalind is forcibly conformed into the perfect lethal weapon for the Japanese Nationalists. Under the code name Lady Fortune, she must pose as the wife of a Nationalist spy, Orion Hong. 

Orion hides behind the facade of a playboy with a plethora of secrets, but he is shrouded in the chaotic dynamic of brutal deceptions and the heart-wrenching betrayal of those closest to him.

“What is family for if not to love us and then break our hearts?” Gong writes. 

If you are a fan of the enemies-to-lovers plotline, this is absolutely the book for you. Less than a page after meeting each other, Rosalind and Orion immediately clash, struggling to navigate a tumultuous relationship laced with deadly secrets and obscured identities. Amid a deadly game of assassinations, politics, and power, readers immediately fall in love with the dynamic between these quotable and unforgettable characters.

“You can’t ask me not to love you by keeping me at arm’s length,” Gong writes. “I’ll love you anyway.”

The cherry on top of this fascinatingly crafted narrative is the gradual build of suspense through brief chapter perspectives following the killer. Foul Lady Fortune meticulously tests the reader’s perceptions—all leading up to a jaw-dropping cliffhanger at the end. 

Intense pain and betrayal aside, the novel is by no means short on sincere and heartfelt moments—even if Rosalind and Orion did not quite label it that way at the time. 

The novel is a 528-page journey through a sinister realm of spies, delightfully amusing dialogue, and intricately dark puzzles. The end result: weeping when you realize that the sequel doesn’t come out until a year from now.

November 6, 2022
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