Book Review

Foul Lady Fortune

Foul Lady Fortune

  • Author: Chloe Gong
  • Genre: YA Historical Fiction
  • Publication Date: September 27, 2022
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Series: Foul Lady Fortune #1

Thank you to NetGalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: medication experimentation, murder, blood, violence

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends comes the first book in a captivating new duology following an ill-matched pair of spies posing as a married couple to investigate a series of brutal murders in 1930s Shanghai.

It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.

Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging—and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption from her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.

Code name: Fortune.

But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.

To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanor infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.

I was over the moon excited to get this book! However, it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. I think part of that was that my expectations were super high, part of it was the fact that this was a very *busy* novel, and part of it was that one of the main characters was … a lot less than I could have asked for in an MC.

Let’s start with the plot. We have two spies in a fake marriage, and they seriously couldn’t be less suited for each other. Their missions are set against a backdrop of a city in flux—Shanghai, and China overall, is being fought over by the Nationalists, the Communists, and Japanese Imperialists, so there’s a lot to follow. Since Chinese history isn’t something that was well taught in my day, I found it to be a bit confusing. While I wasn’t expecting much of a history lesson, the historical backdrop went by so quickly that I struggled with it at times. It didn’t help that there’s double and triple agents all over the place, so it was even more difficult to keep track of who was on which side and which faction was working where. This contributed to the busyness of the story, making it a little slower of a read than I typically like.

Although Rosalind wasn’t one of my favorite characters in the TVD duology, she quickly caught my attention in this story. She was a good choice for an MC in this story, since she’s struggling with a new internal conflict. She’s facing a new and unasked-for reality, as well as trying to atone for her mistakes in the past, but that creates a whole new set of issues, that land her in the situation that she’s in during this book. And when she finds herself “wed” to Orion, it creates a whole new set of problems. 

Which brings me to Orion. I understand the persona that he puts on as a cover, but underneath, his actual personality is rather lackluster. Gong really shines with her side characters once again. Alisa is a winner in this story as well, along with Celia, Phoebe especially, Oliver, and the underrated Silas. I found myself loving them more than the MCs, just as I did in TVD and OVE. 

The sexual representation in this book was off the charts! Rosalind is demisexual, although it isn’t explicitly stated due to the lack of appropriate terminology at the time. Celia is transgender, and I suspect that Alisa may be asexual, and Orion is unapologetically and openly bisexual, and gets a bit of flak for that from his father. I loved seeing all the LGBTQIA+ representation in the story.

However, one place that Gong fell sadly short was all the historical inaccuracies. This was a heavy book due to all the political information, yet each time I found a phrase or term that was used despite not being invented in 1931, when the book was set, I was completely pulled out of the story, and shocked that not a single proofreader or editor had noticed it. The regular use of slang such as “barf” or “duh,” which weren’t in the vernacular until well after this book was set, and the specific mention of things such as “serial killers,” “plastic bags,” and “eating noodles out of plastic containers” were endlessly frustrating, and spoke a lot about how pervasive our culture can be, to the point where younger generations can’t even conceive of a world, not even a century ago, where these words and items didn’t exist. And while the story isn’t set *that* long ago, it’s long enough ago that the world was different enough that simple things we take for granted didn’t exist and can distract a reader enough to pull them out of a story.

This was somewhat of a long, unwieldy, and sprawling read, and I struggled with it at times. I’m on the fence about wanting to read the next book, even though it ended on a cliffhanger, and had a decent number of plot twists. It was paced significantly faster at the end, although the sheer amount of subplots slowed the pace through much of the story for the first three-quarters. The side characters definitely saved the story, as did the last quarter of the book, despite the historical inaccuracies and the lackluster character of Orion. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but definitely didn’t quite hit the high bar that TVD set, even if I was much less itchy while reading it. And the cover is absolutely gorgeous.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 12

4 replies »

  1. I have also got this book from Netgalley, but I haven’t read it as of yet, it wouldn’t go onto to my kindle, and I’m really not in the mood for reading digital on my ipad at the mo, but I will definitely read it. I was hoping you may have liked it a little more, do you have to read the other two books first? Violent Delights etc?


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