Serena’s Review: “Foul Lady Fortune”

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Book: “Foul Lady Fortune” by Chloe Gong

Publishing Info: Margaret K. McElderry Books, September 2022

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: 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.

Review:

As I mentioned in my give away post for this book, not only did I not know that it was a follow-up to a previously completed duology, but I also didn’t know it had any connections to “Romeo and Juliet.” My better-informed blogging partner quickly caught me up, adding that I would likely be fine jumping into this new duology without going back to the first (though she also did generally recommend it.) So, starting out, all I knew was that our previous main characters shockingly died a tragic death at the end of the first series, and that this duology would start up a few years later following the character who showed up in that series in the role of Rosaline. Not much, I know, but enough to pique my interest for sure!

Four years ago, Shanghai was turned on its head by the powerful decision of two young people upending a system that had felt intractable. For Rosalind, there was an even more personal change at work. After an experiment to save her life, Rosalind awoke with the inability to sleep or age and the ability to heal from all wounds. With these curses and blessings in hand, Rosalind has set her life to work for her country, attempting to make up for past wrongs. To do this, she has become the infamous assassin code named “Fortune.” But when the political climate begins to shift into ever more dangerous territory, Rosalind finds herself reassigned to work as a spy alongside another, Orion Hong, whose playboy lifestyle she appreciates less and less. Especially when she discovers they will be undercover as husband and wife.

So, I’ll confirm that this book is definitely approachable for readers who are not familiar with the original duology. That said, there are definitely aspects of the story that would have been enhanced having had that history. While the author didn’t overly rely on previously established interest in characters to sell them to readers this go around, I could definitely point out the characters who would have popped up in the first series and were clearly meant to pique extra interest here. Beyond that, I found some of the political parties and various gang affiliations to be a bit confusing, and I’m sure had I read the first books this would have been more clear. But, that said, I was able to piece together enough to get the general idea and feel invested in the book and characters.

I want to applaud the author for writing an assassin who, you know, actually kills people? Seems kind of shocking that this is some testament to particular skill, but it has been long established on this blog how irritated I’ve been by books that are heavily promoted as being about morally grey assassins and then turn out to be about purely moral, only-justified/self-defense-killing, Mary Sues. Here, we have Rosalind taking out a character in the very first few chapters. And while she does have personal reasons, it’s also clearly a job that she has been sent on and she doesn’t weep or wail about the dirty aspects of it.

However, I was much more invested in the spying portion of this book. Which is good, since that is by far the more central theme of the story. There were a lot of moving pieces to the mystery at the heart of the spy operation. Lots of double-crossing and you’re never quite sure who works for who and where anyone’s true loyalties lie. The author did a good job of creating a tense and suspicious atmosphere, ratcheting up the suspense as the book went on.

I will say, I wasn’t overly invested in the romance or the male lead in general. Even if it was to hide more of his character than he wanted to share, I’ve read a few too many swaggering playboys to be overly enamored with him. I also felt like the book was a bit too long, and could have used some tightening up, overall. But, for the most part, I very much enjoyed this book. Fans of the first duology I’m sure will love it. And don’t forget, we’re hosting a giveaway for an ARC copy of this book. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends on September 21. Enter now!

Rating 8: An excellent YA spy novel with a lot of twists along the way, including a major one at the end!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Foul Lady Fortune” isn’t on any Goodreads lists currently, but it should be on Poison!

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