Foul Lady Fortune flawlessly progresses Chloe Gong’s dazzling Shanghai


Chloe Gong

Foul Lady Fortune in front of a shelf of editions of Chloe Gong’s other works

From Romeo and Juliet to As You Like It. From the 1920s to the 1930s. From mobsters to spies. From violence to intrigue. From death to death. From tragedy to tragedy.

From These Violent Delights to Foul Lady Fortune.

In just two years, author Chloe Gong has published three stunning novels set in a glittering and vibrant city on the verge of destruction. She has just as quickly become one of my favorite authors. These Violent Delights is a duology focusing on a retelling of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It focuses on two warring gangs in 1920s Shanghai and the many young people caught up in this conflict. This series was lovely and immersive and intensely heartbreaking.

Foul Lady Fortune, Gong’s most recent release, is a spin-off of These Violent Delights. Rosalind Lang, a secondary character from These Violent Delights, stars in a retelling of As You Like It. Many other characters from the original series also make an appearance in this shimmering novel set in 1930s Shanghai. Four years after the conclusion of These Violent Delights, Rosalind is now immortal and nearly invulnerable, slinking through the city as a nationalist spy.

Of the many superb aspects of this book, the social commentary was one of the most outstanding. Much of the plot stems from the growing tension between three groups in Shanghai: the nationalists, the communists, and the Japanese, a newly imperialist people seeking to extend their empire into China.

While also teaching important historical concepts, the events of Foul Lady Fortune illustrate the dangerous effects of imperialism as well as concepts of racism and classism, which are displayed in the nature of the killings that are the focus of Rosalind’s mission.

From the foreshadowing to the connections to These Violent Delights, Gong’s stunning world-building and creativity shine throughout this book.

Another exceptional facet of this book was Rosalind’s character growth. In These Violent Delights, she was an easily-dislikeable character who eventually helped create the catalyst for the final tragic event of the series. Throughout Foul Lady Fortune, though, she learned from these events and decided to use her strengths to benefit her city and stop similar events from occurring ever again.

The attention to detail is the final feature of this book that I found absolutely tremendous. From the foreshadowing to the connections to These Violent Delights, Gong’s stunning world-building and creativity shine throughout this book. It is evident how much her writing has grown since the release of her debut novel.

Although the beginning of this book was slightly slow because of said world-building, it was not completely unwelcome—or unexpected—as all of the information and seemingly meaningless events that take place in the exposition of the story are eventually revealed to be important in its climax. A similar occurrence can be seen in both of her other books.

The only disappointing aspect of Foul Lady Fortune was one confusing piece of the ending. The ending as a whole was just as immaculate as the rest of the story, leaving readers including myself—especially myself—with a burning desire for the next book in the series. There was one aspect, however—I am being cryptic on purpose, as it is the biggest spoiler in the entire book—that could have been fleshed out more. I am also disappointed in the reveal of this point; it was a huge plot twist, important in the timeline of both Foul Lady Fortune and These Violent Delights, and the reveal was understated, to say the least.

Other than this, Foul Lady Fortune was a dazzling success. From the dangerous streets of Shangai to the treacherous halls of Seagreen Press to the nearly-home rooms of Rosalind and Orion’s apartment, Gong has masterfully created a world in which good is often evil, dead is sometimes alive, and fortune is always foul.