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Book Review: Thrilling espionage and a dark Shakespearean retelling in "Foul Lady Fortune"

Viral author Chloe Gong is back and better than ever after the explosive ending of “Our Violent Ends.” Her newest duology, "Foul Lady Fortune," is another Shakespeare reimagining–this time, “The Taming of the Shrew” set in 1930s Shanghai with some familiar faces.

Gong’s loose retelling–emphasis on “loose”–follows Juliette’s cousin Rosalind Lang four years after the events of “These Violent Delights.” After an experiment brought her back from death, Rosalind uses her newfound immortality to atone for her traitorous past as an assassin for the Nationalists.

But Rosalind’s mission changes once the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion and a series of unexplained murders cause panic in Shanghai. Her new mission is to infiltrate high society and try to find the culprits alongside another spy, Orion Hong. To keep up appearances, she poses as Orion’s wife–despite finding him utterly frustrating and cavalier.

With their own secrets, the couple must unravel the conspiracy. Still, with every twist and turn, Rosalind and Orion find there are more terrifying secrets around every corner.

Rosalind is finally getting her redemption arc after the events of “Our Violent Ends.” In the duology, her previous actions pissed off everyone and their mothers after betraying her cousin and aiding in the decimation of the Scarlet Gang. Still, Gong’s exploration of her treachery, atonement, and fears made Rosalind’s character growth a satisfying arc. Although not a complete redemption arc (hopefully, the sequel will satisfy), Gong does Rosalind justice with her complex examinations.

Additionally, Orion’s cavalier attitude was a delight to read alongside Rosalind’s prickly demeanor. Their relationship screams golden retriever and black cat vibes, with their dialogue and interactions sparking amusement without clichés. Along with Rosalind’s growth, we get hints of Orion’s throughout–but with the cliffhanger ending, readers will have to wait to see these two finally admit their feelings.

Did I mention there are other familiar faces? Celia Lang, Rosalind’s sister, and Alisa Montagova, Roma’s (from “These Violent Delights”) sister, both work as agents for the communists, and readers occasionally follow their own investigations and lives.

As usual, Gong wonderfully illustrates the Chinese politics of the 1930s and provides the perspectives of both sides of the war effort. I’m not nearly as familiar with the history as I would like. Still, Gong doesn’t mince any of the past or sentiments of the period. I will admit, I found myself confused by some of the motivations of either side, a problem I’ll attribute to Gong’s many political lessons throughout “Foul Lady Fortune.”

Despite Gong’s attention to detail and stellar build-up, the first half of “Foul Lady Fortune” dragged, and the plot twists at the climax seemed random. Several big reveals left me with more questions than answers–it seemed like Gong was desperately grabbing for the craziest plot twists rather than the practical ones. I won’t spoil it, but one plot twist in the epilogue made the slightest sense, and I am desperate for Gong to explain it.

A thrilling addition to the “These Violent Delights” world, Gong has done it again with “Foul Lady Fortune.” Although not as immaculate as the first duology, “Foul Lady Fortune” is a captivating first installment–but beware the cliffhanger. It will make you throw the book across the room (in the best way possible).

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