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‘Foul Lady Fortune’ is minor upgrade from ‘These Violent Delights’ duology

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OCTOBER 11, 2022

Grade: 3.0/5.0

A spy, an assassin and a fake marriage make for a tale as old as time. Released Sept. 27, the first novel of Chloe Gong’s newest duology, “Foul Lady Fortune,” is a political and mystery laden escapade, complete with a slow burn romance, plenty of twists and an excellent historical backdrop. 

But even with one duology under her belt, Gong has not quite learned from her mistakes. While her choice of the “fake marriage” dynamic gives her an undeniable advantage, Gong’s overreliance on long expository moments and shock value tarnish “Foul Lady Fortune.” 

Set in 1930s Shanghai, “Foul Lady Fortune” centers on Rosalind Lang, famously known as the cousin of Juliette Cai — the protagonist of Gong’s prior duology, “These Violent Delights” and “Our Violent Ends.” Lang, having undergone an experiment that allows her to cheat death, is now an assassin for the Chinese Nationalists. Threatened with the Japanese Imperial Army destroying the country she knows and loves, Lang must play the part of the wife of the irreverent Orion Hong, another Nationalist spy. Much to Lang’s chagrin, the two must work together, but it’s clear that their matrimonial setup is the perfect recipe for love to blossom while they tackle the looming mystery surrounding them.

The “These Violent Delights” duology fell short in Gong’s wordy, awkward prose that simply tries too hard to set the tone of each novel and explain various aspects of the plot. Gong’s prose shows signs of improvement, as it no longer relies on fluff and dramatic pretenses to carry the story along. However, Gong still falls prey to adding unnecessary lines to emphasize how a character is feeling or a risky action they took. Instead of holding emotional value or depth, these lines detract from the sophistication of Gong’s novel, and do not outwardly affect the plot as much as they do in her previous works.

One of the highlights of “Foul Lady Fortune” is the development of its characters; Gong crafts well-rounded and enjoyable side characters alongside the captivating main duo. Gong offers the point of view of multiple characters, and while this can often lead to a novel lacking coherence and clarity, she is able to switch between characters without losing the fluidity of the plot. In addition, Gong pays special attention to LGBTQ+ representation, with leading demisexual, bisexual and transgender characters whose sexual identities blend seamlessly into their personalities without acting as compensation for lack of character development. Lang’s characterization is particularly excellent, and her internal monologue is both devastating and empathetic. 

Gong relies on her usual method of slow and steady exposition before dropping readers headfirst into a series of plot twists. While this makes the first three-fourths of the book all the more interesting, the final few chapters come across as disjointed, simply because there is too much happening at once. If Gong unfolded these developments throughout the novel instead of concentrating them towards the end, “Foul Lady Fortune” would have been more palatable and less confusing. 

While “Foul Lady Fortune” may have missed the mark, readers can maintain their anticipation for the potential of the next installment in the series. Gong’s final twists, though messy at times, make for an interesting cliffhanger and segue into the continuation of Lang’s journey. If she plays her cards right and decides to leave her parlor tricks in the past, Gong’s next novel may finally capture the untapped promise shown in “Foul Lady Fortune.”

Contact Pooja Bale at 


OCTOBER 11, 2022