Spies, Superpowers, and Shakespeare: A Foul Lady Fortune Review

Alice Wolf

Terra Linda High School’s book club, Project Lit, kicked our group read off strong when Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong was chosen as the first book of the year. A novel based on Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, this book follows a pair of spies in 1930s Shanghai who pose as a married couple to investigate a series of mysterious murders. 

The story centers around a woman named Rosalind Lang, and a good portion of the book is told from her point of view. Lang was an exceptionally interesting protagonist to read about, and I really enjoyed seeing her character development throughout the story. She was brought back from the brink of death and the experiment that kept her alive also gave her mysterious powers: she can’t sleep or age and can heal from any wound, making her practically immortal. Lang uses her abilities as a spy and assassin for her country to try to redeem herself for her traitorous actions of the past. When a string of deaths plague Shanghai, Lang is assigned to investigate them and find the culprit. The only catch is she must pretend to be married to fellow agent and notorious flirt Orion Hong to avoid suspicion. The novel follows Lang and Hong as they attempt to unravel the mystery, and maybe even find companionship in each other along the way. I found the premise of this book to be captivating and just from reading the summary I knew it was going to be a book I would enjoy. Lang and Hong had so much chemistry from the start and their relationship was one I found I was very invested in, from the cleverly written banter to the way they began to rely on each other as the story progressed. 

Foul Lady Fortune is a fairly new novel, having been published in September of this year. The author, Chloe Gong, is best known for her Romeo and Juliet retelling series These Violent Delights which is set around 10 years before the events of Foul Lady Fortune and is about a pair of lovers caught between two rival gangs in Shanghai. The duology quickly gained popularity back in 2020 and became an international bestseller. Foul Lady Fortune actually follows one of the side characters from that series, and while you don’t need to have read it to love Foul Lady Fortune, it does include many references and cameos that previous fans will appreciate. I personally had not read the author’s prior series and still found the book to be a great entry point into the immersive and intricately developed world Gong has created. 

Users of Goodreads.com, a book-reviewing website, have given Foul Lady Fortune a very high average rating of 4.40 out of 5 stars and it was also a nominee for the annual Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. I think Gong is very deserving of this acclaim and I gave the book a 5-star review. I found that the loveable protagonists kept me engaged in the story until the very end and the multiple points of view helped me connect with all of the characters and their individual journeys. It was filled with so many plot twists I couldn’t possibly have predicted that had me wanting more even after I had turned the very last page. Thankfully, the second book of the duology is set to release next year, so anxiously waiting readers won’t have to stand by too long before we can read the conclusion and find out what happens after the jaw-dropping cliffhanger that the book ended on.

Full of mystery, intrigue, and starring a cast of brilliantly developed characters, I think Foul Lady Fortune was an excellent pick and look forward to the discussions Project Lit is bound to have together about this brilliant novel.