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.
Four years ago Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death. But the experiment that saved her also stopped her from ageing, and gave her unnatural healing abilities. Desperate to atone for her past, she did the only thing she could and joined the Nationalists as a killer, Code name Fortune. Torn between the Communists and Nationalists, Shanghai is a city constantly on the brink of war, but when the Japanese start talk of invasion, Rosalind’s task is pivoted from killer to spy. Alongside Orion Hong, Nationalist spy and playboy, Rosalind must infiltrate a Japanese paper, but to not arouse suspicions it has been decided they would do it as a married couple. Something Orion finds humorous and Rosalind finds murderous. The pair are tasked with working together, but can you really work with someone you don’t trust. Both have their secrets, agendas of their own, and the deeper they delve into the paper, the more their carefully woven lies start unravelling, until they realise the danger lurks closer than they could ever imagine.
Gong’s series ‘These Violent Delights’ quickly became a favourite of mine, so I was unspeakably happy to find we would be returning to Shanghai, alongside some of the characters from her first series. Foul Lady Fortune tells Rosalind’s story, a character who I had a complicated relationship with in the previous series. After her deceit and actions led to the untimely death of her cousin, Rosalind needs desperately to atone, but also wants revenge on those who helped bring Shanghai to it’s knees, namely the White Flowers. She see’s being Fortune as a way to both help herself and her country in one fell swoop, but she works best alone, and is a better murderer than spy. She’s a girl desperate to leave her past life behind her, reinventing herself as Janie Mead, a low member of the Scarlet Gang, but she slowly realises that escaping one’s past is never as easy as it seems, and when feelings start getting involved, hiding who you are can be a secret that weighs incredibly heavily. She’s the same complicated character I loved from the previous series, but more dangerous. She’s always been someone who has an air of ‘don’t mess with me’ surrounding her, but is now more lethal than ever, and when she threatens murder, it is not an empty threat.
Alongside Rosalind, we also have multiple other POV’, some characters readers of her previous series will recognise and some wholly new to us. Celia, Rosalind’s sister. Alisa Montagova, Roma’s younger sister and now communist spy. Orion Hong, Rosalind’s partner and fake husband and Phoebe Hong, Orion’s meddlesome younger sister who has a knack for turning up at the most inopportune of moments. As well as these we have Oliver Hong who is Celia’s partner in the Communist party and Silas, a member of the Nationalist party who grew up with both Orion and Phoebe, these two don’t get POV’s, but we get plenty of insight into them as characters. I enjoyed seeing the parallels between these characters and how Rosalind treated and interacted with them. With Alisa and Celia, she could be wholly herself, Rosalind Lang, whereas with Orion and the other members of the Nationalists she had to become someone else, Janie Mead, and at time she certainly struggled to keep up with her new persona.
We easily slip back into Gong’s version of Shanghai. Since the events of Our Violent Ends, not much has changed, the city is still at war, though instead of the gangs, it’s a war between political parties with the ever looming threat of Japan slowly encroaching. Rosalind isn’t with the Nationalists because she believes in their cause, rather because they have given her the chance to atone, to enact her revenge, and so she does as she is asked, something she and Orion have in common. He joined the Nationalist party after his father was accused of being a Japanese spy, to try and save his father as well as the rest of his family from disgrace. Neither are particularly fussed which party wins, they simply want their city safe from invasion, and will do whatever they can to ensure they stay free.
Through the story we follow the mystery of multiple poisonings that have been happening through the Chinese quarter of Shanghai, something both the Nationalists and Communists believe the Japanese are behind. Gong knows how to keep us invested and on our toes, dropping hints, as well as chapters from the suspected poisoners pov that just add to the mystery. Thanks to us seeing the story unfold from both parties we get to see the two sides to the mystery, how both parties have their own information, little clues to the whole, but it’s only when it comes together that the story reaches it’s true and shocking climax. Similarly to her first duology her writing style effortlessly brings Shanghai and the characters that inhabit it to life & she has a knack of making the city a character in itself.
Now I know what you’re all wondering! Is there any romance, and there is, in spades. First up we have Rosalind and Orion, forced to work together and fake a marriage to ensure their cover *swoon*. Rosalind want’s in and out on this mission, she isn’t a spy and certainly doesn’t relish working with anyone, let alone living with them. Orion is a self confessed play boy, flitting from person to person, never setting down roots or entering true relationships. Their interactions were steamy, heartwarming and also absolutely hilarious in parts with Orion determined to call Rosalind ‘beloved’ every chance her can, and Rosalind threatening to kill him on more than one occasion. I loved seeing them open up to one another, slowly breaking down the walls, and realise that maybe not working alone forever is a good thing. It didn’t hit quite as much as Roma and Juliette, but I did enjoy their scenes together. Alongside these two idiots in love, we have yet another pair. Celia and Oliver her partner in the communist party. Their scenes were few and far between, but I almost ended up more invested in them than the main romance and am praying we get to see more of them in the next book.
Ok, it should be illegal to end a book that way. Gong has done it again. She’s created another bunch of characters that absolutely own my heart, a political and magical mystery that had me glued to the pages and, similarly to her first series, has managed to both rip my heart out and scream what the actual fuck as I’m reading the ending.