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About The Book

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends comes the “fast-paced…impressive” (Kirkus Reviews) second book in the captivating Foul Lady Fortune duology following an immortal assassin in 1930s Shanghai as she races to save her country and her love.

Winter is drawing thick in 1932 Shanghai, as is the ever-nearing threat of a Japanese invasion.

Rosalind Lang has suffered the worst possible fate for a national spy: she’s been exposed. With the media storm camped outside her apartment for the infamous Lady Fortune, she’s barely left her bedroom in weeks, plotting her next course of action after Orion was taken and his memories of Rosalind wiped. Though their marriage might have been a sham, his absence hurts her more than any physical wound. She won’t rest until she gets him back.

But with her identity in the open, the task is near impossible. The only way to leave the city and rescue Orion is under the guise of a national tour. It’s easy to convince her superiors that the countryside needs unity more than ever, and who better than an immortal girl to stir pride and strength into the people?

When the tour goes wrong, however, everything Rosalind once knew is thrown up in the air. Taking refuge outside Shanghai, old ghosts come into the open and adversaries turn to allies. To save Orion, they must find a cure to his mother’s traitorous invention and take this dangerous chemical weapon away from impending foreign invasion—but the clock is ticking, and if Rosalind fails, it’s not only Orion she loses, but her nation itself.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for

Foul Heart Huntsman

By Chloe Gong

About the Book

When Rosalind Lang learns the Nationalist Party plans to decommission her as a spy, she plots to rescue her beloved, Orion Hong, who still suffers as a result of chemical experiments and his mother’s control. Rosalind uses her revealed identity as Lady Fortune to her advantage by participating in a tour meant to boost Chinese morale amidst civil war and threats of Japanese invasion. In reality, she aims to lure Lady Hong and Orion out from hiding. In this sequel to Foul Lady Fortune, Communist operatives Oliver Hong, Celia Lang, and Alisa Montagova, Nationalist triple spy Silas Wu, and secret assassin Phoebe Hong return, and loyalty and duty are tested in a thrilling race as Rosalind and Orion attempt to save each other and their country.

Discussion Questions

1. Both Lady Hong and her husband are referred to as “hanjian.” Research the meaning of this word. What makes it more unique than a general translation of the word traitor? If you speak another language, can you think of examples of other words that do not have direct translations? Why do you think this is?

2. When Rosalind discovers she is being decommissioned by the Nationalists, she feels useless and like she is only capable of running away. Using examples from the text, explain where these feelings come from.

3. Rosalind calls the chemical killings a “callous scientific endeavor,” because all sides of the war are trying to secure victory, even if it means putting civilians at risk. (Chapter four) Yet Western foreigners and wealthy citizens are protected in safe zones. Who is affected the most in war, and why? Is this the same in real life? Explain your answer.

4. Phoebe muses, “But people were more complicated than how political allegiances looked on paper; people protected one another in ways that made no sense and held on to larger beliefs even while committing smaller infractions along the way.” (Chapter five) What are specific instances in the book where characters chose to protect a friend or family member over their political allegiance? How are the characters able to maintain close relationships despite having different political leanings? Do you experience a clash of political ideals in your own relationships? How do you manage?

5. Why didn’t Celia think love was an option for her? How does her father’s transphobia play a part in her feeling this way? When does Celia accept that romantic love is possible for her? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

6. As the Japanese invasion materializes, Shanghai’s citizens are pushed to fight back and the city observes, “Isn’t that how it always goes? Their people are real people. Our people are not real people.” (Chapter nine) What does this mean?

7. Ah Dou tells Phoebe, “‘People can be capable of terrible things and hold love in their hearts at the same time. That’s the complexity of mankind.’” (Chapter eleven) In pairs, discuss this quote and your reaction to it. Do you agree? If you were Phoebe, how would it make you feel?

8. Mr. Akiyama tells Lady Hong, “‘Don’t forget, you’re a scientist, not a mother.’” (Chapter fourteen) In small groups, talk about the different societal expectations related to gender. Is this statement something that would be said to a father? Why can’t she be both? What makes someone a parent? Think about Celia and Rosalind’s father and how he is represented in the book. Compare him and Lady Hong.

9. When Juliette tells Rosalind she forgives her, it allows Rosalind to face her guilt and breathe. What if Juliette had truly died? How could Rosalind heal? How could she forgive herself?

10. Analyze Alisa’s confession to Roma about why she never went to Moscow. How did fear and hope keep her going?

11. Nationalists arrested Commercial Press employees to stop them from spreading Communist propaganda. This can be seen as censorship. How is this a tactic of control? What are the consequences of censorship? How does censorship manifest in real life? Discuss in small groups and be prepared to share your thoughts with the class.

12. How is Rosalind’s physical state a metaphor for her emotional and mental state? Use examples from the text to describe her character development. What metaphors exist for the other characters?

13. Think about the main characters’ skills. For example, Silas is intelligent and an abstract thinker. What are the rest of the characters’ strengths and skills? If you were a spy, what would your strength be?

14. Celia offers the perspective that Lady Hong’s men may not have enlisted willingly, to which Rosalind thinks, “Empathy didn’t mean mercy.” (Chapter twenty-nine) What do empathy and mercy mean, especially in the context of war? Who deserves either? Share your thoughts with the class.

15. While Orion deals with amnesia, one of the real memories that resurfaces is his first encounter with Rosalind when they were children. Explain the significance of this memory. How does it help him connect to Rosalind and get a piece of his identity and agency back?

16. Describe the different forms of love that exist using examples from the text. How is Orion able to love Rosalind again despite not remembering her? How do people fall in or out of love?

17. A repeated message in the book is that no single person or small group should make decisions for a country’s future. How does this message connect to real life? What is an example of a situation where this has happened? What were the outcomes?

18. Alisa contradicts Celia’s claims that lying would cause operatives to die for nothing by stating “‘No, they would be dying for duty. No one fights a war believing every move will advance the battlefield.’” (Chapter thirty-six) Who do you agree with and why?

19. Lady Hong, Roma, and Juliette all pretend to be dead. Compare the two situations, including their reasons, how people were affected, and overall consequences. What are your thoughts on their decisions to lie?

20. Orion pinpoints the similarity between Oliver and Rosalind as “holding the entire world on their shoulders and blaming themselves when it felt too heavy.” (Chapter forty-three) Pull examples from the text where Oliver and Rosalind prove this observation correct.

21. Orion reflects on his mother’s actions and believes he was born as an asset. What does this mean? Think about your identities and the expectations placed on you by family, friends, and/or society. Can you relate to Orion? Do you believe people are born with a purpose already laid out for them? Explain your answers.

Extension Activities

1. Foul Heart Huntsman deals with the theme of betrayal to one’s nation, relationships, self, and more. Think about a value, relationship, or cause you are committed to. Is there anything that would cause you to change your stance? Would it be considered a betrayal? Are there times when betrayal is justified? Write a one-page reflection essay that answers these questions.

2. Rosalind viewed Dao Feng as a father figure who, despite truly loving her, still chose to abandon her. Was their final interaction enough for Rosalind to understand his reasons for leaving? Did he truly betray her? Imagine that Phoebe hands Rosalind a letter in the epilogue from Dao Feng. Write what the letter would say.

3. With discussions of triple agents, loyalty to family, crossing factions, and all the active parties involved, this story has a lot to keep track of! In pairs, design an insert for the book that helps readers make sense of the plot and the connections between characters. Will your insert look like a map, a family tree, a web, character profiles, or something else?

4. The Nationalists agree to send Rosalind on a tour because “‘now they have a prime narrative. A Chinese assassin who has been wiping out imperialists and traitors. Builds wartime morale.’” (Chapter four) Select a war within the last one hundred years and find what narratives were created and promoted to build wartime morale and to convince all parties that war was the best choice. Create a short presentation about your findings.

5. When Phoebe wants to find more information on her mother’s early research, she uses her Nationalist connection, Silas, for entry into the archives. As a class, research what archives, rare book collections, or local historical societies exist where you live. Try to schedule an informational visit or gain access to materials. Do they have resources online? How accessible or easy was it to connect with an employee or perform research? Compile a short report of your findings to discuss as a class.

Guide written by Cynthia Medrano, librarian and committee member of Rise: A Feminist Book Project.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or simonandschuster.net/thebookpantry.

About The Author

One Grid Studio

Chloe Gong is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Secret Shanghai novels, as well as the Flesh and False Gods trilogy. Her books have been published in over twenty countries and have been featured in the New York Times, People, Cosmopolitan, and more. She was named one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 for 2024. Chloe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, she is now located in New York City, pretending to be a real adult. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (September 26, 2023)
  • Length: 560 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665905633
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"An electrifying, swashbuckling tale of intrigue and assassins, romance and betrayal."

– Cassandra Clare, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Hours series, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

“Amazing, show-stopping, spectacular. Chloe Gong does it again with her fantastical take on the classic Chinese genre of Minguo-era spy thrillers, where no loyalties are certain and no one can be trusted in the shadowy political battle between the Nationalists, communists, and imperialists. A enthralling mystery that is sure to stun as it unravels."

– Xiran Jay Zhao, #1 New York Times bestselling author of IRON WIDOW, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"This book is a dark delight. I found myself transported to a different place and time, which is exactly what I look for in my favorite books. Gong's writing is evocative, and her dialogue crackles. Mesmerizing and mysterious in equal turns, Foul Lady Fortune is a captivating read, and I look forward to the next installment in the series."

– Renée Ahdieh, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Beautiful Quartet, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"Equal parts intoxicating and dazzling, Gong's newest duology is enchanting and unmissable. Each page is a finely honed blade that goes straight to the heart."

– Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of THE GILDED WOLVES, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

Foul Lady Fortune had my heart pounding from the first chapter. With brilliant pacing and utterly dynamic characters, Gong transports us to 1930s Shanghai—into a high stakes game of war, love, and espionage—and conquers every page with cinematic precision.”

– Elizabeth Lim, New York Times bestselling author of SIX CRIMSON CRANES, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"Chloe Gong's Foul Lady Fortune is an electric, action-packed jewel of a story, brimming with vivid prose, exhilarating twists and turns, and incredible characters who will steal your heart. This book dazzles."

– Claire Legrand, New York Times bestselling author of FURYBORN, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"Foul Lady Fortune is a thrilling historical fantasy packed with action, intrigue, and swoon-worthy romance. I will read anything Chloe Gong writes."

– June Hur, bestselling author of THE RED PALACE, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"With tense, lush storytelling, a complicated heroine and her swoon worthy foil, Foul Lady Fortune invites you into a dark chapter of twentieth century China where intrigue lies behind every corner. Intoxicating!"

– Stacey Lee, New York Times bestselling author of THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"A glamorous spy thriller that will leave you breathless. Chloe Gong masterfully blends romance, political drama, and Black Widow-esque action sequences into a familiar world with new characters you’ll fall completely in love with."

– Dustin Thao, New York Times bestselling author of YOU'VE REACHED SAM, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

"When I think Republican era spy story, I think thrills, triple agents, and twists. Foul Lady Fortune delivers on all these fronts and more. The chemistry was crackling, the revelations hair-raising, and I was so taken by the world that I did not see the reveals coming, in the best way possible. Chloe Gong has outdone herself, without a doubt."

– Joan He, New York Times bestselling author of THE ONES WE'RE MEANT TO FIND, on FOUL LADY FORTUNE

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