io9 has highlighted the work of best-selling fantasy author Chloe Gong in the past—last year, we announced and shared an excerpt from her adult debut, Immortal Longings, which is out in July. But Gong has another 2023 release: Foul Heart Huntsman, the second book in her Foul Lady Fortune duology following the adventures of an immortal assassin in 1930s Shanghai. We’ve got the cover and an excerpt to share today!
Here’s a description of the story:
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.
Here’s the full cover, followed by the excerpt!
Ice had frosted over Rosalind Lang’s bedroom window, drawing a bizarre shape that resembled a broken heart—the anatomical kind, with half-severed arteries stretching into the corners. Its edges were starting to melt, though, thawing under the first sunny day they had had in a while and dripping rivulets of condensation down the glass.
Rosalind was watching the street below. She didn’t know how they expected her to leave without causing a fiasco. The media had been relentless for weeks, different outlets flocking outside her apartment building hoping to be the first to snap a recent picture of Lady Fortune. Ever since she was discharged from the hospital and told to rest up, she hadn’t left her apartment once, relying on Lao Lao to do the shopping and bring news from the outside. She hadn’t needed the rest. As soon as they took the bullets out, her body had healed at supernatural speed, returning her to normal function. If it were up to her, she wouldn’t be sitting idle, but her superiors had given her a very stern warning about needing to lie low. Today, she had been summoned in for a meeting at last to discuss their next steps. The papers had splashed her entire identity in the headlines: Lang Shalin, former Scarlet showgirl turned Nationalist assassin—not dead as the city had been left to believe, but wreaking chaos and killing merchants up and down the country’s coast for four years.
With Fortune’s real face in the open, she could hardly continue her missions as per usual. She had been pacing her bedroom relentlessly these few weeks, drawing up plans and then tossing them out, knowing that she would be barred from acting upon them. She had already made the mistake of telling Jiemin that Alisa held Lady Hong’s last vial, a show of good faith while she begged for them to go after Orion, and yet that had achieved nothing except sending the Nationalists on the chase after Alisa. She wasn’t going to relinquish the remaining card up her sleeve.
I can help you get him back.
Find me in Zhouzhuang.
The note sat crinkled on her desk now. Its words were hardly legible after all her folding and unfolding, but it didn’t matter. She had long memorized those three lines; night after night, when she stared at the walls blankly in her version of rest, the note would flash in her mind with every blink. Without even sleep for an escape, there was nothing for Rosalind Lang to do within these four walls but think and think and think.
How was she supposed to get to Zhouzhuang without directly going against the Nationalists? As frustrated as she was, they were still her employers, and she couldn’t break away so rashly. Besides, what if it was a trap? What if she fled to the countryside only to find nothing but a dead end? She didn’t even know what JM was supposed to mean. She didn’t know anyone with those initials. A nurse at the hospital had inscribed this note after taking the message on the telephone. Anyone could have made the call. News had already broken about her identity by then. All someone needed to do was locate which hospital was plucking bullets out of Fortune and ask for the message to be passed along. Hell—maybe it was only a reporter who wanted to meet for the exclusive scoop.
Still… this was better than nothing. The Nationalists had made it clear that they had given up on Orion Hong. He is a liability. There is nothing we can do except try to eliminate him.
“He is one of your best agents,” Rosalind had yelled at Jiemin’s retreating back when he came with instructions to stay put. “How can you tell me there is absolutely nothing to be done?”
He had paused at the doorway. Shaken his head sadly.
“Even if—somehow—we physically remove him from his mother’s side, his mind has been altered to follow her every instruction. And if his mind is always going to be under her influence, we cannot trust him on our side ever again. Think of Hong Liwen as having perished in combat. It’ll be easier.”
A traitorous part of her wished Dao Feng was still here. He wouldn’t have told her to stay put. He would have made a plan to rescue Orion. Except her handler had switched sides—or rather, her handler had been on the opposite side all along. The question of whether Dao Feng had truly cared for her or for Orion as his disciples was up for perpetual debate.
“Damn you,” Rosalind muttered beneath her breath. She wasn’t sure who she was talking to. Dao Feng, maybe. Or the world at large for setting her in this role.
On the street below, a car started to pull up alongside the reporters, stirring interest in the crowd. A girl tumbled out from the passenger seat in a flurry of pink tulle, coming into the building with her key and slamming the door closed before any of the reporters could follow suit. Seconds later, there was the sound of heels clacking up the exterior stairs, then the apartment door opening too.
“Sǎozi, you better be dressed already.”
Rosalind was not dressed. “You don’t have to keep calling me that. I give you full permission to defy cultural terms of respectful fake kinship and use my name.”
Phoebe Hong appeared at the bedroom doorway. She propped her hands on her hips. In stark contrast to Rosalind’s lack of preparedness, Phoebe wore a rose-colored dress with a series of complex ribbons down the front, a blot of color suddenly bursting onto a monochromatic scene. She took in the sight before her—Rosalind perched at the edge of her messy desk, her hair spilling down her back and her legs bare—and strode forward immediately.
“Is that my brother’s shirt?” Phoebe demanded.
Excerpt from Chloe Gong’s Foul Heart Huntsman reprinted with permission of Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Foul Heart Huntsman by Chloe Gong releases September 26; you can pre-order a copy here. Gong fans should also take note: the author’s best-selling 2020 release These Violent Delights arrives in paperback for the first time on May 30, and according to the publisher it will contain “never-before-seen content.” You can pre-order a copy of that title here.
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