Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Series?These Violent Delights (#1)
My Rating: ★★★★
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
Age Range: Young Adult
Publication: 17 November 2020 (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
CW: alcohol/drugs, death, blood, gore, insects, murder, racism, self-harm, suicide, torture, violence, racism (For all warnings, check here).
Romeo and Juliet… with a dagger-on-the-thigh, enemies-to-lovers twist.
The second I heard about These Violent Delights, a 1920s Romeo and Juliet retelling, I added it to my cart. Sure, it took me a while to get around to reading it… But my own procrastination aside, I was super stoked to read it and I’m excited to tell you all about it!
It’s 1926 and Shanghai is controlled by two opposing gangs: the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers. After a four-year sabbatical that took her to America, Juliette Cai has returned to assume her role as heir of the Scarlet Gang. But her arrival is marred with chaos. The Communist Party is on the rise and after a stinging betrayal by Juliette’s former lover, White Flower heir Roma Montagov, tension between the two factions is at an all-time high. The two gangs must cooperate when a mysterious illness grips hold of the city, sinking its claws into the very gangs that rule it.
Juliette Cai is a force to be reckoned with.
I loved reading about her dagger-yielding escapades, running around Shanghai, interrogating powerful men, and all around just getting shit done. Behind the badassery, Juliette is a super complex character. In Shanghai, you’re either one or the other: a Scarlet or a White Flower; foreign or Chinese; Communist or anti-Communist. In the midst of the factionalism, Juliette struggles to reconcile the two halves of herself—the half that is loyal to her city and people, and that which looks out at the New York skyline and yearns.
Roma Montagov, however, is Juliette’s polar opposite. Unlike Juliette, who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, Roman prefers to steer away from violence. His role as the White Flower heir is complex and he has a complicated past to boot. At the root of it all, he’s a cutie with a soft heart but that’s not to diminish all the struggles and hardship he’s endured in his life.
A few chapters in, I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel about this book.
I’m not good with blood or gore at all, which was a pretty essential part of the plot. Luckily, I pushed past my reservations and was able to fully immerse myself in the story. Diversifying my reading is an ongoing goal of mine, one I’ve been working at over the past couple years.
What we have here is an excellent low fantasy, but the real story is the tensions within Shanghai. Chloe Gong creates a sweeping story about blood feuds, communism, and overall divisiveness, all the while introducing Western readers to a taste of Chinese culture.
It can’t be overstated how effectively Chloe Gong transposes Shakespearean elements to her 20th century story.
She adds in little tidbits here and there throughout the story, such as Juliette intentionally misnaming Paul as Paris, that remind you of the inspiration for the story. However, by setting the scene in Shanghai, introducing LGBTQIA+ characters, and incorporating modern themes, Chloe Gong managed to keep a 400-year-old story relevant to young audiences.
We must chat about romance. If you know me, you’ll know I’m trash for the enemies-to-lovers trope. And Chloe Gong nailed it, creating a story where the main characters are once-lovers who are driven apart and become literal enemies. Like, opposing gangs, trying to kill each other type of enemy.
Unlike the original Romeo and Juliet tale, Juliette and Roma are, for the most part, perfectly happy to hate one another. They aren’t yearning lovers driven apart by their feuding families. When they’re not secretly thinking about each other, they’re plotting each other’s demise. I can’t wait to see the relationship progress in Our Violent Ends.
This was an engaging fantasy driven by a diverse cast and I am so looking forward to watching the story progress in the next novel!
Synopsis: A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Did you read Chloe Gong’s debut novel? What did you think?
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