These Violent Delights
- Author: Chloe Gong
- Genre: YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction
- Publication Date: November 17, 2020
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
- Series: These Violent Delights #1
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am providing my honest opinion voluntarily.
TRIGGER WARNING: gore, violence
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
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.
There’s been a huge amount of hype surrounding this book, and I’m thrilled to say that it was absolutely well-deserved. I’ve had to read my fair share of Shakespeare in high school, and Romeo and Juliet was one of the few that I actually enjoyed. So when I heard that there was a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but in Shanghai, with gangsters and a monster, how could I possibly resist?
There was so much to love about this book, even though it made me incredibly … itchy. The original setting is updated from Renaissance Italy to Shanghai in the 1920s, which makes it feel a lot more relatable right from the start. Add in the diversity of the characters, the gritty feel of having the main characters as heirs of rival crime families, the lovers to enemies and back to star-crossed lovers trope, and a monster sowing chaos in a city that’s already divided by political factions warring for control, and you’ve got a recipe for a gripping story.
While high school was a very long time ago for me, I don’t remember much about Juliet having an actual personality in the original play. However, Chloe Gong has infused Juliette Cai with a fierce personality, brains, and loyalty to her family, gang, and city. She was hands down my favorite character of the entire story, and it didn’t hurt that she was certainly no damsel in distress — she was the heroine of the story. She’s got a vicious streak and knows exactly how to get what she wants from just about anyone, except Roma Montagov. He’s another intriguing character, and I so wanted to see them wind up together.
Even in the midst of all the action, of which there was so much, I never lost sight of the romance simmering in the background. There was so much tension between the two characters, and they’re both dealing with so much complicated baggage. I honestly felt for these two characters, and while I struggled to really empathize with Rosalind, I liked Kathleen a lot, and absolutely adored the dynamic between Benedikt and Marshall. I also really liked the clever twist on the original names.
I only figured out one of the plot twists while reading, but I really didn’t see any of the others coming. And just when I thought the book was going to end with everything wrapped up in a nice neat package, the author threw in a hell of a cliffhanger! What the heck was that?!?!
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 13