These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published Date: November 17th 2020
Length: 464 pages
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings, Historical, etc.
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.
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.
I must admit to something before I even think about reviewing this book. I have not read Romeo and Juliet, unless you consider the spark notes version is a proper read through then sure. I have done that. I have never been the biggest fan of Romeo and Juliet and I was at least 40% afraid of me not really liking the book or not being able to do it justice that it probably deserved because of my dislike of the original material. Rest assured though that this book while it maintains the theme of the original content manages to be much more enjoyable and just overall a great book! So yay for that!
I think what I really loved was the fact that the characters had personalities, ambitions and histories that made them seem so great. Juliette Cai, the heiress to the Scarlet Gang is an unapologetic, ambitious and independent person, she does not take any bullshit and she is very aware of how tenuous her position as an heir is. Throughout the book, we see her trying to find the ground on which she can be sure of her position and not give in to others (Tyler, a cousin who has dreams of becoming the head of the Scarlet Gang) who see her as someone who’s not really suitable for the position. She has cousins that seem like they are in her corner but they also have lives of their own and sometimes, it does seem like maybe they have a couple of doubts of their own.
Then there’s Roma Montagov, he’s also the heir to a gang, the opposition of Scarlet Gang, of course. The White Flowers. He has a very complicated relationship with his father, his father has a preference for someone else as the heir to White Flowers, there’s so much happening in that gang and I loved all the interactions there. He’s under pressure, consistently to be better than the preferred heir and it just shows. His relationship with his sister, with his fellow gang members is very complicated. There’s a clear divide sometimes as to who really favours him and who favours the other guy. Roma is a soft man who just wants to be sure that his family is safe, that the people he considers his family are not harmed in the long run. However he’s also the one who managed to betray Juliette when they had just gotten together back then.
I loved the side characters in this book, I loved that they had different equations with different members of the cast. They are, almost all of them, polyglots and I admit to being super envious of that. They spoke Mandarin, Russian, French, English and a spot of Dutch, if I remember correctly. I wish I could speak that many languages. Oh, well. I loved the setting, the time period that the author chose. I also loved the fact that she did not hide from the constant encroachment from the western countries and how it affected the Chinese people and its politics. I loved that. It’s always so satisfying to see that western countries trying to colonise and it being shown as the bad thing really gets me. I guess, it’s the Indian in me, I just love seeing western countries being shown how terrible their ancestors really were.
That got too personal. Let’s not get into that.
I can’t say that I loved romance because the whole concept of this kind of love is something that has bothered me for a long while. However! I did enjoy the push and pull of emotions that they both suffered from. How much they truly wanted what was best for the city and their families. And how despite knowing how much trouble they could get into for doing things and they did it anyway. I liked the fact that sometimes there was nobody stopping them from their impulses and it resulted in not so great consequences.
Overall, I really loved the setting, the characters and plot enough that I can’t wait for the next book. Despite getting this as an e-ARC from the publisher, it did not affect my opinion of the book.