She…hoped. And hope was dangerous. Hope was the most vicious evil of them all, the thing that had managed to thrive in Pandora’s box among misery, and disease, and sadness—and what could endure alongside others with such teeth if it didn’t have ghastly claws of its own?
I’m a sucker for a retelling, and this Romeo and Juliet retelling in 1920s Shanghai was getting so much hype that I couldn’t stay away. It was worth every bit of hype and I can’t wait for the sequel now, even if I am full of fear for the end of this story!
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: This book contains mentions and descriptions of blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse. Taken from author’s Goodreads review.
About the book:
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.
What did I think?
I really liked the way that Chloe Gong approached the Romeo and Juliet retelling in These Violent Delights. It was unconventional and that made it really interesting. Rather than seeing the naive lovebirds section of the Romeo and Juliet story, instead Roma and Juliette have a fierce and fractured relationship instead. I won’t go into the reasons why because it’s so beautifully explored in the book. But it allowed for their incredible characterisations, Juliette in particular, to be fully explored.
Juliette is a raw, harsh character, and I absolutely adored that. She had her soft moments and a gentler side, but mostly she was exactly as tough and vicious as the daughter and heir to a gang leader would need to be. She’s cool. Absolutely the kind of character that I’d let step on me. I loved the way she was described, always noticeable in her distinctive flapper dresses and ’20’s hairstyles. It was super visual, even for me, and I loved it. Roma is a softer kind of character and equally loveable, and I adored the way that they both had their softer sides – but were capable of all the brutalities that gang war demands.
For some reason I wasn’t expecting the fantasy elements to this book. I have no idea how I missed that in the promotion, but for some reason I was expecting a standard Romeo and Juliet retelling so the monster in the first chapter was an immediate page-turning hook. I loved it. It had truly gory body horror moments (BUGS!!!) and was a lot of fun overall, with the fantastical mystery threaded through the emotional character driven moments really well.
I did find that it was a bit of a slow start. It took me a while to get into this book despite the good prose and gorgeous settings and characters. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m glad I persevered with it. Once I’d gotten past the first third of the book, it picked up momentum and built to a fantastic ending that left me desperate to read more. I can’t wait for the final part in this duology to find out what happens next.
Release Date: 17th November 2020