Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: November 17th, 2020
Page count: 464
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound
Trigger warnings: Blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.
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.
These Violent Delights was one of my most anticipated releases of this year from the moment I first read the summary. Now that I read it, I can certainly say that it exceeded my (very high) expectations, and it definitely had the most original premise for a release of 2020.
The book takes the reader to 1926 in Shanghai, where Madness is sweeping the city and leaving death, violence and horror to its wake. In order to stop the horrible deaths (please beware of the trigger warnings while reading the book, as some scenes might really sensitive to some), gang heirs and sworn enemies Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov must team up. They have a story behind them, being lovers from the past, which makes things even more (exciting!!) tense between them.
Now give me a minute to talk about the two main characters, both individually and as a couple. Juliette is fierce, she’s fearless and smart as hell, and will kill you with no hesitation. I LOVED HER. She’s not only ruthless, but calm and methodical and won’t do anything by mere impulse, which is a lethal combination that ended up creating my favorite female protagonist ever. Roma, on the other part, is more emotional and has to put up a cold front in order to keep “being worthy” of being the heir to the White Flowers. He constantly feels that he doesn’t meet his father’s expectations of an heir, and his more peaceful ideals bring tension between him and Juliette.
As a couple, they quickly became one of my favorite ones. Their emotions transcend the page and steal your heart; Gong did an amazing job at making Juliette and Roma’s feelings tangible to the reader. Each time they were together, my eyes were glued to the page, and when they weren’t, I yearned for their next interaction. Roma and Juliette quickly joined the ranks of Feysand and Jessa as one of my favorite fictional couples of all times.
There were three strong points on this book, the madness mystery, the political element, and the romance. Gong aced each and every one of these points. The political element wasn’t dense and merged perfectly with the rest of the story, also adding diversity to the book, giving us the chance to know Chinese, Russian, American and French characters. I found especially interesting how the author showed Juliette’s experiences as a Chinese girl that was shipped to live in the West in the early years of her life, and how that shaped her in a way.
The Madness, and how Juliette and Roma embarked on a mission to figure out the cause and put a halt to it, added a mystery element to the book that got me making theories all along. On her review, Beth from Books Nest noticed how Gong possibly took inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet quote “A plague on both your houses” and I found that mindblowing, how the author was able to create a whole plot based on those six words. The Madness is a type of virus that doesn’t care if you’re a White Flower or a Scarlet Gang member, it’ll reach you and destroy you, and that was such a raw reflection of real life and more especially the current global situation (which I’m sure wasn’t intentional, but it comes on the perfect time to reflect on it).
Overall, this book took my heart and destroyed it (in a good way). If you like stories with intriguing and dynamic plots, spooky mysteries with fantasy/sci-fi elements, and breathtaking romances, please go read These Violent Delights right now. I promise you won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: I received a free Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange of my honest review. All thoughts stated are my own.