Book Review: “These Violent Delights” by Chloe Gong

Credit%3A+Ethan+Wu

Credit: Ethan Wu

Addie Salvosa, Staff Reporter

“Indeed, I never shall be satisfied” 

  • (Shakespeare, 1597/2011 3.5.98)

 

The stars incline us, they do not bind us” (Gong 2020, p. 360).

 

Book synopsis: 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.

Writer’s note – The review below contains some spoilers for the book “These Violent Delights” Read at your own risk!

 

Welcome to 1920’s Shanghai, a setting painted vividly by debut author Chloe Gong leaving readers in for a delightful treat. This Romeo and Juliet retelling follows the two heirs to the most prominent gangs in Shanghai, the White Flowers and the Scarlet Gang as they are confronted with a monster that places their city unto havoc. 

 

Having recently returned to China after being sent abroad, Juliette Cai encounters her nemesis and first love Roma Montagov shortly after returning, and the two are compelled to work together to combat a new monster that threatens their treasured city, Shanghai. As the story progresses, they realize that the monster is not their only obstacle as their feelings for each other come to light and they both struggle to protect their hearts from each other. The enemies to lovers trope reveals itself, seamlessly weaving its way through the plot adding to the depth of this Young Adult fantasy novel. 

 

This retelling references the original, but paves its own way and has unexpected plot twists. Its creativity makes it enjoyable for all, even those who have not read the original Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The references to the original were unique and the little easter eggs to the original I found in the book made me squeal with excitement. 

 

The mystery of the monster kept me on the edge of my seat and all of the book’s twists and turns made it painful to put it down, even for a short moment. Roma and Juliette along with their respective crews relentlessly look for ways to save their city from ruin, and Gong slowly but surely builds the background story of each character and increases the intensity of each scene leaving you breathless when you reach the climax. The imagery made the words jump off the page and the description of how the sickness was transmitted made me overthink just the slightest itch in my hair. 

 

A book is only as good as its side characters are, and this cast was absolutely fascinating. Gong highlighted the bond between family and masterfully weaves representation of the LGBTQ+ community. I cannot wait for Gong to explore the future of these side characters in the sequel!

 

This book included blood and violence and may not be for all readers, but is definitely not the essence of the book. Gong beautifully portrays and pays tribute to many different cultures such as Korean, Chinese, Russian, French, and paints the characters in such a heartfelt way. She also discreetly points out flaws in their society and adds back to how universal this story and the original story are.

 

I was not prepared for the heartfelt and tender relationships, love confessions, and unbearable tension between these imperfect characters, and still have a few tear stains in my book. The quote listed at the top of this review was my reaction as I completed this book and I definitely need more from this universe, thank goodness for the sequel! The close calls between death and this cast reverberated to the depths of my soul, and I audibly sighed in relief when I witnessed that they were still alive. 

 

Ok, one last comment before I go, that cliffhanger was just shocking! What a way to end this novel and if Chloe Gong did not have your attention before I bet she does now! I am absolutely ecstatic to see what these star-crossed lovers, along with the rest of these characters, will tackle in the next book.

 

All in all, this book is a must-read and you will not regret reading it!  Be sure to read the spellbinding conclusion to the These Violent Delights duology, Our Violent Ends, which is out now.