Book Review: THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Chloe Gong

Genre: Historical fantasy retelling
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book in duology

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

A Shakespeare retelling set in 1920s Shanghai with a monster running wild? Even though Romeo and Juliet is not my favourite play (histories take my heart!), I was excited to see the play adapted. The setting was exciting too – a gang war inspired by history between the Chinese and the Russians.

The mystery around the monster was really fun – and gruesome. I mean, victims tearing their own throat out? There are a lot of POVs, so the mystery had a lot of vital parts revealed early, shifting the focus to how order would be restored.

There are some very lyrically written passages where the writing pulls back from a close POV to be more general descriptions of the city. It was such a nice balance and meant the world was vividly drawn.

If the characters had other names, I probably couldn’t have guessed this was a Romeo and Juliet retelling. It’s a very loose retelling, more an “enemies to lovers of opposing factions” than Romeo and Juliet. For example, there wasn’t a balcony scene (I’m guessing the brief conversation where he’s outside and they’re talking through a window was meant to be it) and it stops about half-way through. I’m guessing the second book will finish the book off? But it did make it feel less Romeo and Juliet-esque.

Usually this wouldn’t be a problem – and I tend to like my retellings loose so I can’t predict what’s coming. However, this is a Shakespeare retelling, and I would have liked it to be more obvious, to be more of a bingo-card to tick off the famous scenes. I think if it hadn’t been marketed as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but just a historical fantasy enemies who are in love forced to work together, I might have liked it enough to give it 5 stars, but I was really distracted trying to fit it to the play.

Am I going to read the second book? YES – I want to see the final half of the play adapted.


Read my reviews of other books by Chloe Gong:

These Violent Delights (this series):

Foul Lady Fortune (chronologically after this series):

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