This was January’s book club book over in a writers’ Discord by Rebecca Mix called The Word Garden (previously Chaos Sprinters) is These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. I love Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. Yes, it’s tragedy, and some things are questionable when you think about it but it’s a classic. So, when I first saw this pop up on Amazon while I was looking at books I instantly just got it. And the same week it arrived, my book club group picked it for the month of January. As I was planning on going to my mom’s for Christmas, I knew I wouldn’t have much entertainment while they had to work during the day so I brought this book along… and ended up finishing it in one day.
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.
- Published: November 17, 2020
- Page Count: 464
- Genre: YA Fantasy and Historical Romance
Thoughts on the Book
Note: There may be some spoilers regarding the book in this, but considering it follows Romeo and Juliet in a way, I’m not going to cut out all my thoughts since I’m comparing it to the original work of Shakespeare in parts.
I was immediately hooked on this book. As I mentioned, I love Romeo and Juliet. But unlike the inspiration for this book there are more elements to it. For starters, Roma and Juliette met when they were fifteen and had a romance before going separate directions due to their family/gang’s blood feud. Like they both are responsible for deaths in the other gang. Deaths that seriously altered their lives. Roma lost his mother, and Juliette was sent away for four years to America for safety after their servant’s quarter was blown up.
The story starts up when they are nineteen, and the people of Shanghai are dying due to a plague that is causing them to rip out their own throats. Not to mention, you have other elements of the cultural shift due to the Opium Wars and rise of communism. The two don’t come together out of romance, but in an attempt to stop the madness (as they call it) from killing everyone in Shanghai. Of course, their gangs are against the idea of working together after their truce doesn’t work out. But Roma and Juliette set aside the feud, and what they did to each other, to figure it out behind their gang’s back.
The story is told from multiple POVs: Roma’s (most of his are towards the beginning of the story), Juliette’s (hers are throughout), Kathleen’s (Juliette’s cousin who is transgender, not that anyone in the family besides her twin is aware of this), Benedikt’s (Roma’s cousin, who I think has OCD or OCD tendencies), and Marshall (Benedikt’s roommate and possible lover… it’s not overly clear if the two are together that way). There are other POVs shattered in throughout including Juliette’s hotheaded cousin Tyler who wants to be the heir of the Scarlett Gang, and various individuals who fall victim to the madness including Roma’s sister Alisa.
There’s a lot of diversity in the book and all of the characters are morally grey (ok… they are criminals but they do some some moral code), which makes it so interesting to read. Plus, you can see the elements of Romeo and Juliet throughout but with a darker twist. The poison that Juliet gets in the original tale makes a reappearance, but it’s not used in the same way. Roma and Juliette don’t kill themselves by the end of the book. They do manage to stop the madness (possibly) but it’s leaves off on a major cliff hanger with a sequel slotted to come sometime Fall 2021.
I’m excited to see where the next book takes these characters. As the two do in the last hundred pages work out what happened in their past and express their feelings, but something major happens that could drive a wedge in that. Not to mention, Tyler catches Juliette working with Roma. And we don’t know how that’s going to play out in the next book. We don’t get to find out what Juliette’s father will make of the situation after announcing there is a spy in their gang. Granted, that spy isn’t Juliette. But we know there’s going to be fall out. Not to mention, the ominous message that says: “Upon my death, release them all.” Are there more plague monster/bugs? Is there some kind of blackmail? What is being released? All we know is Juliette is panicked and there are screams in the distant.
This is the author’s first published book and I cannot wait to read more from her. I loved her writing style. So, with all that being said I would give These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong a 4 out of 5 stars.
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