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Book Review: These Violent Delights

by | Apr 29, 2023 | Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fantasy, Young Adult

Rating: 4/5 stars
Age Rating: 14+

If you’re on the hunt for a gripping retelling of Romeo and Juliet, set in 1920s Shanghai, look no further than These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. This retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will transport you to the bustling and dangerous streets of 1920s Shanghai, where love and loyalty are tested amidst a bitter gang rivalry. I’m sure you’ll be swept up in this story of star-crossed lovers, power struggles, and the timeless quest for redemption.

Gong’s vivid portrayal of the era truly brings 1920s Shanghai to life. Her ability to capture this city’s glamour, danger, and energy made it the perfect backdrop for a tale of love, betrayal, and sacrifice. The complex relationships between the characters kept me hooked, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Let us dive further into this These Violent Delights review. Get ready for Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, two young people from rival gangs trying to figure out love, loyalty, and sacrifice amid all the chaos.

Tropes in this Book

  • Childhood sweethearts
  • Enemies to lovers
  • Second chance
  • Star crossed lovers

Introduction to These Violent Delights

Chloe Gong’s exciting novel, These Violent Delights, takes readers on a journey to 1920s Shanghai, a city filled with conflict and divided by powerful rival gangs. The story is about eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, the daughter of the leader of the Scarlet Gang and the rival White Flowers heir Roma Montagov.

When a mysterious and dangerous plague threatens their city, Juliette and Roma have to work together to find out what’s causing it and save their people. The story is set in a time when Western countries strongly influenced Shanghai, making the city feel like a mix of different cultures.

These Violent Delights combine elements of romance, mystery, and adventure as Juliette and Roma try to balance their love for each other with their loyalty to their gangs. The book gives readers an exciting look at a time in history that isn’t often explored in novels. Sometimes the story can be hard to follow, but the characters are complex, and the setting is unique. Overall, it’s a captivating book that shows how love can bring people together even when they’re supposed to be enemies.

1920s Shanghai

In the lively and dangerous setting of 1920s Shanghai, the novel skillfully portrays the city’s energetic atmosphere and rich surroundings. During this time, Shanghai was experiencing change, balancing traditional ways and modern innovations. The growth of industry and foreign influences created a unique mix of cultures. European-style buildings and neon lights contrasted with classic Chinese architecture, making the city a melting pot of Chinese, European, and American influences.

However, even with its modern flair and sophistication, Shanghai faced issues like poverty and crime. Gangs and triads held sway in the city’s shadowy alleyways, taking sides and showing signs of instability, culminating in violence. Corruption was widespread among police and government officials. In this intricate setting, Gong brings Shanghai to life, making it a character that influences the actions and motivations of the novel’s characters.

Luxurious nightclubs, like the Paramount and the Canidrome, drew in the rich and powerful, starkly contrasting the impoverished slums. The danger was always nearby as gangs and criminal groups battled for power and control, with the city’s police force often unable to stop the chaos.

A Retelling of Romeo and Juliet

Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Gong’s novel reimagines the Montagues and Capulets as rival gangs led by Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai. Roma, the heir to the Scarlet Gang, is a fierce and determined leader. At the same time, Juliette, head of the White Flowers, is recognized for her strategic thinking and ability to outwit even the most cunning opponents.

The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers are two powerful criminal organizations fighting for control of Shanghai. The Scarlet Gang is known for their ruthless tactics and management of the opium trade. At the same time, the White Flowers have a reputation for their precision and dominance over the black market. The tension between the gangs reaches a breaking point, resulting in an all-out war with both sides striving for victory.

Even though they’re sworn enemies, Roma and Juliette can’t ignore the chemistry between them and start to secretly meet, aware that their love is forbidden. Throughout the novel, both characters undergo significant growth and development, questioning the violence and bloodshed in their lives and contemplating the possibility of peace between the gangs.

Gong’s retelling stays true to the original play while standing on its own, capturing the timeless themes of love and sacrifice within an engaging storyline. As 1926 approaches and Shanghai buzzes with whispers of change, Roma and Juliette’s love story unfolds amidst the chaos, their only rivals in power being the shadows threatening their city.

Final Thoughts

Chloe Gong created an exciting and touching world with characters that grabbed my heart. As a reader, I was pulled in by the detailed setting of 1920s Shanghai, which was the perfect place for a story full of love, betrayal, and personal growth.

The book’s imaginative retelling of the famous Romeo and Juliet story gives it a new and fresh feeling. As someone who has always liked Shakespeare’s works, I was excited to see how Gong changed these well-known characters into deep, relatable people living in a challenging world. The strong connection between Roma and Juliette and how they grow and face challenges makes their love story even more enjoyable.

In the end, These Violent Delights stuck with me, and I believe it’s a book that will connect with readers of all ages. Chloe Gong showed incredible talent in her first book, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. If you’re looking for a great story with romance, adventure, and history, this book should be on your to-read list.

If you found this review helpful, you can check out the book at Bookshop.org here and support local bookstores along the way!