i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.
this post is part of the blog tour for these violent delights by chloe gong, organized by the incredible caffeine book tours! thank you so, so much for the opportunity – these violent delights is one of my most anticipated 2020 releases, and getting to read it early meant the world to me.
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These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
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.
representation: chinese main character, korean queer side character, queer side character, transgender side character
trigger warnings: death, gore, violence
when i first saw these violent delights on twitter, with its beautiful cover and intriguing blurb – “a romeo and juliet retelling set in shanghai in the 1920s” – it was love at first sight: i immediately knew it was the book for me. seeing all the positive reviews on twitter and around the blogosphere made me raise my expectations to sky-high levels, which the book amazingly did not fail to meet ❤
i was expecting all sorts of wonderful things from this book – romance, fighting, and badassery (which we all got) – and the mystery and thrill was an unexpected bonus. juliette and roma’s investigation on the strange and highly contagious sickness had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, and as hard as i tried, i still could not for the life of me figure out who the real culprit is until it is finally revealed – there are just so many plot twists!
what made these violent delights so special was its rich historical setting. i absolutely loved the blend of fact and fiction – in the story, there are communists, foreign traders, and the nationalist chinese party (kuomintang), which the author has subtly made changes to in order to make it better fit the storyline. it’s like a wong kar wai film in book form – i loved reading about gangster-run shanghai, where crime lords and their families lived like kings and queens – it’s so fun learning more about these things outside of chinese history class.
i also really loved the diversity of the characters, which was a pleasant surprise to me because shanghai, like most of china, was a predominantly monoethnic city. juliette is chinese, as are her two cousins, rosalind and kathleen, and the latter is a trans girl. as for the white flowers, roma and his cousin benedikt are russian immigrants, while their friend marshall seo is korean and queer.
and can we just talk about the enemies-to-lovers romance (with a little bit of childhood-friends-to-lovers added to the equation)? there are so many unspoken words and so much tension between roma and juliette, with the blood feud and all, and i flipped through page after page, desperate to find out how exactly roma betrayed juliette. what i loved most about the romance was that it takes up a less significant proportion of the story compared to the original, and does not overshadow other parts, such as the world-building.
with the author’s beautiful and captivating writing, which was just the right amount of intricate and sophisticated, these violent delights certainly lives up to the hype.
Chloe Gong is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English and International Relations. During her breaks, she’s either at home in New Zealand or visiting her many relatives in Shanghai. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times. You can find her on Twitter @thechloegong, check out her website at thechloegong.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
win one of five hardcover copies of these violent delights by chloe gong (open internationally). the giveaway ends on 25th november 2020. enter here.
have you read these violent delights by chloe gong? what were your thoughts? let me know in the comments below.