Goodreads: These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published: 17 November 2020
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
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.
TL;DR: It happened! I finally picked up one of the most hyped YA releases of the last few years and I’m glad to say that I get it—I really get it! I’m not a big Shakespeare reader and so I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy an R&J retelling but… With beautifully descriptive writing, the incredible setting in 1920s Shanghai and the added element of a mysterious and murderous monster roaming the streets, this was everything I didn’t know I needed.
My current headspace meant it took some time for me to get into the story but once I became invested, I sped through in practically one sitting. I’m so glad that I buddy read this with Leslie because we had *so* much to talk about throughout the read and we managed to predict a good deal of what happens! 😂
Chloe Gong’s writing is gorgeous! The further I read the more absorbed I became in the lush prose and the way Gong brought Shanghai to life. It was almost as if the city was its own character and one that was silently and violently crumbling under the weight of both national and international players who are all vying for a piece of her. Shanghai is a burgeoning melting pot and I loved how much of that came through in the writing. While the basic plot of R&J with the warring families and romance can be found in TVD, Gong also masterfully incorporates the historical sociopolitical context to create a more vibrant setting, while also adding another layer with the supernatural mystery. There is a lot going on but thankfully, it never felt overwhelming. Although at times certain elements do get pushed to the backseat for longer periods of time, Gong still manages to pull all the ties together to create an entirely tension-filled and gripping ending that will leave you screaming for more ASAP!
“Hope was the most vicious evil of them all, the thing that had managed to thrive in Pandora’s box among misery, and disease, and sadness—and what could endure alongside others with such teeth if it didn’t have ghastly claws of its own?”
I will say that this was a lot more brutal than I imagined it would be. Content/Trigger Warning: If you’re not a fan of graphic descriptions of self-mutilation, blood, gore, and violence (guns/knives) this might not be for you! It’s not *constant* but there’s certainly a lot of it especially as the story goes on. Also, this is a minor spoiler but if you have a bug phobia, but would still like to give it a try, I would tread cautiously. I hate bugs and so this element came as a surprise to me and it left me feeling pretty skeeved out and itchy as hell! 😂 I literally shudder at the thought…
Other than the compelling setting and mystery, I became very invested in the characters. Juliette Cai, the heir to the Scarlet Gang, was ambitious, vicious and ready to do whatever it took to prove her worth. She has no compunctions about meting out the gang’s brand of justice and I loved how she wielded her power as a woman! While Juliette is often controlled by her anger and hatred, I liked how Roma Montagov was the soft opposite to her. He’s calm and stoic with a surprisingly long fuse, and despite being the White Flowers heir and being raised in violence, he abhors it. Given the chance to live a peaceful life with those he loves in the countryside, he’d take it in a heartbeat. Beneath Roma’s cold and cruel facade, he’s a gentle soul and I’m a sucker for it! Considering how many comments I saw bemoaning the lack of romance, I was surprisingly pleased by the progression of their slow-burn lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romance. They had painful history to overcome to move forward and if you love the tension that builds between couples as they fight their burning attraction while pulling weapons on each other in intimate encounters, there’s a lot for you to enjoy here! I do wish that we got more time to hash out their past and feelings, but considering everything going on, it made sense that it was less of a priority.
“It was all too familiar. The feeling of Roma’s hands on her waist, his hand tucked in hers—those hands were of such grace, but she knew better than anyone that blood was soaked through and through the lines of his palms. Lines that read like scripture in appearance were in truth nothing but sin.”
As much as I liked our MCs, I was also a big fan of their friendship group and I’m glad that we also got chapters from their POVs. Marshall and Benedikt were my favourites and I’m shipping that ship so freaking hard! 😂 Kathleen was also an interesting character and I loved how she unquestioningly had Juliette’s back. The diversity of this cast was also fantastic!
As much as I enjoyed TVD though there were definitely elements that I wish had been done better. I would’ve liked to see more depth and development in the characters and I had hoped that the family aspect would’ve been stronger. After all the build-up, I also felt the ending was rushed and a little unsatisfying. There are still some loose ends that need tying up but I assume that’s going to happen in the second and final book in the duology, Our Violent Ends. I have this book lined up and ready to go for our continued buddy read in May and I’m super excited to see what happens next. Things are tense and I have a feeling it’s going to be angst-central with a good heaping dose of death (lol) and (I never thought I’d say it but) I’m totally here for it!
Have you read These Violent Delights or is it on your TBR?