This review is likely to be a bit of a ‘gush’ review. I am a massive fan of a retelling – particularly a Shakespeare retelling. She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You? Completely my vibe. I’ve never read a Shakespeare retelling as a book before so this was a whole new door to be opened and I am eternally grateful that Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights was the first that I dipped my toes into. These Violent Delights was the Fairyloot November book choice, so not only do I have a copy of this book already, I also have a gorgeous special edition with the most stunning sprayed edges as well. Check it out!
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong Book Review
These Violent Delights is, first of all, a Romeo and Juliet retelling and frankly, it couldn’t have been better. Set in 1920s Shanghai, we are introduced to two opposing gangs – the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers – and their heirs, Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov (you see what she did there?) Juliette is of Chinese descent, recently returned from the USA after a curious incident whilst Roma is Russian, looked upon in dismay by his father and determined to be the heir that is expected of him. 4 years ago, Juliette and Roma were friends turned lovers – until one day, a betrayal occurs and it’s fair to say that their love is completely and utterly lost. Upon Juliette’s return to the city, Roma arrives in Scarlet Gang territory and notifies her of a ‘madness’ that is spreading through the city. Roma and Juliette have to make the difficult choice to either go against their families’ wishes and risk rekindling their romance or else allow their city to be destroyed by a most horrendous fate. This madness that the city has succumbed to is very dark and gory – and it’s causing inhabitants of Shanghai to literally rip their own throats out, leading to their own gory and violent deaths.
Firstly, the characterisation in this book is fantastic – we have trans rep, we have a possible LGBTQ pairing and we have romance and bloodbaths. I absolutely adored the characters of Roma and Juliette – they’re equally as terrifying as each other in their own ways, I definitely wouldn’t like to come face-t0-face with either of them in a dark alley. I love how their relationship changes as the story progresses and how the story flips backwards to give us the plot fillers that we need to enjoy the story. I really enjoy Kathleen’s characters and I’m a big fan of Marshall too. It’s fair to say that I was 100% thirsting for the romance and the smut from the get-go. Their characters are distinct and they ultimately serve a purpose to drive the plot – with Kathleen being the bearer of bad news on a multitude of occasions throughout the book. Mostly, I loved Juliette Cai. She is everything I want to be and more – she is honest and cunning, manipulative and intelligent, the perfect heroine in a story that has twists and turns galore.
The city of Shanghai is depicted wonderfully – I really would like to visit China at some point and this book does everything to convince me of the fact – but I also enjoyed how the foreigners in Shanghai were portrayed and how the Chinese nationals feelings towards them was explicitly clear. Western influence is a massive deal with books set in Oriental countries – and by oriental here, I mean in the Oriental/Occidental sense; countries that are in the East. The story tackles the issue of Westernisation brilliantly and alludes to the idea that no matter how much natives try to stop it, Western Culture finds itself seeping into crooks and crannies everywhere.
This was a city shrouded in blood. It was foolish to try changing it.
We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet – and I don’t have high expectations for a happy ending here at all. The 2nd book in the series is apparently due for a 2021 release and I’m hoping and praying with every aspect of my being that Gong shies away from the ~true~ Romeo and Juliet ending and gives the fans what they want here. As a whole, the story was thrilling and I found myself completely and utterly spellbound for its entirety – I honestly couldn’t put it down and even now, a week after finishing up with this, I can’t stop thinking about this book. I am counting down the days to 2021 so I can put my mind to rest and finish up with this dazzling series.