Ever since I finished These Violent Delights, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Glittering, dangerous, and thrilling, These Violent Delights just might be my favorite read of 2020. Keep reading this book review to find out why I loved Chloe Gong’s debut!
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
These Violent Delights defies expectations and words. Set in 1926 Shanghai, Chloe Gong’s debut is a blood soaked setting full of feuds, betrayal, and Imperialism. I have never loved Romeo & Juliet, but These Violent Delights is now canon. Featuring emotion fueled scenes of yearning, tension that cuts with dagger edges, and walking that fine balance between betrayal tinged nostalgia, These Violent Delights is a stunning debut. Gong integrates elements from the original, transforming them into angst heavy scenes leaving readers in pieces.
From the beginning, These Violent Delights is captivating. The writing is expressive and gorgeous, weaving you in a web of detailed world building, hidden moments, and layered complexity. While you don’t have to have read Romeo & Juliet beforehand, if you do you will be rewarding with an experience where you are constantly shrieking at Gong’s masterful re-interpretations. But where These Violent Delights burrowed its way into my heart was the characters.
My precious character babies
Juliette is no doubts about it, a major badass. With looks that could wither crops, hidden weapons that you’ll never find, and a smile that conceals her true motivations, Juliette is dangerous. She has steel in her bones and fire in her veins. But what I love about her, is that there’s also a vulnerability to her, a knowledge that weakness gets you killed. That opening our hearts ends in bloodshed. That dreams cost blood and no one escapes unscathed. Especially as Juliette navigates her identity as she returns to Shanghai after growing up in the US and wondering if Shanghai is her city.
On the other hand there’s Roma, who’s our clumsy cinammon roll who would prefer not to kill. He’s guarded, while also knowing first hand the costs of this blood feud and the price of secrets. These Violent Delights is also full of other fantastic characters like Juliette’s trans cousin Kathleen and Roma’s best friends Benedikt and Marshall. I love them all with every fiber of my being and I cannot wait for the sequel!
Chloe Gong’s debut, These Violent Delights, is a pure delight – if you’re looking for books that will leave you gasping, your heart broken, and if you generally like agony. But it’s the best kind! It’s the books that demand to be read, that grip you to the very core, and that leave you counting down the days until the next one. Find These Violent Delights on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.