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These Violent Delights | Book Review #16

One of the best Historical fiction and retelling I have ever had the chance to read!

About the Book

Title: These Violent Delights | By: by Chloe Gong

Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books | On:  November 17th 2020

Genre: Historical Fantasy | Series: These Violent Delights #1

Pages: 449 | Format: eBook | Pace: Slow | Age: 14+

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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.


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triggers: Murder, Self Harm Imagery, gun violence, blood, Bombing Imagery, Drugs

The reason why I kept postponing writing this review was that I couldn’t put into words how much I love this book. It is by far the best read for this year for me.

The story is set in Shanghai, 1926. The writing took me back to those days where technology was totally out of the picture, and I could visualize the Huangpu River vividly in my head. The prologue starts from this river and then moves across other places in the city.

When they said this was going to be a Romeo-Juliet retelling, I was not planning to read this because I didn’t like the play. It’s my least liked works of Shakespeare. But since I’m a fan of retellings, I thought of giving this book a chance and read it. I must say, this is the best retelling I’ve read so far. I liked this more than the original play.

This book captured the tension of the time too well. The British and French colonization, Russian immigrants, Americanism, etc., were the context that molded the story.

Along with these subjects, there was also the blood feud between the two notorious gangs- Scarlet Gang and White Flowers. They were the people controlling Shanghai. Their hate for each other was tangible. At one point, I thought the author was going to make them become partners to fight the monster, but then she never did that. That’s where I liked how the author didn’t try to push the plot to please the reader but made way for the story to take its form into something solid and original. I couldn’t say who was more lethal of the two gangs. They were equally intimidating and ruthless. And they were more bloodthirsty when it came to killing each other.

This book is not about gang wars and romance. It was more than that. It was about how colonization and modernity were eating away Shanghai. I can’t say how the natives felt about this because the story is told from Juliette and Roma’s POV. Juliette was a Chinese-American, and Roma was a Russian immigrant. So these questions about the search for the lost city are from Juliette’s POV. It was also ironic to see that English was the middle ground between the Chinese and Russian languages in the book.

One of the best aspects of this book was how it infused the opium trade in its story. Opium was in the air, in the metaphors and the basis of this story running parallel to the narrative of the rise of communism in China. Opium is the reason for all the hell that broke loose in Shanghai in this book. I’m not sure whether the monster was an allusion to the British or Communists, but I’m sure it is an allusion to factors that changed the city.

I liked how this book didn’t keep the romance at the forefront of the story. It was as if every theme was fused together to give us this wonderful story.

Stories with the best friendship dynamic are my jam. Roma and Juliette’s inner circle kept me glued to the story till the end.

Juliette was cold and callous when it came to gang business. She was caring and emotional when she was just Juliette and not a Scarlet. She was searching for her Chinese identity, and she knows that she would never be the same girl she was before leaving for America.

Roma was soft-hearted as far a gang member could be. And a gang member with a heart means he was going to become heartless soon, but somehow he was the same guy who felt and cared for everything till the end. I wanted to see him interact more with his sister, Alisa, at least in the next book. Alisa was a very intriguing character to me, and I want her to be part of this story just like the others.

Marshall Seo was so unpredictable. I can never understand if he was serious or not in the direst situation, but he always had a way to get out of tricky situations.

Benedikt wasn’t as expressive as Marshall, but he was definitely stewing with his feelings. I could feel his worry, laughter, care for Marshall and Roma in this book.

Rosalind and Kathleen were twins but were polar opposites. I’m speculating on some of Rosalind’s actions in the end. I wonder if she’s involved in something major, but I’ll have to see how she is in the next book. I liked Kathleen more and found her interesting.

I loved the pace of this book. I usually prefer fast-paced books, but this one felt right for how the story progressed and ended. I actually didn’t know this was a series; only after reading the end did I know there was going to be another book. This made sense because if the book had ended abruptly, it would have left me disappointed. But it took its time to develop the story and its characters, and that’s why I liked this book.

Overall, this is one riveting story. If you are expecting more romance, then this is not that book. I read it for the themes that it touched upon. I’m going to do a close-reading of this book one day. I would highly recommend this book to readers who like YA Fantasy and Historical fiction.

Shanghai was a foreign city in its own country

Rating: 4.4
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Have your read this book, or is it on your TBR? Let me know your thoughts below.

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