How do I even begin to describe Chloe Gong and her masterpiece that is These Violent Delights?
Chloe’s debut novel was one that I’ve been highly anticipating since its initial announcement in early 2019. The story’s beautiful prose, atmospheric setting, and heartbreaking romance make it an absolute must-read, and I cannot wait for November 2021 to have my heart broken again by its sequel.
THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS by Chloe Gong
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.
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.
CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS: This book contains mentions and descriptions of blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.
These Violent Delights is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai. On one side, we have Juliette Cai, the heir to the Scarlet Gang who has recently returned to Shanghai from America. On the other, we meet Roma Montagov, heir to the White Flowers.
When an unexpected monster begins to ravage the city, spurring a terrifying madness, Juliette and Roma must put aside their differences to team up and save their people. As they begin to work closer together, secrets from their past begin to unfold, and they find themselves torn between expectations from their families and love.
At the forefront, we explore the rivalry between the two gangs and how it tears apart our two protagonists, but what I love most about Chloe’s writing is how it thoughtfully explores themes of colonialism and identity. Shanghai, at the time, had been occupied by the French, British, and other foreign powers as a result of the Opium Wars.
The Scarlet Gang and White Flowers are faced in a power struggle not only with each other but foreign governments that wish to colonize their land. Juliette also represents an interesting perspective throughout the exchange as someone with a diaspora background, having been raised in both the East and West.
Now, let’s take a second to *appreciate* the romance because it is pure childhood friends-to-enemies-to-lovers goodness. I am here for the yearning, and my heart is about to combust. I’ll just say that you’ll love every second of it, and the side characters in this book make it all the more entertaining.
I’ve read this book twice: the first time as an ARC and the second via audiobook, and both times, I have been colored impressed and blown away. The audiobook, in particular, was easy to follow and become immersed in. Cindy Kay’s narration was reminiscent of Emily Woo Zeller’s, the mastermind and voice behind The Poppy War and Loveboat, Taipei audiobooks.
You might think I’m a bit biased because I’m friends with Chloe, but in all honesty, her writing speaks for itself. These Violent Delights will no doubt be a transformative and defining piece of literature in Young Adult fantasy, and I could not be more excited for the release of Our Violent Ends and to see more of Chloe’s writing.
Thank you so much to the publisher for sending my an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review! All photos included in this review are official fan art or edits from Chloe.