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These Violent Delights

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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.

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.

449 pages, Hardcover

First published November 17, 2020

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About the author

Chloe Gong

16 books21.2k followers
Chloe Gong is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Secret Shanghai novels, as well as the Flesh and False Gods trilogy. Her books have been published in over twenty countries and have been featured in The New York Times, People, Forbes, and more. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she double-majored in English and international relations. Born in Shanghai and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Chloe is now located in New York City, pretending to be a real adult.

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Profile Image for el.
252 reviews1,519 followers
May 10, 2022
babe, wake up, someone published a twitter thread critiquing capitalism's ongoing effects on young writers convinced they must publish before they're actually ready and it prompted chloe gong to drop a sulky, self-absorbed essay about how we're all really just jealous that we aren't published authors.

the tiktok marketing has brainwashed everyone because this book was absolute ass……

i do think that the growing urgency people feel to write, publish, and market books from a very young age is self-sabotage. there's no way that a freshman in college is going to be able to thoughtfully tackle a multi-cultural historical fantasy set in a country with an incredibly complex political landscape that can in no way be captured by the watered-down YA equivalent of "communism bad, wealthy factory owners victims 🥺🥺🥺, say no to fighting against exploitation!"—and one that's based on/inspired by one of the most popular plays in the world.

chloe gong may well have poured her heart and soul into this book, sought out family for help, and committed to intense historical research. my opinion remains the same. at 19 and even 20, you're not ready to produce good novels, especially in a genre that encourages wishy-washy politics. i wish we were more willing to tell young writers to take their time, to read more, to let their voices and styles develop, to commit to a generative workshop model that allows them to hear criticism without any hurt. but, again, we live in a world dominated by profit, where productivity and physical output are seen as the ultimate beacons of success, even to freshly graduated high school students without the language or the wisdom to tackle gangs, leftist politics, world history, and also do so with craft-specific technique.

if you're young, love YA, and you want to read an oversimplified, melodramatic six of crows imitation without any of the found family or romance, you might enjoy this. i—personally—am becoming increasingly disillusioned with the young adult genre's tendency to rely on high-octane concepts with none of the execution or nuance for quick success. don't serve me high-octane concepts if you're not equipped to carry them through with competence.

i'm going to be blunt, because i'm tired of being let down by young adult fiction. this is a book that pretends to be complex. it's not (unless you count bumbling from character to character for 400+ pages while trying to follow a baffling monster conflict). it tackles "colonialism" and "white supremacy" in the same way that the cw's riverdale tackles the human condition—which is to say, not well at all.

i also absolutely love the way that the novel's politics fall apart the second roma's gang is absolved of their own part in imperial expansion across china:

They were vultures, all of them—the British and the French and every other newcomer. Circling above the city and awaiting the carnage so they could gorge themselves until they were full. The Russians had arrived in this country and merged forward, wishing to learn the way of things and do better. These foreigners had sailed in and grinned at the crime.

GIRL WHAT???? i know this is historical fantasy, but i didn't expect full-blown revisionism? the book got to its conventionally attractive russian male lead and went, "that's enough anti-colonialism for today i think❤️"

you can't make any kind of meaningful commentary on imperial projects or their historical legacies when half of your main ship is an active agent of colonization??? 😭😭😭😭 roma really said i'm not like other foreigners <3 and called it a day. like please have a little backbone!!!!!!!! to say nothing of the way that the book works to demonize any worker attempting to take a stance against individual or collective exploitation.

if you're going to be politically lukewarm, i would at least like to see some good prose. instead, i got this:

"You're the only one I trust to hold this gang together as a steady steel structure, rather than a grappling hierarchy of whims."

this is what i mean when i say, let's encourage young writers to slow down and learn craft before urging them to immortalize their projects for the entire world to see. gong's age really shows in her prose. it's clunky, blundering, and, as a whole, incredibly awkward. she overcompensates for a lack of skill by throwing in thesaurus words at every turn. historical diction is observed by characters one moment and abandoned the next. there's no rhyme or reason to the narration techniques utilized; it's always a question of whose head it's most convenient to occupy at any given moment. say what you will about the head-jumping in six of crows; there, i at least felt that leigh bardugo had a system or happened to be working off of an outline.

here, gong throws in tiny, meaningless interludes told through throwaway characters' eyes for no reason other than that she can't figure out how to move the narrative forward without jumping around, tipping her hand, or teasing future "plot twists." i don't understand why YA lovers/writers get so defensive about the criticism the genre has attracted in recent years when books like this are its gold-star representatives.

one final note on character writing: juliette cai is an asshole. i mean, to be fair, there isn't a single character in these violent delights who i would comfortably call well-written or even deserving of the word "personality" (roma has none), but juliette is a bit of a special case. she's symbolic of the YA overcompensation that occurs when authors feel that they need to represent strong female leads and don't know how.

the poor gang politics is already there. no found family. no affection or tenderness. lots of reliance on offscreen explanation to convince readers that a relationship dynamic is compelling (hint: it is not). the world-building is as lazy as it gets in the genre. and to top it all off, the rich teenage brats who run around putting bullets in random people are absolute nightmares:

The waitress blinked. "Miss Cai, it's not proper for you to get your hands dirty—"

"Pass it."

She passed it. Juliette scrunched it up in her fist. In three quick, violent motions—her hand coming down on the table so hard that it made a sound—the surface was smooth and clear and shiny.

Juliette gave the cloth back. "Use your elbows. It's not that hard."

miss juliette.....you do not get to use your personal rich girl trauma as an excuse to berate and humiliate waitstaff, working class people, and anyone you deem beneath your "affluent polyglot summer vacation abroad" lifestyle when you spend the vast majority of your days wooing white boys, polishing your guns, and enjoying expensive clothes. like what do you know about hard, underpaid manual labor 🧐 and why do you think you have any right to lecture someone making subpar wages to kiss your feet about it 🤔

it's worse that instances like the one above are not meant to be seen as character flaws. gong intended them to contribute to juliette's air of "female badassery." juliette is not a badass. she's just a classist jerk who badly needs therapy. like........

Juliette shoved her way to the front of the line. When an elderly man near the door tried to push her back, she spat the nastiest curse she could summon in Shanghainese, and he shrank like his life had been sucked from his veins.

if i could give this 0 stars, i would. yes, i'm a hater!!!!!!!!! and novels like this one are the reason why!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for emma.
1,866 reviews54.3k followers
May 20, 2023
I'm dreaming of a good fantasy...
Just like the ones I used to know...
Without the tryhard writing...
And silly love interest fighting...
And a plot I can only say is slow...

(insert pause for applause, standing ovation, loud WOO's, the whole arena to do the wave, people chanting my name, etc. here)

Anyway. Clearly this whole "reading" thing isn't working out, as I continue to get disappointed by my most anticipated reads as if it is my job, so I might try my hand at songwriting.

"White Christmas" is the best Christmas song, in my opinion, but I think my These Violent Delights version is even better.

Instead of a review, this is going to be like one of those "behind the lyrics" things that comes up inexplicably on 1% of songs on Spotify. The rough equivalent of some random 17 year old popstar attempting to explain very basic words they spent very little energy on writing, if any.

The same as that in more ways than one.

First up.

I'm dreaming of a good fantasy...
Just like the ones I used to know...

This lyric is because I'm getting old. Okay, maybe not OLD old (although I can no longer reasonably say I'm in my early twenties, sob), but old for YA. And when you get old, you think everything was better when you were young, back in the days of a body that functioned and an ability to avoid hangovers and probably took long walks to school, since that comes up a lot for elderly people.

In my heart of hearts, I know that YA is better now than it was in 2015, when I was 17. There's more of it, from more diverse authors, on more diverse subjects.

But I'm aging out of it, and it would be boring if I were calm and rational about this. Let's be serious: you all saw my low rating of a popular book and knew you were coming to witness me yelling.

Next line!

Without the tryhard writing...

This is not my biggest problem with this book, but it is the most pernicious.

I know a lot of people like this style of writing, but to me it feels like Adjective Town, where every noun needs a descriptor and every verb needs a thesaurus and every gathering of frustrated individuals has me in attendance, and I am the loudest.

In other words, I found this to be an example of the kind of unnatural attempt at purple prose that YA sometimes indulges in, and that is not my scene.

We're trudging along! Next line!

And silly love interest fighting...

I often believe the world revolves around me, and to be fair, the world does very little to counter this opinion. For example: My two favorite romance tropes are enemies to lovers and fake dating, and those seem to be everywhere fast lately. Anecdotally speaking.

But in this case, I'm meh about it.

In the original Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet aren't actually, like, fueling the war between the families. They actually have nothing to do with it. In this retelling, Roma and Juliette are THERE, baby. No one is being more of a cruel, violent asshole than these two.

(Also, these names are very silly. Roma. Juliette. Marshall for Mercutio. Benedikt for Benvolio. Tyler for Tybalt. Keep in mind we're in 1920s Shanghai and let me know what you think.)

Juliette in particular is just a nightmare - she mistreats the service staff in her employment, she kills people willy-nilly, she's mean all the time.

But anyway. Their leading of the gangs that symbolize the Montague and Capulet family not only involves them being extremely cavalier with human life, but also bickering with each other all the time.

And not in the cute way. Keep in mind I said bicker, not banter.

A classic lose / lose.

These characters are just impossible to root for, not only because they are awful to each other and to those around them, and because they are annoying, and because they are having the same useless exchanges constantly, but because this book is morally all over the place.

The colonization aspect was well done, but the force the gangs are kind of teaming up to fight against is communism, and I found that connection to be sloppy.

I am pro revolution more than I am pro...gang? So when factory workers rose up to fight against inequality, I didn't sympathize at all with our 17 year old extremely wealthy protagonists, the same people who yell at waitresses for not wiping surfaces well enough while they sit and brood and do nothing.

The theory isn't the problem, the appropriation of it is. Depicting overworked child laborers as the bad guys is just ridiculous.

Last one!

And a plot I can only say is slow...

From the very beginning the plot of this has felt the same: People sneak around. People see something gruesome. People look for answers. Repeat. The stakes are not rising, the action is not packing, and snooze city has a population of me.

Yes, the idea of two gangs (both inexplicably with teenagers in authority) fighting each other in 1920s Shanghai while a monster rages in the background seems like fun, but...it isn't.

Which is kind of impressive.

That is the end of my song! The only other thing I have to say (and the only nice thing) is that the dialogue was fun.

The end.

Bottom line: A book I disliked so much it made me switch fake career paths.


me when a protagonist kills people: :)

me when a protagonist is mean to service workers: :(

this book is all over the board, morally speaking.

review to come / 1.5 stars

currently-reading updates

yes, i barely read YA fantasy anymore.

yes, i have a hard time getting into it when i do pick it up.

and yes, i am starting this 500 page book at 4 a.m.

i live my life on the edge.

tbr review

so this author is a junior in college...this is blatantly against one of my major life policies (pretending that anyone younger than me is not cooler than me)

but this book sounds so good i might have to break the rules 😎
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.7k followers
September 29, 2022
"I was raised in hatred, Roma. I could never be your lover, only your killer."
Before you get too excited, that was practically the only pithy line in the entire book. I thought I was getting an exciting gangster retelling of Romeo and Juliet with some fantasy elements. Instead, the writing almost did me in.

In 1920s Shanghai, rival gangs the Scarlets and the White Flowers are engaged in a blood feud. Their young heirs Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov used to be secret lovers, until Roma betrayed Juliette. Now they are sworn enemies. When rumors of a monster reaches their ears, and dead bodies start piling up around the city with their throats torn out, they know they must act. But can they put aside their differences to save their people, or will they lose everything they hold dear?

The premise sounds so good, right? And did I mention it's set in Shanghai, the place of my birth and early years, one of my favorite cities in the world to visit? But even the scintillating setting and the story's numerous references to its beloved landmarks and delicious food could not save it.

It was such a slog from beginning to end. The writing feels overdone in the way that YA can sometimes come across. The melodramatic and ornate style is meant to impress the reader with how deep it is, but instead I'm just confused. Sure, it sounds good and all, but what does it actually mean?

There is so much fluff and unnecessary details packed in everywhere. No character can be introduced without pages of irrelevant background information, like how much they enjoy drawing spheres and what their favorite necklace is. But it's all telling and no showing. So even after all that, I still can't discern their personalities other than that they shoot first and ask questions later, as is typical of gangsters.

The pacing is absolutely glacial. The developments happen so slowly that I often forget where I am in the plotline. It doesn't help that the book keeps making big deals out of reveals that I thought were obvious many chapters prior, while still being unclear about key points. (What is the Larkspur?)

For a 450-page book, almost nothing happens until the very end. You could conceivable skip hundreds of pages in the middle and miss nothing. In fact, I barely have any memories of the middle chunk of the book.

I'm honestly baffled that such an amazing premise could turn into such a dull and onerous execution. There's a good story in there somewhere. It was just smothered to death by the overwrought writing.
Profile Image for Robin.
327 reviews1,806 followers
September 24, 2021
↠ 5 stars

You had me at Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920's Shanghai. In this wondrous debut from author Chloe Gong, Shakespeare meets a new decade, one with rivaling gangs and a river monster tormenting the citizens. The blood feud between the White Flowers and the Scarlet Gang is one that has transformed the city. Alliances have been drawn and no one can stand the middle ground. Enter the once-lovers, Juliette and Roma, separated by their families and a long ago betrayal. They must set aside their differences when a mysterious illness begins to inflict itself upon both sides.

This book is fantastic. Enough said. From the beginning, Chloe Gong entraps you with her vivid descriptions and fast paced plot. The first line could be seen as the start of my love affair with this incredible story. I mean: "In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens" *screams into the void. I don't know. There's something about a mysterious creature and two unlikely allies drawn together in order to figure it all out that just sits right with me. Besides that, the world seems thoroughly explored and all of its characters brought forth into the roles created for them. As this is the first book in the series there is a lot left desired, not in lack of substance, but a want of more. An understatement would be that I devoured this book, because I finished it all in a few hours and then sat there staring at the wall contemplating my own existence. Perhaps my favorite thing about this was the tension bordering on yearning between Juliette and Roma. I have a soft spot for couples that blur the line between love and hate, even when it's not hate at all. That being said, the side characters really stole the show in this debut. I currently have my thoughts outgoing to Kathleen and Marshall. Protect them please. While there are other books to read, I'm probably going to be talking of nothing but this for quite some time.

Trigger warnings: blood, violence, gore, murder, transphobia, gouging, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.
Profile Image for Chloe Gong.
Author 16 books21.2k followers
December 10, 2020
I wanted to begin this note with a quip about giving the book 5 stars, but the truth is, if I hadn’t poured all my heart and blood into it, then I wouldn’t have put it forward for publication. And since I have put it forward, then that means I believe in this book with everything I have, and I’m honored to be able to share These Violent Delights with you all.

Goodreads is a space for readers, not authors, so I’m only here to drop this note and then skedaddle. If you’d like me to share or read your review, you can tag me on Twitter or Instagram, but otherwise, I won’t be interacting! If you have any questions, you’ll have better luck reaching me on my website, or Twitter.

CONTENT 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.

Please note that I’ve included above the more major content warnings, but if there is anything you think should be included that isn’t, do feel free to reach out. The safety of readers is my top priority!

I’ll bow out on my final parting words. These Violent Delights is my love letter to Shanghai, to Shakespeare, and to my younger self, who so desperately wanted to find an adventure on the shelves starring someone with a face like hers. This book is also my mission as an English major to take a classic that we so dearly love and revamp it: in a new culture, with queer rep, and as a brutal takedown of colonialism—without losing its core themes about love, and hate, and loyalty.

I hope you enjoy.
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews156k followers
December 29, 2020
me: now that I am done with finals, I just want to relax and nestle into the soothing embrace of a good book

also me: *picks up this Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s gangster-run Shanghai about star-crossed exes putting aside the blood feud between them to prevent a monster from terrorizing their city that everyone tells me it's guaranteed to break my heart*
Profile Image for Sofia.
231 reviews6,961 followers
December 26, 2021
These Violent Delights is superior to Romeo and Juliet in so many ways, and reducing it to simply "a R and J retelling" is doing it a disservice. Even though I did feel like an intellectual whenever I caught the Shakespeare references.

This book is the product of an intriguing mystery, a forbidden romance, and the gorgeous atmosphere of 1920s Shanghai. Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlet Gang, is a young Chinese girl desperately trying to live up to her family's expectations before her throne can be stolen from her. Roma Montagov, heir to the White Flowers, a Russian gang, is working hard to keep his title as heir in such a volatile environment. But when a mysterious illness causes members of both gangs to rip their own throats out, Roma and Juliette are forced to work together before the foreigners take advantage of their weakness and take over their city.

The aspect of this novel that stood out most to me was the blend of different cultures. Juliette was born in China and lived in America for a period of time, and she's constantly torn between her two conflicting identities. I think this is a problem a lot of Asian Americans face, as well as immigrants from other continents, especially when they return to their home country. It's a jarring experience, and it shows in Juliette's sense of identity. Without her flapper clothes and finger waves, nobody recognizes her. The gang has no respect for her. She feels like an outsider.

Juliette breathed in and found her lungs to be horribly tight. Could she never be both? Was she doomed to choose one country or the other? Be an American or nothing?

I wish we had seen more of Roma's culture as well. He's Russian, but if I hadn't known that beforehand from his name, I wouldn't have guessed it. He doesn't feel connected to his culture. It's understandable that since he's living in a different country, he's disconnected, but I would have enjoyed having some insight into his experience.

The themes of this novel stand out. They focus on colonization and white privilege, and how Westerners think they can put a flag in the ground and claim land as their own simply because they have these internalized feelings of superiority. This dates way back.

She didn't have to do a single thing in offense. It was the entitlement that drove these men forward. Entitlement that encouraged their wives to place a delicate handkerchief to their nose and sniff, wholeheartedly believing the tirade was deserved. They believe themselves the rulers of the world--on stolen land in America, on stolen land in Shanghai.
Everywhere they went--
And Juliette was so

And yet these same entitled people hold all the power, and why? Because of how they look.

"These days, Juliette," he said, low and warily, "the most dangerous people are the powerful white men who feel as if they have been slighted."

I liked the characters, especially the side characters. None of them are my favorites of all time, but they were generally tolerable and smart enough that I wasn't face-palming like crazy. Marshall and Benedikt (I keep wanting to call them Mercutio and Benvolio) are two White Flowers and friends of Roma. Marshall is a light-hearted, humorous character, but it was Benedikt who I really related with. He struggled with a lot of the same things I used to struggle with, such as ritualistic tapping, which was the bane of my existence when I was younger. Juliette's two friends are Rosalind and Kathleen. Kathleen is a trans woman. What struck me was how unique all of their personalities are, especially Benedikt and Marshall. Rosalind holds grudges and anger inside. Kathleen is caring and loyal. Benedikt is calm and capable. Marshall is witty and clever. They stand out.

Sometimes it was hard for Kathleen to remember that she was still her own person, not just shards of a mirror, reflecting back a thousand different personalities most fitting for the situation.

One thing that stood out to me was the mix of different genres within one book. These Violent Delights is a mystery, a romance, and a historical fiction with fantasy elements all at once. This helped make both the characters and the story more compelling, as the ideas behind the book were very unique and not something I have seen frequently. The plot twists were rather predictable, but this isn't a book that relies on shock to make you give it a high rating, and I like that about it.

Anyway, I might as well come out and say it--I did not like the romance. There were some good moments of tension and angst that I savored, but as a whole, it felt bland. Roma and Juliette have history, and it's driven a wedge between them. They're no longer friends, and Juliette is intent on keeping them enemies. It's interesting in concept, but Roma was just too boring for me to ship him with anyone. Juliette was too good for him.

"I cannot fathom it," she breathed. "You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me reason to hate you and then you give me reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is this a ploy or your heart reaching for me?"

I would have preferred if the side characters were the main characters, honestly. Their struggles are easier to sympathize with and they're more interesting as characters than Roma and Juliette, who fit into standard YA character types. They're not basic, but they're not special.

I adored the descriptive writing, especially in the prologue. The suspense was built beautifully and the creepy atmosphere was perfect. However, it slowly lost that eeriness as the book went along. The banter gave this book away as a debut novel. It's not balanced well with the rest of the writing and the general mood, and it can feel very out of place sometimes. But as a whole, this does not feel like a debut novel. The pacing is great, the plot is intriguing, and the characters are well developed.

And oh, there were so many wonderful quotes.

Paul jumped, unable to hide his surprise. Then he grinned and said, "Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. For a Chinese woman, your English is extraordinary. There is not a trace of an accent to be found."
"I have an American accent," she replied dully.
Paul waved her off. "You know what I mean."
Do I? she wanted to say. Would I be less if I sounded like my mother, my father, and all those in this city who were forced to learn more than one language, unlike you?

This gives off the same vibes as, "Where are you from? No, where are your parents from?"

"They have started calling America the land of dreams."
A snort floats up into the clouds. It is a sound that exists incongruous with the rest of the anxiety seeping along this city's arteries. It is the only sound that epitomizes the land in question, somehow both charming and terrible, both dismissive and weighted down.
The land of dreams. Where men and women in white hoods roam the streets to murder Black folks. Where written laws prohibit the Chinese from stepping upon its shores. Where immigrant children are separated from immigrant mothers on Ellis Island, never to be seen again.

This book is powerful. Without these themes, it would have been a three-star book, but these ideas elevated it to a four-star rating. It encourages thought. It's quietly impactful.

4 stars

Chloe Gong is 21, she's from the North Shore, and she just wrote a US bestseller | The Spinoff

Pin on Art of books planning to read

The White Flowers
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.8k followers
January 3, 2021

OwlCrate's December 2020 Box : My Rep Code: MEL10 ❤️
Fairyloot's November 2020 Box: My Rep Code: MELANIE5 ❤️

✨ Reviews you should check out: Xiran's, Lili's, CW's 

"Anyone can be the master to a monster should their heart be wicked enough."

These Violent Delights is an ownvoices story starring a Chinese heiress who recently moved back to Shanghai and is willing to do anything to prove to her father that she is ready to rule the Scarlet Gang. But in 1920s Shanghai, the city has many foreign occupiers from the British, to the French, to Americans, to Russians, etc (more about colonization later in the review). And the rival gang in the city is the White Flowers who are ruled by the Russians, and as of now the gangs ruthlessly kill each other while trying to assert dominance in their territories, but they might have to work together when a monster comes from the sea and attacks and kills anyone regardless of their hierarchies and districts. Oh, and it’s also a loose Romeo and Juliet retelling.

Remarkably interesting set up, true? I was so very intrigued, and I was not disappointed. I loved all the overarching important themes in this book and how this author unapologetically wrote about them. The monster might be a made up thing for this story, but the real monsters are the people who take land and culture while also trying to control every aspect of the people they are stealing from's lives. And those are very much real and still thriving in 2020, and scarier than the scariest of book monsters.

"You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me reason to hate you and then you give me reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is this a ploy or your heart reaching for me?"

I really loved Juliet and I was always compelled to learn more and more about her and her family. The Romeo in the story is named Roma and he is also the heir to the White Flower throne, hopefully. Both of their fathers are not completely sold on their leadership, which is why they are both trying to prove so much. It is also why they have this common ground (and a common, but bloody, past) with each other. I think most of you will enjoy their dynamic, especially being rival heirs who once were maybe more. And I really enjoyed them dancing around each other, discovering clues, and just having to work together again before the city is completely destroyed.

"This place rumbles on Western idealism and Eastern labor…"

This book also very much talks about communism and how white people like to still romanticize the political theory. Meanwhile, so many countries have been completely torn apart by it. This book really shows how people will use communism to help them take over PoC’s land and cities in the name of equality when they are just stealing. The monster (and a contagious disease that people need a cure for) in the book very much plays a part in this. I will say too that this book was very unexpectedly gory. If you are a bit squeamish, you might want to take a bit of caution with this one, because the author does not pull back with incredibly detailed descriptions.

"They believed themselves the rulers of the world—on stolen land in America, on stolen land in Shanghai. Everywhere they went—entitlement."

Okay, let’s talk about colonization. Seeing Juliet feel like a foreigner in her own country? Her feeling like she must be more Americanized for people to hear her and listen to her? Being sent away to America, “forced” to get an education in American, using the name Juliet, dressing more American, speaking English and with a minimal accent at that? Heartbreak, truly heartbreaking. But this is a reality that so many Asians are forced to live even in 2020 (even my biracial white passing self). The world has always tried to tell us that Westernized voices are the ones that get heard, and if you want people to listen to you then you have to at least appear to be a “model minority” from the East. But I don’t even have words for how extra heartbreaking that is in your own country.

This book also has some really good queer representation, with a brewing m/m romances between side characters that I think will be very much developed in the next book, but also with a trans girl side character who completely won me over. Obviously, it is ownvoices for the Chinese representation, and one half of the m/m relationship is Korean!

"Juliette Cai feared disapproval more than she feared grim on her soul."

Overall (and again), I loved the themes of this book and I truly did love Juliet. I just felt like I didn’t love the plot with the actual monster in this book. I also felt like a lot plot points built up and just went nowhere, even though I’m sure they will be talked about in future books. I also didn’t love the romance, because I just didn’t love Roma. I think this book did a lot of talking, and not showing us, things about the characters. And the ending of this book really left me wanting so much more, but not necessarily in a good way. I still recommend this completely for the themes alone, and I think it is a very impressive debut. You can also tell that this story means a lot to the author, and her family and culture, and it is a tale that deserves to be read (and a history you shouldn’t let your Westernized education ignore). This is truly the highest of three stars from me, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Trigger and Content Warnings: lots of blood depiction, lots of gore, violence, death, murder, loss of a loved one, general plot around a disease that is contagious, talk of drug use and addiction, self-harm and suicide because of the “monster” in the book, colonization, racism (and lots of microaggressions), lots of talk of communism, brief mention of human trafficking and kidnapping, brief mention of loss of a pet, brief transphobia microaggression in the past (regarding choosing a name/identity), and just in general I think this book could be a tough read for you if you experience entomophobia (a fear of insects) so please use caution!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
November 13, 2022
I sat down to listen to this audiobook and basically didn't get up until I finished it. It grossed me out at times which I didn't expect, but other than that it was SUCH a good read. I definitely get the hype and am so glad I finally read it!!
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
May 6, 2021

Just posted my Dec 2020 OwCrate Unboxing and Review Video !!

Overall: this book was a 2.5-star read for me.

It certainly had elements that were interesting but ultimately was lackluster when it came to execution.

The science felt...awful...simply awful and neither of the characters felt particularly compelling to read about...I probably won't be continuing this series cause I simply cannot care enough to continue. For more details, check out my video review!

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Profile Image for may ➹.
494 reviews2,064 followers
March 5, 2021
— find this review and others on my blog!

Backdropped by 1926 Shanghai humming with life and debauchery, These Violent Delights follows Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlet Gang, who watches angrily as her city falls further into the clutches of white foreigners. Equally as worrying as the threat of colonialism is the sudden appearance of a monster that causes people to tear out their own throats. The only way Juliette can defeat the monster and save her people is to work with Roma Montagov, heir to the rival Russian White Flowers and the boy she once loved—before he betrayed her.

This book was one of my most anticipated releases for 2020, and it’s safe to say it did not disappoint. I can already tell that it’s going to end up on a lot of people’s “best of 2020” list, and it’s clear why. With an arresting exploration of colonialism and compelling characters to obsess over, this debut historical fantasy marks Chloe Gong as an author to look out for in the coming years.

This was a city shrouded in blood. It was foolish to try changing it.

Gong’s writing brings 1920s Shanghai to life in all its glittering glory. Her beautiful prose is full of details that make you feel as if you yourself are walking down the crowded streets of the city or sitting in the back of a lively nightclub, but in a way that doesn’t bog down the story. I have difficulty reading books that are descriptive because they tend to be overly flowery and slow me down, but Gong’s writing flowed easily and allowed for an immersive reading experience.

Before settling in to read this book, I’d predicted that I would fall in love with Juliette Cai—and I was right. She is cunning and ruthless, unafraid to do what she has to protect her people, and wholeheartedly invited to step on me. Juliette was also sent to live and grow up in the US for a large part of her life, and I loved the portrayal of how she struggles with feeling out of place in Shanghai, from her style of dressing to her name to the way she speaks her language, even though she is far more Chinese than the white foreigners around her.

Roma Montagov, on the other hand, wholly surprised me. Forgive me for liking a white boy, but he’s someone who is much less rough than he appears to be and doesn’t like violence even though he’s the heir of a gang, and… I love the types of characters who put on masks like that. He’s surprisingly tender and caring for the people he loves in a way that isn’t quite as fierce as Juliette’s.

“You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me reason to hate you and then you give me reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is this a ploy or your heart reaching for me?”

Of course, in a Romeo and Juliet retelling, you expect an angsty romance bound to tug at your heartstrings, and that’s exactly what you get. The lovers to enemies to lovers trope was executed fantastically, and their tension and history paired with yearning and longing that couldn’t be suppressed made a painfully exquisite combination. It felt like Gong was tantalizing me with this romance, each scene between Juliette and Roma a breath held in fear of what might move in to the space between them that wasn’t hatred for each other.

There were also several side characters who I fell in love with: Juliette’s cousins, Kathleen and Rosalind, and Roma’s two righthand men, Benedikt and Marshall. They get a few of their own POV chapters, and though Marshall and Kathleen were my favorites, I loved each and every one of them! They all have such distinct personalities, from a perfectionistic artist to a dance performer to a witty flirt, and I can’t wait to see more of them in the sequel. (Kathleen is a trans girl, Marshall is Korean, and a romantic relationship is definitely developing between Benedikt and Marshall!)

Maybe there was no truth. Maybe nothing was as easy as one truth.

What I truly loved about this book, though, was the way it thoughtfully portrayed and commented on Western imperialism. It is as much of a threat to the people of Shanghai as the monster preying on them (and you might even argue that it’s more horrifying, in a more subtle way), and it’s heartbreaking to see Juliette and other Chinese people feel so helpless about the foreigners making a home in a city that is not theirs to carve a place into. There’s a particular layer revealed that shows even more how insidious and deeply embedded the West is in this city and many other non-Western places, and it genuinely gave me chills when I was reading.

Gong also wove the theme of loyalty into the threads of this story—loyalty to your people, your gang, your family—and how it is challenged when you dare to love your enemy. Something I found particularly interesting was how loyalty came into play with family in the gang, as family is one of the most important things you can value in Asian culture. This and other things truly showed how originally white stories can be enriched when taken and retold by authors of color with their own twists and bringing in their own background.

I personally was not entirely into the monster antagonist, as I was more interested in the idea of the foreigners as the villains, but the other areas of the story, most notably the characters, more than made up for it, a testament to how well-written the book was overall. I also had some problems getting into the book at first; it took me about until halfway to feel fully invested in the book (though I do blame part of that on the fact that I was in a reading slump), but once the book had me hooked, it did not let me go.

They are criminals—criminals at the top of an empire of thieves and drug lords and pimps, preparing to inherit a broken, terrible, defeated thing that looks upon them in sadness.

While the story as a whole is thrilling, the ending in particular is full of action and excitement, tinged with heartbreak and the shattering of dreams. When I turned the last page, I lay on my couch in silence with a feeling in my chest akin to the release of a held breath, a sense of awe washing over me as the full weight of the book and everything in it sank in. Gong lets the novel finish on a cruel cliffhanger, and the wait for the sequel will be long and painful, but completely worth it.

I adored Juliette and Roma and was thoroughly invested in their romance, and I was in awe of the way this book expertly tackled colonialism and Western influence. These Violent Delights is a beautifully written, haunting tale of how the West seeps into every place, even when people are determined to shut it out, paired with the tragic story of two lovers who seem destined to have everything around them fall apart. I can’t wait for others to fall in love with it just as I did.


:: representation :: Chinese MC, several Chinese characters, Chinese trans character, Korean mlm character, mlm character

:: content warnings :: murder, gore, violence, death, depictions of blood, loss of loved ones, disease/sickness, self-harm & suicide (not of own volition), transphobia, racism, colonialism, explosion, body horror-ish type of things with insects

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a spot on this blog tour! This did not affect my opinions in any way.

All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.

// buddy read with maha <3
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
December 4, 2020
if i could sum up the story of roma and juliette, it would be this quote by toni morrison:
‘we mistook violence for passion… and thought recklessness was freedom.’
the ruthless gangs, the rekindling of a first love after betrayal, the haunting of a monster and madness, and the dramatic ploys of various nationalities trying to gain control of shanghai, this story delivers on so many fronts.

i could most definitely see how this follows the tale of romeo and juliet, but at the same time, it feels soooo different. its the perfect kind of retelling, with the right balance of new and original.

my only critique would be the length and pacing. its a bit slow and drawn out (mainly because there are a lot of POVs). i was hoping for something a littler faster paced, but i can understand how the depth of scene setting and history is useful to the story.

also, i refuse to believe this a debut because the writing is phenomenal. i am so excited to see how it develops as the series continues!

4 stars
Profile Image for She-who-must-not-be-named .
180 reviews1,241 followers
January 17, 2022
A Romeo and Juliet retelling coupled with a historical screenplay of Shanghai torn by two rival Gangs (Scarlet gang and the White Flower gang) the Communists, and other foreigners fighting for power, These Violent Delights is, without an ounce of doubt, a debut of immense talent.

The crux of the story

Scarlet Gang is in charge of Shanghai and is the most powerful of all gangs in Shanghai. Juliette Cai , heiress of the Scarlet Gang ruled by the ruthless Lord Cai, has returned from America and is charged with a huge responsibility: to keep the Scarlet Gang in charge of Shanghai.

Trying to overthrow the Scarlet Gang is the White Flower Gang - sworn enemies to the Scarlet Gang, whose heir is Roma Montagov, son of the very merciless- Lord Montagov.

When people of Shanghai begin ripping out their own throats as a result of a mysterious contagious disease, talk runs around that a monster in the Huangpu river may be the source of all the catastrophes. Unless it is one of the many means and a weapon to take control of Shanghai. Roma and Juliette have no choice but to form a dalliance with each other, just like old times. Only, their past and their family's blood feud don't allow them to trust each other.

These Violent Delights is wonderfully imaginative and is rich in provocative social, physical, and emotional commentary, exploring the themes of loyalty, monarchy of sorts, morality, oppression, rebellion, sacrifice *insert the sound of my heart breaking* and most importantly, survival amidst the turmoil of contagion.

Each character is quirky and unique in his or her own way and is on a road toward self-discovery.

The fact that it is a Romeo-Juliet retelling is only one of this book's many strengths . These Violent Delights offers a vanquishing formula by petrifying, startling, and enticing the readers- ALL AT ONCE. It is packed with violence and action, and characters that are fleshed out to be believable teens toppling in a Shanghai that is filled with uncertainty and doom. Plans go terribly awry and the leads only have an unforgiving Huangpu river, no people to trust but only fellow gangsters, and a huge responsibility on their shoulders, when their parents couldn't care less.

One would expect from the descriptions that the book is a story of love, loss, and self-belief. But
These Violent Delights , although it may embody Romeo & Juliet has very little or almost nothing to do with romance as it is plot-heavy. It is also most definitely not a tragedy of sorts *HEY, I'M NOT MAKING ANY PROMISES THAT YOU WON'T FEEL SICK TO YOUR STOMACH AT THE END OF IT, MIND YOU* .

Despite all the violence that lays stagnant and heavy in the atmosphere, this is a zestful book that starts at a high velocity but slackens in the middle. At times, it may be difficult to catch up to its pace which makes readers fall behind a tad bit. At times the pace is so slow, readers are one step ahead of the discovery that the characters make in the story. However, there is so much emotion brimming in every chapter which spills such poignancy and pathos that I had no choice but to pay attention to every small detail and ram up even the smallest of moments. My mind was a ship sailing between dread and sorrow, and I was so fidgety throughout as if I was in the tale, feeling the weight of rivals' eyes filled with disdain on me and the sense of having to be just as careful as the characters. Great job there, Chloe Gong

I entered this book with an open mind, with zero expectations and a subzero knowledge about Shanghai in the 1920s. But the narration was so beautifully done that I wasn't even remotely cognitively exhausted.

There was a lot of context about colonialism in Shanghai and heavy colonizing influence of the West like the Opium Wars, British concession and the French concession, supremacist battle between the British and French, rise of communism, and so on.
Source- History of Shanghai

I won't elaborate about the characters because I don't want to make my review super long and taxing to read and also because the book is so plot-intensive that you see very less of the characters to form opinions on them.
But Marshall Seo was definitely my favourite character ❤

If explicit descriptions of violence, gore, bloodshed, self-mutilation, weapons, and parental abuse trigger you, you should probably refrain from reading this book

At the outset, this book is perfect for the lovers of dark and foreboding mystery.

Profile Image for Era ➴.
217 reviews558 followers
June 16, 2022
[rtc after rereading]

Trigger Warnings: violence (pretty gory), abuse, racism, grief, mentions of drug use.

Listen, I just came for the 1920’s Shanghai aesthetic. And then I got so much more than that.

“This place hums to the tune of debauchery. This city is filthy and deep in the thrall of unending sin, so saturated with the kiss of decadence that the sky threatens to buckle and crush all those living vivaciously beneath it in punishment.”

It was gorgeous. There was glitter and grit and a lot of dark alleyways. Julliete’s flapper dress and glittery makeup and gelled hair, plus a pistol at her hip? Utter perfection.

I absolutely loved the gangster concept of this book. The whole rivalry and star-crossed lovers thing played out so well, which I really didn’t expect since I kinda hate all romance tropes and yet fall for them every single time. But Romeo and Juliet is literally the original star-crossed lovers romance anyway, so there was a fair excuse.

“In a blink: guns upon guns, each arm raised and steady and trigger-happy, ready to pull. This is a scene that no soul bats an eye toward any longer; this is a scene that is more commonplace in heady Shanghai than the smoke of opium wafting from a thick pipe.”

However, the execution of the romance fell a little short to me. I came in expecting betrayal and yearning and tension, and most of what I got was...aggressive awkwardness. When Juliette and Roma were together, I kept waiting for there to be that tangled emotion and forbidden lust and I just didn’t get it. I got stutters and cold shoulders and “I don’t know what to do around you” vibes.

There were a few gems for the romance, though. A few specific scenes really delivered the ~angst~ that I was looking for.

“You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me a reason to hate you and then you give me a reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is this a ploy or your heart reaching for me?”

I think most people know the gist of Romeo and Juliette, but this book really just elevated it to another level. The madness aspect really just gave it a more tense, mysterious feel. The hunting the monster and trying to stop the source of the magic just gave this a more tense, rushed feel.

Unfortunately, the plot didn’t actually feel that well-paced. It felt slow and dragged in some places, although I might just blame that on the fact that I read about ten pages at a time over the course of four weeks. I was in a slump. So maybe the plot wasn’t actually slow and it was just my dumbass not being able to read properly. This might be the main reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected: I could barely read it.

“The rich and the foreign, they didn’t truly believe it. To them, this madness sweeping the city was nothing except Chinese nonsense—only to affect the doomed poor, only to touch the believers caught in their tradition. They thought their glistening marble could keep out contagion because the contagion was nothing save the hysteria of savages.”

The characterization in this book really twisted the whole thing into a new story. I loved how different the characters were, like they’d changed with the times. And the amazing cultural representation just brought it up another level. Excuse me, a proper explanation of the different dialects of Shanghai and the hereditary customs that different races used? Yes. Thank you.

Juliette Cai - My dumbass insists on calling her Juliete Cabbage because in Mandarin, "Cài (菜)" translates to "vegetable" or "cabbage". That’s not actually the right character for it, because Juliette’s last name doesn’t have a Mandarin-to-English translation, but that is how my brain perceived it and I couldn’t stop.

Juliette was cold and ruthless, and a little too inclined to violence. She was capable with a gun and a knife, and she knew it. She also had a harsh temper and tended to be on the arrogant side. She was definitely a flawed character, and as much as I wanted to be on her side and support her as a badass queen, I couldn’t really get on it. She was badass and strong, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with her being flawed, but I just felt like she could have given more emotion and more real characterization behind her that would have really made me attached.

She was, however, my favorite character in the book. I loved her internal conflict and how she couldn’t choose between being the foreign, commanding American girl or the Chinese girl who would inevitably become overlooked. I think it was an amazing way to show how cultural appropriation and hereditary conflict can take a toll on a person - someone who appeared rich and Western automatically received more attention, while someone who appeared Chinese and blended into the crowd was likely to be overlooked or mistreated. It’s extremely accurate from my experience - too many people have been condescending and racist toward me because I look Asian and I have tan skin. I’m so tired of blonde girls getting more respect than me even though I work twice as hard.

“Could she never be both? Was she doomed to choose one country or the other? Be an American girl or nothing?”

Roma Montagov - Roma didn’t have that much of a personality for me to like. He was okay, I guess? I got the dimension and the character development and I understood him, but I felt like he could have had more depth to him. His main personality trait was trying to understand what the hell was going on around him so he could protect his loved ones. He was a good character and hopefully we get more of him in the next book.

“These days, Juliette,” he said, low and warily, “the most dangerous people are the powerful white men who feel as if they have been slighted.”

Benedikt and Marshall - gay energy times 1000. Absolute ship. Chaotic bois who have morally-gray jobs and yet manage to be the amazing duo that they are. Their banter and chemistry is exactly the kind of romance I needed and I just -
Their personalities and the perspective they added to the plot was amazing, exactly what this book needed. I honestly think the chapters through their POVs became unnecessary at some points, but I don’t regret reading them at all and I love them both to death.

Alisa - we didn’t really get a lot of her character, but I liked the quiet stealth that she had and the weight on her shoulders, while still maintaining a childlike honesty that had me intrigued.

Rosalind - she was...not my favorite. I didn’t like her that much; in the beginning I thought she would be a great addition to the group but by the middle I was a little done with her. She did some really low things and didn’t seem to actually care about anything other than whatever pertained directly to her.

Kathleen - I didn’t actually understand her backstory, which is unfortunate because it added so much to her character. But I liked the role she played and the way she handled things, even though she was a bit bland for a leading character in the book. She could have had more emotional depth, in my opinion.


I have been trying to save this part for last because I have too much to say about it.

There are so many times that people will make these comments to me about my race without even realizing that they’re making assumptions.
“Where were you born?” Hm, have you ever asked a white person this question? No? I wonder why.
“Do you use chopsticks?” I can, but traditionally I don’t. Why? Hm, maybe because Indonesia (my parents’ home country) was occupied tyrannized by white people for over three centuries. Oh, it might also be because the USA authorized the killing of thousands of Chinese-Indonesian citizens. I’m sure it’s not because so much of my parents’ homeland was brutalized by white colonization.
“Are you from China, Japan, or Korea?” Well you’re obviously from a country that doesn’t recognize more than three countries in Asia.

“They believed themselves the rulers of the world—on stolen land in America, on stolen land in Shanghai. Everywhere they went—entitlement. And Juliette was so tired.”

White colonization has been exposed. Please give me a rational explanation as to why the French and the English had to erect their own sections of Shanghai? Oh wait, they didn’t need to.

They just did. Without considering who they might be oppressing - they just came in and started eradicating any culture that they didn’t agree with, which basically means any culture that wasn’t strictly white and Western. White supremacy be like “you’re not as pale as me, so you’re inferior to me, so now I’m your superior and you have to do whatever we say without regard to your culture and customs”.

“She thought it preposterous that her father had to ask permission to run business on land their ancestors had lived and died on from men who had simply docked their boat here and decided they would like to be in charge now.”

Please feel free to correct me, since I haven’t taken high school history yet. That’s just the mindset that I’ve gotten used to after being born and raised in America.

Speaking of which, here’s how America was FUCKING EXPOSED BY JULIETTTE CAI:

The land of dreams. Where men and women in white hoods roam the streets to murder Black folks. Where written laws prohibit the Chinese from stepping upon its shores. Where immigrant children are separated from immigrant mothers on Ellis Island, never to be seen again.”

“Where men and women in white hoods roam the streets to murder Black folks.” That’s pretty accurate. The only thing is now they’re in blue uniforms.

“Where written laws prohibit the Chinese from stepping upon its shores.” Also true. Immigration laws were written solely for the purpose of weeding out who was “worthy” to come to America - it used to be a perfectly legal option to come to America as a stowaway or without papers. You know why it isn’t now? Racism.

“Where immigrant children are separated from immigrant mothers on Ellis Island, never to be seen again.” Did you know that the words “moron” and “idiot” were created by so-called doctors on Ellis Island, whose jobs were to inspect patients who were either cripples or mentally-ill? And that most of the mentally-ill patients were non-white people who didn’t speak English? And that most of them probably had no illness whatsoever? And that anyone who was labeled a “moron” was then deported? History is great.

I was so glad that Chloe Gong addressed these things in her book. I needed that. We need more people who know this stuff. It would have been easy to brush off these topics, since this book takes place in China and all of its characters are Chinese (with other races mixed in, for some cases, but still). It would have been simple to say “well, all of the main things are Chinese, so white racism wouldn’t have been that major”. But that’s not how it works, and the cultural representation that I found in this book was fucking perfection.

Overall, These Violent Delights was an amazing retelling with an incredibly inclusive, dark aesthetic. I found it lacking a bit in the romance department and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have, but I would absolutely recommend it and I will definitely revisit it if I ever get free time.

Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
431 reviews4,225 followers
May 25, 2023
To be clear, this book is 3.5 stars.

This book These Violent Delights is an updated version of Romeo & Juliette set in Shanghai in the 1920's. Roma and Juliette are now ex's from warring gang families who must come together to solve a problem.

As Chloe Gong's debut novel, she should be proud of her book especially her writing. I enjoyed the lyrical nature in which the author wrote. She is clearly very talented. Further, based on the little synopsis, full disclosure thought that this book would be absolute trash. However, I ended up enjoying it more than I thought that I would.

In the future, I am looking forward to reading more from Chloe Gong. There are a few things that I would have liked to see:
1) Although I thought that this version of Romeo and Juliette was unique, it smelled a bit of fan fiction. When I think of my favorite novels: The Great Gatsby, Dune, and The Golden Compass, these books were completely unique in their own right. I would love to see how the author pushes herself in her upcoming novels.
2) These characters were really hard to root for. They were all gangsters. One of the things that I enjoyed about Romeo and Juliette (and please forgive me I am going in my way back machine so I may not be remembering correctly) they were innocent 14 year old's. They were not portrayed as personally involved in the feud but were innocently swept up. This Roma and Juliette, they seemed bitter, weathered, ruthless. They were not innocent. I will probably regret saying this because this style of writing is way overused, but it might have been better to have flashbacks to the earlier times to really feel the passion between the characters, how innocent they were, how they had these really big ideals of how to make the world better, something that would have made me say, "Hey, I really care if these two characters get killed off." The author that I think does the best job of building likeable characters is Philip Pullman Philip Pullman.
3) I really wish I had the audiobook available for this book. Some of the names were not familiar to me. Still not really sure how to pronounce Juliette's last name.
4) This is my opinion and I know that some literary big names will completely disagree with me (Philip Pullman would 100% have your side on this one Ms. Gong), but I was confused by this book and what genre it was supposed to be in. For the original Romeo and Juliette, it was billed as a tragic romance/drama. This version was young adult, romance, drama, thriller, and probably more. As a thriller, the pacing was off. Being an avid thriller reader, I did not feel like the pair was just about to crack the case or uncover something substantial. It always felt like they were a long way off from solving it. As a romance, I had a hard time buying into why exactly Roma and Juliette were into each other (other than they were similarly situated). What did Roma do that caused Juliette to love him and vice versa? Did he help her through a tough time? However, I do know that Mr. Pullman would say that he doesn't like his book being categorized as children's fantasy. So please don't be too hard on yourself, Ms. Gong, or view this as a negative review.

Overall, the book was an interesting take on Romeo and Juliette. It was rather page turning. Nicely done, Ms. Gong!

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Lia Carstairs.
417 reviews2,314 followers
May 18, 2021

What the hell was that cliffhanger?!?!
All that work and then that happens??? omgomgomg-

Chloe Gong really knows how to deliver an ending. I just love how she ends the book in the middle of a climax?!?! (She even added the "To be continued" at the end as if knowing that her readers would be begging for more aghhhh and I unknowingly fell into the trap)

I could honestly just feel the beginning of despair swallow up the characters and horror dawn on them as they realized that this was not over—but only the beginning of everything.

Now you probably have no idea with what I'm talking about unless you've already read the book, and I probably sound like a rambling lunatic, but trust me or maybe don't, once you read this for yourselves......you'll see what I mean. (I shan't be the only one suffering muahahahaa)

Set in 1920's Shanghai, eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has finally returned home after 4 years of residing in America. She's back and ready to reclaim her rightful place as the heir of the Scarlet Gang, but unfortunately, with being gone for 4 years, there will have been many changes within both the gang and city.

The French, British, Americans, and Communists have all slowly worked their way up and gained more power in Shanghai in the time that's passed.

And to add on to that, a strange madness is spreading in the city like wildfire with the victims clawing at their throats and whispering of sightings of a monster lurking around. Oh yeah, and somehow creepy and disgusting insects are appearing *shudder* it truly is a nightmare come to life.

Let's not forget the most important of all—the White Flowers, sworn enemies of the Scarlet Gang. Between the two groups lies centuries of deep hatred and to this day, they remain as is with their territories and killing of one another.

But when both gangs deal with losses of their own because of the madness and monster......they may be forced to set aside their grudges and work together. *gasp* (ik, the horror.)

Hey, hey, hey, but that's not all Juliette's problems. There's also having to face Roma Montagova heir of the White Flowers—the man who once knew her better than anyone and...her lover.

After a heartbreaking betrayal though, all Juliette feels for him is a deep burning hatred . However, when an incident forces Juliette and Roma to band together to figure out the cause of the sickness, hatred is no longer what lies in her mind.

Or maybe, that feeling never left at all....😏

Juliette was such an amazing female protagonist and I just loved her. Her strength and bloodthirstiness...ahhhhh what's not to love about it? (uh oh, I'm starting to see a trend in what type of characters I'm loving)

Even though she didn't enjoy hurting people, she still would, knowing when it was necessary for information or if said victim would be a hindrance left alive. xD and unlike our soft boy here, Juliette would think of shooting as her first option rather than incapacitating them. (not....that that's a good thing of course hehe)
It's pretty cool seeing the female MC as the cold and unforgiving one and the male being the opposite (in most cases).

"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?"

Yes, the famous line we all know of. Except what's funny is that I actually never read Romeo and Juliet before. I've heard about it and everything, but my English teacher told us that he hated the play and it's stupidity, so he wouldn't make us read it (instead it was "Much Ado About Nothing", which I loved).

But I digress.

Roma Montagova here is, thankfully, nothing like the Romeo in Shakespeare. Although he is the heir of the White Flowers and must of course get his hands dirty (I mean, he is in a gang), Roma does not have the same ruthlessness as Juliette and actually tries to avoid killing others haha.

But it makes sense the two turned out the way they are now, considering the betrayal—and you'll have to read this to find out what that betrayal was hehe.

Also, when Roma would call Juliette 'dorogaya' (means 'sweetheart').......it was just so sweet.🥺

There are also some side characters that I just loved so much, like Benedikt, Marshall, and Kathleen. And then ones that I absolutely despised....but I won't go into any names. In due time, you shall see who I am talking about.

Chloe Gong said that she wrote "These Violent Delights" as a love letter to Shanghai and I can truly see that. I could almost imagine being in Shanghai myself when she'd describe the beauty of parts of the city and hear her love for it. The culture, the people, the languages spoken......just everything in the book was beautiful to learn about.

Now you're probably wondering, "If I loved this book so much, why 4 stars?".

Well, the downside of this book was that some parts were just a slow at times, so I'd kind of have to push myself to get through it. Also, with the people in the city speaking so many different languages (Chinese, Russian, French, etc), sometimes there wouldn't be a translation of it afterwards in English, so how was I supposed to know what it meant?!?!

I mean, based off of what came after, I could guess what the person had said, but I kinda want to know exactly what they're saying (I just went to google translate at that point haha). Some of the sentences were translated later in English by the characters, but then sometimes not....? Maybe, just maybe, I should've paid more attention in French class. whoops

Other than that, this book was beautifully written and AFTER THAT 'TO BE CONTINUED' ENDING I NEED BOOK 2 ASAP.

I will be over here hoping that I get an ARC of the 2nd book.🥺
Please, please, please.......

P.S. My loyalty will forever lie with the Scarlet Gang🌹

Eternally grateful to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!! <3
Profile Image for Cait Jacobs (Caitsbooks).
305 reviews14.6k followers
October 16, 2021
Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Check out this review (and more) over on my blog!

Quick Stats:
5/5 Stars
Characters: 5/5
Setting: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Plot and Themes: 5/5
Awesomeness Factor: 5/5
Review in a Nutshell: I had some pretty high expectations for this book, but I never expected it to fly above all of them.

// Content Warning: Violence, Death, Assault, Gun Violence, Torture, Suicide, (Drug) Addiction (Mention), Child Abuse, Murder, Gore//

Release Date: 11/17/2020
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Page Count: 464

These Violent Delights is a refreshing take on Romeo and Juliet, taking place in Shanghai, in 1926. It follows Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, the heirs to two rival gangs, locked in a blood feud. But when their city is overrun by madness, they must work together to stop it.

- Writing & Setting -

The first thing that amazed me about this book was the writing style (this was only the first of many things). The writing in this book is beautiful, and includes so much depth in every line, without feeling extremely dense and too-flowery. It sets the tone for the book, creating a dark atmosphere with a bite.

Speaking of the atmosphere- the setting is absolutely astounding. I can’t imagine the amount of research that went into creating such a vibrant and grounded world. While there are some fantasy aspects, they are so well developed that it only made the world feel more real.

- Plot -

I will admit, it took me a minute to get fully into the book (maybe 50 pages or so), but once I was invested, I was obsessed. You would think an almost-500 page book might take some time to read, but I couldn’t put it down. There was always something interesting happening, and those last 100 pages??? Yeah, there was no chance I was stepping away from that.

One thing I really enjoyed about the plot of this book was all of the unique twists on the classic Romeo & Juliet plot. I loved how all of the original characters were adapted, and I especially loved how These Violent Delights differed from the original while still having great references to it.

- Characters -
Hello, yes, I would like to form a Marshall Seo fan club.

Okay, but can we talk about some of these characters for a moment? Forget Roma and Juliette (we’ll get to them later)- but Marshall, Benedict, Kathleen, and Rosalind??? 1) I loved seeing all of the representations in this book 2) They’re just so well-developed and I love them all. Even when I may not like a character, their beliefs and motivations are incredibly realistic and interesting, so I love them anyway. … but also I do really like most of them.

Now, let's talk about Roma and Juliette. Roma is our Romeo, he seems cold and cunning but secretly cares so deeply about those he loves. Then there’s Juliette. She’s ruthless and violent and dedicated to her people. They are great protagonists, and I adore them so much.

But also let's talk about them as a couple, because this is a Romeo and Juliet retelling so that’s kinda important.
One worry I get with Romeo and Juliet retellings is that it’ll rely on insta-love. But this book most certainly does not. Not only is the main relationship enemies-to-lovers, but childhood sweethearts-to-enemies-to-lovers, so we get a whole extra level of angst. If that isn’t enough to make you want to read it, I don’t know what is. I absolutely love them together and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

- Conclusion -

Pros- Amazing characters, beautiful writing, fascinating world, seriously everything about this book is amazing
Cons- Can take a second to get into
Overall- 5/5 stars.
These Violent Delights is a book you cannot miss. This novel is astounding in every way and I can't recommend it enough.

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January 27, 2022

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DNF @ 15%

Well, that was disappointing. The 1920s Shanghai setting hooked me and the idea of a Romeo and Juliet retelling intrigued me, because even though I'm not keen on the play, I think it offers a lot of potential for reworking the storyline. And a retelling with rival gangs? YAS.

Sadly, this book just wasn't it for me. The writing was such a slog. It has that forced ornateness to it that a lot of the YA coming out these days has-- THE GILDED WOLVES, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, THE PRISON HEALER-- and I know a lot of people really like that style of narration, but I really don't. It's all tell and no show, and everything is just laid out like a folded hand of cards.

Part of my project this week is knocking out a whole bunch of books that I was really excited to read that had also been super hyped up. Most of the books sort of or really lived up to the hype but sadly, for me, this one did not.

1 star
Profile Image for ale ‧ ₊˚୨ ♡ ୧ ₊˚.
411 reviews2,133 followers
November 17, 2021
5 stars.

“You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me a reason to hate you and then you give me a reason to love you.”


my tumblr review

So I made a playlist for this book (perhaps I'll start to make playlists from now on, tbh, lol) If it flops, I'm gonna delete it because yikes.

Buckle up, bitches, my review has some spoilers, so, you've been warned.

I'm gonna start saying that Romeo and Juliet was the very first book that I've ever read and Romeo was my first fictional character boyfriend... Yes, I was madly, truly, deeply and insanely in love with Romeo Montague (in Spanish for me is Montesco, so, lol) and I cried like a bitch when he died... I was only 11, please understand me. So, there was NO FUCKING WAY IN HELL that I was gonna miss the chance to read this book.

Miss Chloe Gong is my age and she's already a bestseller author... I envy you for that, Chloe, trust me. I feel like a failure, lol, jk or not.

The fact that Romeo Montagov is Russian made me lost my entire shit. Yes, I'm a big ass fan of Russian culture, in case you're wondering. Why? I have no fucking clue and don't ask me. My mom says it all started when I first watched Disney's Anastasia at the age of 6. When he switched of languages, using Russian, I was drooling and screaming. Again, idk why.

I'm gonna make something clear. This book took me a while (I started it on June 27th) because I was on a huge-ass reading slump; it wasn't the book, it was totally me.

The writing style of this book is fucking exquisite. I loved the metaphors, the descriptions, tHE WAY EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE IS PORTRAYED, HOLY SHIT!

I was really wheezing, laughing and cackling over the "I am Russian, not an alcoholic" at 12:00 a.m, lol.

here is the evidence, lmao.

I really really really loved Juliette, she's a baddie, even if she's struggling so bad with her emotions. I would thank her if she'd stabbed me, or say sorry for stealing her oxygen.

I wished that Roma would've had a little bit of more personality, but he's funny tho. Roma Montagov, please marry me. Now. "You could be a Montagov" What a way to proposte to me, but yes, I do. Please, get on a balcony and call me "dorogaya."

Kathleen is ma girl, touch her and you'll die. I'm still debating what's going on with Rosalind.

Benedikt, my little angel. I must protect him.


Tyler, I hope Juliette kills you <3

Paul had it coming tbh.

Well, I loved this book so much. And if you think I'm gonna pick up the second because of the cliffhanger of this one, you're right. I am doing that.

Dear Chloe, I'm gonna send you the bill of my therapist so you can start to pay it, because I honestly lost my shit around the chapter 36 (cHAPTER 36 WAS ONLY 6 WORDS, BUT THEY KILLED ME).
Profile Image for Phuong ✯.
631 reviews5,826 followers
December 23, 2020
2.5 stars

First of all I want to say that I think it's unfair that this book is in the GCA Semifinals in Young Adult Fantasy when it hasn't even released yet. GR messing up these awards every year is nothing new, but it still bugs me. A book that has been released for months now, should be able to have that spot. I would have said this regardless if I liked These Violent Delights or not, I just think other books that have already been released may deserve the exposure more.

Edit: Not surprise that it didn't make it into the final round, cause how? No one has read it. This book should have been included in the awards for next year like The Queen of Nothing is this year, but it's GR so it will never make sense 🤷🏽‍♀️


Take this review with a grain of salt, because lately I can't seem to enjoy any book. My concentration span in quarentine is around 10 minutes max. If my attention is not catch by that time, it's lost. That being said I'm someone who under normal circumstances gets easily bored. 🙈

So far there are way more positive reviews for These Violent Delights , so I'm pretty sure that I'm the odd one here and have an unpopular opinion. I haven't been lucky with the YA fantasy releases this year so far.
“You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me reason to hate you and then you give me reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is this a ploy or your heart reaching for me?”


These Violent Delights is set in 1926 Shanghai. The city is unofficially divided into two territorties. One belongs to the Scarlet Gang and the other belongs to the White Flowers. These two rival gangs have been ruling Shanghai with an iron fist since forever. Now a madness is spreading throughout the city with members of both gangs dying by clawing out there throats. The story is all about finding the monster who is spreading this madness around the city. Therefore Juliette Cai, heir of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, heir of the White Flowers, have to work together to find a cure.


I'm partly to blame, because I'm putting too much hope into the romance aspect of these young adult fantasy books when it's not the focus of the story. I've only read this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling"  and knew I had to read this book.. Romeo and Juliet?? Sign me up!

A love like theirs was never going to survive in a city divided by hatred.

Juliette and Roma are in rival gangs – forbidden aspect? check.
They have a past together, but then they betrayed each otherangst? check.
Reunited to work together to solve a mystery – yearning and longing? check.

On paper everything looks great, but the excecution was lacking and I know that it's partly on me and expecting to much of a romance in a book where it's not the main focus. The romance is a very small subplot. For a good amount of the times Juliette and Roma don't have scenes with each other, but are with their respective gang. The romance aspect didn't really start until maybe the last third of the book. The longing and yearning I was hoping fore was almost non-existent. Every time they had a scene together, I felt exactly nothing.. where was the angst?

One would think there would be so much tension leading to the explanation of the betrayal, but it wasn't. The Romeo and Juliet retelling was disappointing, not even the names that were almost the same could help.

“Just leave me here,” he said with a groan. “How are you this bad?” Juliette asked in disbelief. “I thought you were Russian.”
“I am Russian, not an alcoholic,” Roma muttered.

The romance can not be great, if half of ship is totally BLAND. I see this trend in YA books where the heroine is this kickass and powerful characters and then there is the Hero who just breathes and does nothing ordinary. That's Roma for you. As the heir of the White Flower he has to act tough, but he's acutally such a softie which is fine, but why couldn't he be more exciting???!!! Only for a little.

I don't know if it's inteded or not, but Juliette character arc was pretty fleshed out. We got all her thoughts on colonialism, backstory on how she was send to the US for educational purposes, her dynamics with her cousins and parents and her place in the gang. Compared to Juliette Roma was background noice. There was not much on his background and if this is something that is more explored in the next book, then I apologize in advance for critisizing this.
“So you,” Roma went on fiercely, “cannot fool me any longer. You are the same indomitable girl I would have laid my life down to save. I made my choice to believe in you—now you make yours. Will you keep fighting, or will you crumble?”

Speaking of characters, this book had quite a few, but the most important one next to Roma and Juliette were their cousins. Roma closest relationships are with Benedikt and Marshall, while Juliette is pretty close with her cousins Kathleen and Rosalind. While I love reading about different family dynamics/relationships I didn't care enough about any of them. For that reason it was boring to read the chapters where Kathleen/Rosalind/Benedikt/Marshall were wandering around Shanghai trying to help.

And then there is the plot, I wasn't very fond of. The whole "running around Shanghai finding the monster who spreads the madness" plot was not going anywhere. There were a couple subplots that started, but got lost somewhere. It's annoying how in most YA fantasy books for 80% of the book nothing really happens. The characters run around in circle and accomplish next to zero and in the last few chapters everything happens at once. Twist left and right and then the book ends when it is at its peak! 😬
“I am more concerned with why people were tearing their throats out in this house in the first place—”“It’s the madness,” Juliette interrupted. “It’s here, and it could be a viral contagion. We need to ask the other maids who were in contact with the victims to remain in their rooms for a few days.”

To read about these things during this year. Not that great. It's not the author's fault tbh, cause I doubt she knew what was coming when she wrote this book.

“My name was too Chinese for the West,” Juliette continued, a wry smile on her lips. She didn’t know why her face had morphed itself into amusement. She was anything but amused. “You know how it is—or maybe you don’t. A temporary thing for a temporary place, but now the temporary thing is burrowed in so deep it cannot be removed.”

Colonialism plays a huge part and Chloe Gong did a great job of portraying this. Foreigner like the British, French, Russians etc. were all over Shanghai to a point were the main character Juliette felt like a stranger in her own country. She came back to Shanghai after her parents send her abroad to study in the US. Now that she's back, Juliette's trying to navigate life. Other themes like racism and sexism were explored in this book too.

The Chinese had built the pit, gathered the wood, and lit the match, but it was the foreigners who had come in and poured gasoline upon every surface, letting Shanghai rage into an untamable forest fire of debauchery.

Juliette shading white people and hating on white supremacy throughout the entire book? LOVED THAT. Just things I love to read about and one of the biggest reasons I could push through this book.

It was the entitlement that drove these men forward. Entitlement that encouraged their wives to place a delicate handkerchief to their nose and sniff, wholeheartedly believing the tirade was deserved. They believed themselves the rulers of the world—on stolen land in America, on stolen land in Shanghai. Everywhere they went—entitlement.

Juliette was a very relatable character for me. Even though, Juliette is the heir to the Scarlet Gang, she had to work extremely hard to get where she is now. Juliette is tough and dangerous to prove to her parents and all the other gang members that she can get the job done. Tyler, one of her counsins, is trying to get Juliette's position, therefore Juliette has to work harder not to make any mistakes and prove that she's the right heir to the Scarlet Gang. As an asian kid, I think, a lot of people will be able to relate to her character to a degree. Having to work harder to prove your parents that you're getting shit done. Otherwise they still treat you like a kid even though you can be 30 or 55.

Books that end with a cliffhanger are always the worse. I didn't expect anything less from this book, but unfortunately I'm not interested enough in any of these characters or plot to continue with this series.

*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Althea ☾.
625 reviews2,016 followers
March 16, 2022
Additional note: I forgot to highlight this because I only realized it, the reason I love (and perhaps for a lot of other people too) Juliette and Roma so much is because it never felt like Roma was Juliette's knight in shining armor. The romance felt like they were reliant on each other without ever making half of the couple showcase inferiority. They were both strong and vulnerable.

Miss Chloe Gong really said let’s put diversity, chemistry, and beautiful writing together and then write a book. ✨ I would make all of you read this if you weren’t all already

“Too many kind hearts turn cold everyday.”


Her words were like a movie playing in my head.

I’m so happy the writing style did not let me down, especially given that it was my most anticipated of 2020.

The blurb says everything you need to know, there’s a blood feud and a monster that they are trying to take down. It takes time to build up but it’s not slow paced. The word choices and construction made Shanghai feel so alive which always so integral in historical fiction. Chloe Gong said she read The Diviners before writing this book and it honestly makes a lot of sense. If you like the atmosphere of that series, you get the Shanghai version of that here.

I feel like I haven’t been attached to characters in a YA novel as much as this in a while. It’s been a while since I have been as invested in a couple as I am in Roma and Juliette, but at the same time, it wasn't all about the romance. The forbidden romance, enemies-to-lovers, second chance romance, was really sold on me. I could rave entirely about our main MCs but the side characters are also simply (you knew it was coming)... *chef’s kiss*, extremely lovable and I was invested in each one of them.

There are definitely trigger warnings for gore, some graphic scenes, and insects for those who are sensitive to those. Since I think that was a reason a lot of people were bothered reading this.

Since this is historical fiction, it also revolved on underlying themes about colonialism, specifically in China during the 1920s. And really, how prejudices and interactions happen between of Western and Eastern cultures in general, which was extremely fascinating and important to read about. The disapora rep was very prevalent, especially through Juliette, and delivered in a way I have never read before.

But at the end of the day it’s really a fun romance/mystery that packs an impactful message. I did figure out who what was going on but I didn’t expect that cliffhanger to be what it was.

I enjoy more dreamy writing, which was it was for the first half but the ending of this changed to a more contemporary tone in a way. It wasn’t my favorite change based on my personal preference but I do know that some readers felt otherwise. That said, certain scenes towards the end were a bit cliche for me that it almost made me rate the book lower.

If you’re a fan of the atmospheric, mysterious, magical but violent tone like that of The Diviners and The Last Magician… you really don’t want to pass this up. And vice versa. ↢

This was all the beautiful things I wanted it to be.

— 4.5 —
trigger warnings// Alcohol, Blood, Death, Drugs, Explosion, Gore, Grief, Insects, Loss of loved ones, Murder, Parental abuse, Violence
representation: Chinese* main character and cast, Chinese* trans girl main character, Chinese Diaspora, Gay main character, Korean main character, M/M side relationship (side character)

In case I haven’t hyped this book up enough, hold me accountable to write another glowing review tomorrow morning 🌹🤍 hopefully I’ve come up with something witty by then

(I put it back on my PTBR because seeing 4 books on my currently reading actually stressed me out so I will continue this after I have sobbed over The Dragon Republic and I can devote my attention to it)

shhhhh.... it's happening... i'm finally reading my most anticipated book of the year 🥺

i'm reading 3 other books right now but who cares

12/07/20: Two days ago we were only 5 people in line (I’m 3rd) for this book in my library and now there are 17 people waiting, that’s so wild... we love to see it.

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO THIS LOVELY 💕 I’m so excited to read you.

"if you love:

sharp girls with knives
dangerous boys who cry
cities that feel alive
and old stories told anew"


Chloe Gong said that she took inspiration from The Diviners by Libba Bray... one of my favorite series of all time... and if it’s not obvious how hyped I already am, it just sky rocketed even more 😌

I'm being so impatient but I NEED my copy NOW T_T all I do is cry about this every day I swear

OHMYGOD IT'S ON MY LIBBY T_T and I'm 4th in line :3


I can't explain if it's the romeo and juliet + gangs retelling with the fantastical elements or the historical setting that's getting me hyped up but I just need this in my life already PLSSSS

I don't think I've ever been more hyped up for a single book pre-publication

Every day that goes by increases the hype that I have built for this for myself

I literally keep thinking about this book... someone needs to help me because it's not even published yet

"star crossed exes in 1920s shanghai with family feuds and a ~dash~ of magic"
"fans of the last magician"

i happily welcome you to my tbr
Profile Image for Antje ❦.
130 reviews263 followers
September 14, 2023

This is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 20th century Shanghai. I went into this book blind, having read a few (not so positive) reviews on here and seeing this cover (practically the same as the Den of Vipers cover- and that's the worst book I've ever laid my eyes on) a million times on TikTok. And I must say I'm so surprised!

First of all, this was well written, sooo well written. Chloe Gong is very young, and was even younger when she wrote this, but these sentences GIRLLLL. Such a rich vocabulary, but doesn’t take from the flow of the story. Truly a talented writer!
This is a YA fantasy (and your girl has read a ton of those) and they don’t even come close to this (maybe they do in having an interesting storyline but not in such beautiful writing and lovely characters). This would especially hit me hard back in 2018/19, but I’m still glad I’ve read it as a 22 year-old.
Usually, I’m not a fan of retellings, but I do enjoy them when they’re very subtle. So far, this one is (this is a duology so I’ve yet to see the story develop further). I’ve noted elements of the original story (their names, potions etc), but the plot is in NO WAY predictable (having in mind the well-known story of Romeo and Juliet and their VERY WELL-KNOWN ending).
Like your typical YA fantasy, this has many plot twists and turns (and some major events), a badass FMC and her desperate lover. But also, it has some unusual elements and I loved them all.

First of all, this is a history lesson. I don’t know much about actual historical facts of this time period, but I love the way everything was presented here. I would prefer more Chinese characters (yup, a whole ton of white people), but you can’t always win. Next, the language mixture was so enjoyable to me: I find it so smart when writers include their knowledge of different languages in enriching their stories (Babel iykyk): here, there had been elements of, of course English, but also different dialects of Mandarin, Latin, French etc. Modern and historical racial inequalities and problems were also heavily mentioned and props to Chloe Gong for that, educating young readers is something we should see in media more often.
I loved the protagonists, but also the side characters. Romance is only a subplot (if even that), it drives the plot in some ways, but doesn’t play a major role, and I love that. The dynamic between those estranged lovers was truly beautifully written!
I’m honestly so sad about the marketing this book has on social media. It led me into thinking this was complete trash, and instead, I’ve possibly found myself a new favorite and a series I’ll recommend to other readers!
OUR VIOLENT ENDS HERE I COME!!! (I'm actually terrified) 🥲
Profile Image for Marzuqa.
63 reviews57 followers
July 10, 2021
Here it is, my love of 2020! I wasn’t just immersed in this book, I was drowned in it. It’s the kind of book you wish you could read for the first time, again and again.
This was such a captivating mix of fantasy, romance, horror and mystery (basically all the things I love) packaged into this neat story that I just could not put down.
The characters were all so admirable and I loved how the story played out. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call this work flawless.
Waiting for the sequel is gonna be a torture, really!

Loved, loved, loved this!!
Profile Image for Angelica.
814 reviews1,149 followers
Want to read
March 23, 2021
This author is still an undergrad in college...
what have I been doing with my life??????
Profile Image for Nicole.
510 reviews14.3k followers
March 8, 2022
Wyśmienicie się bawiłam, chociaż ma kilka scen, na których przewróciłam oczami.
Profile Image for Xiran Jay Zhao.
Author 3 books11k followers
July 11, 2020
juliette cai cosplay
juliette cai cosplay

Personal Rating: Juliette Cai could backhand me right into the Huangpu River, and I’d thank her
Reasons to Read: The richly realized world of 1920s Shanghai, the poetry-like prose, the tense mystery, the meticulously developed characters, the delicious and scathing discourse against colonialism, the doomed LOOOONGING between Roma and Juliette

So this is one of those books that makes me angry. Angry because I cannot BELIEVE I never knew the extent of how interesting the situation in 1920s Shanghai was. I mean, I knew it was a world class city on par with Paris and New York, but the complexity of its political and societal dynamics wasn’t something taught to me, despite me being Chinese. Growing up, the 1920s Shanghai c-dramas I’ve watched were mostly about undercover Communists struggling against the Kuomingtang (so, very thinly veiled propaganda). This book presents a much more complicated and nuanced view of the city then. It has the best of what I love so much about historical fiction. It instantly comes with gripping tension and fascinating dynamics because of that element of Realness to its background, and everything is much cooler knowing you’re learning about a real setting. Nothing gets more intense than real life.

In the story, Shanghai is a city controlled by Western colonizers and two gangs, the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers. Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are its respective heirs, but both face a multitude of pressures from inside and outside their gangs. Being heir to a gang is as precarious as being heir to a throne. They are doomed to command respect by continuing the blood feud between them, or they’d lose their positions and their ability to protect themselves and all that they love. The most interesting part of this retelling is that the expected forbidden romance actually happened four years before the start of the story, and it did not end well. So the tension between Juliette and Roma are that of jilted exes. It makes for a lot of hilarious, bickering dialogue and understandable angst as they’re forced to work together to save their city from a mysterious epidemic of madness (I can’t believe Chloe Gong invented 2020).

Juliette Cai is by far my favorite character, because she is the epitome of That B*tch. This ho speaks, like, 6 different languages and dialects (Mandarin, Shanghainese, English, French, Russian, Dutch). Before you call BS–no, this is indeed realistic for someone born into an elite family at the time. One endlessly entertaining part of the book was her and Roma switching between different languages depending on their surroundings, and the general exploration of language. She’s a breath of fresh air in that she’s an elite who fully embraces her elitism. There is nothing humble or awkward about her. She is better than you and KNOWS it, and you better know it as well.

Part of her ruthlessness was honed by a massive, bloody betrayal by Roma that ended their young romance four years ago. It’s pretty clear early on that Roma’s hand was forced, though. He spends most of the book being Very Tired of all the BS around him, yet there’s an undeniable fire in him that drives him to fight to keep his position as heir, because he’d probably die the moment he lost it for good. There are no cinnamon rolls here. Once you find out the truth of what he did, it’s understandable, but you’re not sure he should be forgiven either, which makes for great tension in how this would all resolve.

Full review, more cosplay shots, and memes on my blog
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Profile Image for kristi.
260 reviews59 followers
February 15, 2021
rating: 2 stars

it's me, ya girl. the one who keeps giving all her most anticipated books low ratings. i wish i could see what everyone does in this book (at the time that i'm writing this it seems that i'm in the minority) but there were too many issues that i couldn't overlook.

— the writing

if i took a shot every time there was an info-dump during the first hundred pages or so i'd be dead on page ten. i practically fell asleep. interesting conversations would be broken up by random backstories that felt out of place; chapters would start with character backgrounds that felt unnecessary to the overall plot (like that one that started with someone's backstory about creating a perfect sphere). look, i get that gong wanted to give depth to all her characters, but there comes a time where you need to pick and choose. too much detail overwhelms your reader and makes the story drag.

on top of that, there were a lot of languages used in this book. many scenes had lines in french, russian or shanghainese and while that's fine... some weren't translated to english for the reader to understand?? were we just supposed to whip out google translate or just continue reading and act as if we got what was being said?

— the plot

there was so much potential. two rival gangs dealing with similar issues of communists and british/french men trying to gain their alliance could have made for an amazing political plot. instead, we got some supernatural monster in a world that supposedly has no magic to begin with. where did this come from?

on top of that, many of the scenes felt choppy. a lot of them just didn't feel necessary and felt like they were thrown in for filler to make the book longer than it had to be. other scenes could have been combined, for example, that one scene towards the end of the book where juliette learns something about roma and wishes to confront him but doesn't, only to confront him about it ten pages later.

— the worldbuilding

yeah there was none. as i'm writing this review i still do not understand the politics of the book (it was never really fleshed out honestly, pushed aside in favour of the supernatural monster).

the book thrusts you into the plot immediately. like page one immediately. and while usually i adore this style, it was done in a way that gave you no time to familiarize yourself before important events started happening. so while i was figuring out the politics of the world, i was also figuring out the magic and the characters and their relationships with each other at the same time. yeah that’s a no from me.

— the atmosphere

or maybe i should say lack thereof. if the synopsis hadn't told me this was set in 1926, i wouldn't have known. there is nothing about this book that feels anything of the sort, other than the communists and british. the book merely felt like it was set in present-day with the exception of them not having phones. because let's be honest here, having characters say "sit your ass down" and "heck" does not feel accurate at all. and don't even get me started on the scene where juliette's inner monologue says something like: "he looked at us as if we had no braincells.”

— the characters & (main) romance

definitely a personal thing but i couldn't connect. juliette didn't feel like a badass, she was childish and whiny. she reminded me too much of a spoiled brat who was used to getting everything she wanted because of her title. her love interest, roma, had nothing going for him other than the fact that he was hot. he had no motivation and did nothing to separate him from being like any other YA love interest.

— the cliffhanger

and so, overall though i understand this is a debut, it was unwhelming. perhaps this book is the definition of don't judge a book by its cover, because although its beautiful on the outside, the inside just doesn't compare.
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