Maëlys's Reviews > These Violent Delights

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
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bookshelves: 2020-anticipated-releases, 2020-releases, own-voices, aoc, arc

☆ 3 / 5 ☆

“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 play or your heart reaching for me?”

In this 1920s Shanghai, the city is divided between two gangs (the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers) and entitled foreigners. Juliette, of the Scarlet gang, has come back home after years spent in the United States and as a mysterious madness is sweeping through the streets, taking down both Scarlets and White Flowers alike. She has no choice but to collaborate with her ex-lover, the man she now hates most, Roma, heir to the White Flower gang. While wrestling with the feelings they have for one another they try to track down a water monster, question each other’s motives, and cast their suspicions on a rising and dangerous Communist party.

Since this is marketed as a Romeo and Juliette retelling, I’d like to highlight that while it is using the barebones of what people know of it, the story beats are pretty different. This is not a bad thing but I’d say this is more inspired by Romeo and Juliette rather than a retelling, and I think people’s expectations might be different from what this actually is.

The plot of the monster and the madness was pretty intriguing and I do feel like the inclusion of the insects was so well done. I felt my skin crawling and scalp itch every time they were mentioned. I felt compelled and kept interested in the mystery and plot throughout the book and think we get enough of a resolution by the end of the book while the epilogue allows for the setup of the next instalment. Some things felt a little convenient at times, and it feels like some scenes needed a little more editing for them to make more sense within the full narrative.

“Then this city mutilated itself with a wide, wide grin. It dragged a knife down its cheek and took the blade to its chest and now it worries not for finding suitors, but merely for running wild, drunk on the invulnerability of inherited power, well suited only for profit and feasting, dancing and whoring. Now it may be ugly, but it is glorious.”

One of the parts I really enjoyed was the backdrop of political scheming, the influence of the Nationalists and the Communists and how the gangs are dealing with that. We don’t get to see it directly but communism is slowly starting to spread through the city and endangering the gangs. The MCs however never really explore the political ramifications which makes its threat feel a little lesser. I did like that the book showed the perspective of the White Flowers on it, who fled from Russia, and how the Communist Party wanted to prey on them because of their preconceived notion. Instead the author shows their actual weariness they have towards something that destroyed their country.

My favourite part of the book was probably the different talks of colonialism, of these foreigners arriving in Shanghai and feeling entitled to power there. It was shown in the division of the city, in the architecture and how these new foreign buildings are encroaching on gang territories, shown with Paul’s character, and how the foreigners see the city. To them, they’re only making the city “better” and seeing themselves as superior, even in a land that is not theirs.

I also really loved how important language is in this book. A lot of the characters are multilingual and the languages they spoke reflected their history and identities.

Out of all the characters, I liked Juliette the best. She is interesting and layered, struggling to affirm her place as the heir of the Scarlet Gang and reconcile her western life and learnings with being back in Shanghai. Juliette also acknowledges her own privilege as being the heir to the Scarlet Gang, of being lighter-skinned than her cousin, of being more palatable to powerful foreign merchants due to her Western education.

It did feel like other characters were shown being stupid for only to highlight her as being the more intelligent and skillful person. This didn’t bother me too much with minor characters but it really stunted Roma’s character for me. Most of these people are gangsters but whenever Juliette does anything gangster-y they seem surprised and awed and it was just strange to see that disconnect.

Honestly, if we had only followed the perspectives from the Scarlet gang without the subplots from the White Flowers I would’ve liked this book just as much if not more. I wanted to see more of Juliette/Rosalind/Kathleen rather than Roma/Marshall/Benedikt. Marshall felt clumsily written into an easy going stereotype that fell flat and Ben and Roma were boring and uninteresting.

“Would you choose me still? Would you choose this version of me- these sharp edges and hands far bloodier than yours?”

And this is why I wasn't invested in what should’ve been a very angsty relationship. Roma has betrayed Juliette and she hates him, wants to kill him, still wants him, still loves him. But in truth there were only a couple of scenes where I really felt any romantic tension between the two of them. A lot of the time I read words that should’ve made my heart ache and shiver but.. they just did nothing to me because I was never really made to care for Roma or this relationship. By the end of it a lot of their conversations just felt melodramatic.

I think that overall I was pretty underwhelmed by this book and although it was still an enjoyable read, I don’t plan on continuing on with the series. It had potential but I don’t think it was quite molded into what it tried to be. It was a very consistent book where I never disliked it but I never got to fall in love with it either.


Buddy read with Melanie

All quotes are taken from an arc and aren’t final. Please refer to a finished copy.
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Reading Progress

July 12, 2020 – Shelved
July 12, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
July 12, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020-anticipated-releases
July 15, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020-releases
August 12, 2020 – Shelved as: own-voices
August 12, 2020 – Shelved as: aoc
September 2, 2020 – Started Reading
September 2, 2020 – Shelved as: arc
September 3, 2020 –
20.0% "Juliette's and Roma's dynamic already >>>>>>>>"
September 6, 2020 –
60.0% "suspicious... 🌹🔪"
September 10, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Melanie amazing review, bby. this was honestly so fun to read with you, and i'm very thankful for you! 💕

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