These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Themes: YA fantasy, Romeo & Juliet, retelling, romance, historical, mystery

The synopsis

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.

The review

Being very interested in Asia, it was obvious that I would read this book one day or another. And I loved it!

I was totally immersed in 1920s Shanghai thanks to a lot of historical details dispersed in the setting. I really loved to see the functioning of the gangs in the city, their distinct images and the power games within them. And I admit that the challengers of Roma and Juliette were utterly getting on my nerves! It was also very interesting to see the behaviour of Western people, which shows how much humans can be full of contempt and stupidity. Likewise, I was fascinated when witnessing the shift of power from the Western countries and the gangs to the Communists, which was happening in parallel to the main action.

Concerning the intrigue, I have to say that I was thoroughly disgusted by the whole insect thing, so much that I was almost scratching myself! From that, you can deduce that the writing style is pretty descriptive which is perfect… when it concerns the city. I particularly loved the passage with the personification of Shanghai, which was beautifully done. So, the style is descriptive but well balanced with the action which kept me turning the pages one after the other. I also enjoyed the characters whose personalities are very different but complementary at the same time. My favourite was Juliette because of her lack of remorse but also her empathy and loyalty towards the Scarlet members. I really liked Kathleen and Marshall too because I felt their characters are much more than what we learn about them from others. It was very clever to use their narrations to show the readers what’s happening at the same time in different places of the city.

Finally, the mystery was well wrapped-up and I had no idea of what was going on (even if I had a feeling about one character at some point). And the ending… We guess what’s happening and just wonder how they will deal with this mess.

In brief: a refreshing book set in a city I’ve never seen being used in another YA fantasy. If you can’t stand insects run but if you can handle them you’ll discover a beautiful new world, packed with action and a bit of an impossible romance.

My rating: 5/5

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