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.
Thank you to Hodder Books for the review copy, I can confirm that all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Be warned that every other sentence in this review is going to be about how much I loved this book because it was SO GOOD! Like how is this a debut? Honestly I was absolutely blown away so all I can say is read it… You will not be disappointed.
“Anyone can be the master to a monster should their heart be wicked enough.”
1920’s Shanghai. The City is ruled by warring gangs the biggest of which are the Scarlet’s and White Flowers. Once, there seemed a chance at peace between the two but one event changed that and created a blood feud that leaves the streets running red. Juliette Cai is the heir to the Scarlet’s, recently returned from her time in the America, there are people who question her right to rule after such a long time away. Roma Montagov is the heir to the White Flowers. He doesn’t always agree with his fathers way of doing things but knows that he needs to show loyalty to ensure he takes over from him. These two used to be lovers, but fate intervened and now they are more likely to aim guns at each other than loving glances. But something is stirring in the streets of Shanghai, a deadly plague that doesn’t differentiate between Scarlet and White flower. And it will take Juliette and Roma working together if they are to save the city they both love.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I LOVED THIS BOOK. And one of the contributing factors to that was the brilliantly written characters. Honestly, I fell a little in love with them all. Juliette who see’s herself as an outsider in her own home but just desperately wants to belong somewhere. She is an incredibly talented woman, and not one that I would fancy my chances against in a fight. She travels around with an air of fear surrounding her, something she has spent time cultivating, for the heir of the Scarlet’s cannot be seen as weak. Roma who is afraid to stand up to his father for fear of the consequences, that he will be displaced as the heir and find there is no place for him in this world. He would prefer words over violence, but knows his way around the battlefield almost as well as Juliette.
Whilst these two are the main characters Gong does a fabulous job of building side characters that you fall in love with just as much. Juliette’s cousins Rosalind and Kathleen and Roma’s cousin Benedikt and Marshall an inner circle member of the white flowers. These four added to some of my favourite moments in the book and Marshall definitely became a favourite character of mine. She also brings a new depth to the story with a wide range of LGBTQ+ characters.
The setting for this book was just *chefs kiss.* Gong brings 1920’s Shanghai to life with her breathtaking writing style and I was dragged head first into a world filled with gangsters, flappers and monsters. Gong shows us what is a slightly romanticised time by western culture, from an own voices perspective and she doesn’t shy away from the depravity of it. How an entire culture was seen as lesser and subsequently westernised. We see this written brilliantly in Juliette’s story. Her fight to stay true to her culture, whilst at the same time feeling the need to dress a certain way, to use a certain language to make herself accessible to the western side of the city.
“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.”
As well as the obvious Romeo and Juliet references; the doomed romance, warring gang’s and a city at war. Gone treats us to a multitude to Shakespeare references, some slightly more obvious than others, but if you’re not the biggest fan of the classics you needn’t worry. She makes this story wholly her own. Yes you will be able to pick up on the obvious references, but with the addition of folklore, a new culture and monsters, you are never quite sure where the story is going and whether it will end in the climactic way you expect.
This is a book that, as much as I wanted to fly through it, I had to take my time. So much happens and as well as the main monster hunting plot, we get treated to little sub plots based around the side characters that add a whole new depth to the story. As well as this we get treated to a whole host of plot twists, some predictable due to the Romeo and Juliet base, but others that had me gasping out loud.
Yes, there is romance in this book. It’s a Romeo and Juliet re-telling after all. And while I lived for the scenes between the two MC’s, some of my favourite scenes were the non-romantic relationship’s. Seeing Juliette spending time with her cousin’s, the annoyance that only family can bring out in you, but also the absolute trust you put in those people. And Roma with Benedikt and Marshall, the only two White Roses who have declared their loyalty to him as heir. The undying loyalty between these people is evident and I loved that we got to explore these non romantic relationships as well.
I can honestly say there was nothing that let me down with ‘These Violent Delights.’ In fact my only issue is that I have to wait a whole year for book two because that ending killed me! I can see Chloe Gong becoming the next big thing in YA Fantasy and I am here for it.