The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.
After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.
Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.
Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.
I received a free copy from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I had the highest expectations going into this book, and it met every. Single. One. It’s a book that I both wanted to blitz through, as well as savour every single word. Every single part of this book was spectacular, Gong certainly knows how to take her readers on an emotional roller-coaster, and I’m incredibly glad I buddy read with Leah over at Leah’s Books, because there were far too many parts where I needed to scream at someone about what I had just read. Please note that this review will contain spoilers for book one!
After the events of These Violent Delights Juliette and Roma are back to opposite sides of the war. Roma despises her for killing Marshall & Juliette can never tell him the truth for fear of the repercussions, but there are bigger things at play. The monster is back, only this time it seems to be able to attack at will, containing the bugs instead of letting them run free, and both the Montagov’s and Cai’s are being blackmailed to ensure they aren’t let loose. With tensions high Roma and Juliette are forced to work together once again to find out the identity of the blackmailer, they just have to not kill each other first. Alliances will be tested and new bonds will be forged, but it’s not just the monsters that the gangs have to be wary of, and before long Roma and Juliette will have to decide how far they are willing to go to save the city they love.
Juliette, my knife wielding, danger facing, unapologetically feisty bitch… I can’t tell you how much I love her. We really see her grow as a person in this book. We see her constant struggle with Roma, we know she still loves him and it broke me a little inside having to see her put on a face of indifference around him, when all she wanted to do was tell him the truth. But through it all, she does whats right, for her, for Shanghai, and for the people she loves. I’m not saying some of her decisions didn’t have a hint of self-preservation, but as someone who has always had to fight for her right to be in the room, included in the conversation, whether or not she was the heir, she shows restraint where others would not.
Roma, as much as I love him, made me want to slap him multiple times in this book. Maybe it’s because we had insight into Juliette’s actions, knowing that she didn’t really kill Marshall, and the reasoning behind why she had to fake it, but there were multiple times where she saved him, or someone close to him, and he was so blinded by rage that he couldn’t see past his belief that Juliette acts for her own preservation and nothing else. His heart being ripped open has almost made him a shell of the caring and open person we saw in book one, instead he now longs for revenge, for blood and has turned into the White Flowers most efficient killer.
This story may be Juliette and Roma’s but it wouldn’t be the same without Gong’s exquisite cast of side characters. Rosalind and Kathleen, Benedikt and Marshall, Tyler and Dimitri, they all have extremely pivotal parts to play in the story, each have their own stories to follow, their own beliefs and actions, you will love and hate them in equal measure, but you can’t deny that they each stand out to you. I found myself as invested in their stories as I was Juliette and Roma’s, and desperately wanted most of them (sorry Tyler and Dimitri) to get their happy endings.
Our Violent Ends may be set in 1920’s Shanghai, but it has lessons and consequences that reach to the modern day. It shows the generational differences that were still seeing now. The likes of Juliette, Roma and even Kathleen saying, this is going to be our world, let us at least have a say in how you leave it to us. Juliette fights so hard to be heard, for people to understand that the Scarlet’s surviving alone is not enough, they need the people to function as a gang, but the elders don’t care about that because it doesn’t directly effect them. As well as this Gong really highlights the struggle of colonialism and like Juliette, I found myself getting extremely frustrated in parts. At their inability to listen, to learn and move with the times. To realise that their country is being sold off in parts, and if they worked together they had the chance to stop it.
I adored everything about this book. The pacing, the plot twists ( and boy were there some fucking big plot twists), the descriptions of the characters and places all written in Gong’s lush and engrossing writing style come together to make one hell of an unforgettable read. Shakespeare fans will notice the little nods to the bard that Gong throws in, she does a fantastic job with sticking fairly close to the events of Romeo and Juliette but making sure Roma and Juliette’s story is wholly it’s own, and one that will certainly stick with me long after I’ve finished. It’s a love that overcomes war and petty grievances to bring together and save a city that was being pulled apart by differing warring factions.
The TENSION between the two of them was off the charts, some of my favourite parts of this book were their interactions when they are forced to work together, Juliette falling into the role of the indifferent and no fucks given Scarlet Heir, and Roma just getting so exasperated at her actions. Parts had me cackling, parts had me heartbroken, but being able to see their relationship getting built back up, their journey from lovers to enemies to lovers has to be one of my all time favourites.
Now for the ending! As much as I want to hate the author for they way she ended the book, there was just no other way to do it. It was epic in every single way, but also a little sad, heartwarming and bittersweet. I made the grave mistake of fishing this book at work and my cry of ‘fuck off’ was swiftly followed by a deluge of tears that succeeded in confusing my colleagues, luckily though I buddy read this with Leah and instantly jumped on twitter to scream about what I had just read. I still can’t quite get it through my head that this is a debut series. Gong has cemented her place as one of my all time favourite authors, and has ensured that I will be eagerly anticipating any of her future works.