As soon as I heard about These Violent Delights, I knew I had to have it in my life. I mean, a lush fantasy inspired by Romeo & Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai, with gangs and that stunning cover – it’s everything I needed. Luckily for me, the amazing Kate Keehan at Hodder sent me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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.
TW: blood, murder, insects, loss of loved ones, alcohol, drugs, explosion, gore, grief
These Violent Delights is officially a new obsession of mine.
It’s easily one of the best YA books I’ve read this year and there’s been some strong competition. Gong’s writing just oozes this stylish, suave and spell-binding quality that will utterly entrance and bewilder you.
Gong has such a gift, but also seems to delight in toying with your emotions through brilliant twists and turns. Her voice is so refreshingly vibrant, new and detailed. The story-craft is intricately detailed and rich. You feel swept up in this different version of Shanghai with all its three-dimensional inhabitants and the constant danger of death or worse lurking around the corner. This is such a well-crafted world, with history and attention to detail that means you’re fully immersed right from the start. The strained gang tensions and encroaching ominous presence of colonisation create this constant paranoia and sense of terror, whilst also reminding you of the very real monsters hiding in plain sight.
The story itself is an intoxicating concoction of mystery, horror and romance that makes it feel so distinctive and unique. This is not the Romeo and Juliet you’re used to and that makes it all the better. I am a huge Shakespeare nerd and it was really enjoyable to see elements of the original woven in but also given new life and vibrancy through a different, more modern perspective. I also loved Gong’s use of casual representation and diversity. All too often, you see the same stock characters recycled, but here we have a vibrant, diverse cast of characters. Their identities are given the respect and representation demanded but they aren’t defined by a sole characteristic of their identity.
Juliette Cai is undoubtedly one of my favourite characters of all time. She is unapologetic, ruthless and driven in achieving her goals. Her brutality is starkly portrayed in all its details, but there is also a sense of vulnerability and emotional depth that Gong deftly allows us to glimpse. Both her and Roma are deeply flawed, morally grey characters with a complex and often violent history. The romantic dynamics aren’t straightforward, but they are incredibly believable and you can feel their chemistry sizzling off the page.
These Violent Delights is such a gorgeous tale that will utterly consume you until its painful final pages. Ensure that you pick the definitive YA fantasy of 2020 up.