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ARC Review: These Violent Delights

Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Pages: 464
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Release date: 17th November 2020
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

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.

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Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of These Violent Delights to review via Netgalley!

These Violent Delights is a thrilling, sparkling and bloody retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I’m a sucker for a retelling, but one set in 1920s Shanghai with gangsters, rivalry, betrayal and mystery? It would be a crime for me not to read this.

Much like the original Romeo and Juliet, These Violent Delights is filled to the brim with twists, turns, star-crossed romance and betrayals, with the added allure of a mystery plot line.

Roma and Juliette have a history — one of betrayal and loss. They are both the heirs to their respective gangs, and are torn between loyalty to their family and legacy, or the love that they cannot ignore. Juliette might just be one of my new favourite YA characters — she is the epitome of a badass. She is whip-smart and fierce, and takes advantage of her opponents’ underestimation of her in the most brilliant of ways. Roma remains hopeful for a better future, one in which the blood feud doesn’t take so many lives. We all know how Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette ends, and I spent the majority of this book alternately wanting Roma and Juliette to be together and feeling dread at the possibility of an ending as bitter as the original tale. And I must say, the suffering this caused was ~immaculate~.

The side characters were every bit as lovable as the main characters. Kathleen in particular is another amazing character, whose chapters I loved, and I absolutely adored Benedikt and Marshall.

Chloe Gong brought the 1920s alive in so vividly a way as I’ve never seen before. The 1920s is a time that is often romanticised for its glamour, but what is glossed over a lot of the time is the racism and colonialism. Chloe Gong maintained the glitzy atmosphere that is so loved whilst also exploring this, which I appreciated.

These Violent Delights was so beautifully written, so engaging that I was completely immersed. I never knew where this book was going next, and I could not stop reading. I am so, so glad that there is a book 2, because after that ending, I would quite happily sell my soul for one.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings (from Chloe Gong’s Website): Blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.

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