Any Shakespeare fans in the house? As a self professed lover of the Bard, I tend to jump on any adaption or story inspiration that’s released. So basically when I saw that first time author Chloe Gong was releasing a young adult novel These Violent Delights, I was all over it. The description, the title, the setting, the cover art… perfection. Anyway, somehow I managed to pick up a copy of this earlier than its release date (Indigo had this available early? Happy accident?), and dove in almost immediately. Here’s hoping that this happens with every new release…
These Violent Delights Summary
The setting: 1920s Shanghai. Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlet Gang throne, has recently returned from several years in New York, studying and hiding from a betrayal she still hasn’t recovered from. Her betrayer: Roma Montagov, heir to the Russian White Flower gang and sworn enemies of the Scarlets. Beyond the constant brawls between the gangs, conflict is brewing within the city, with a communist uprising on the horizon. Each group is out to prove once and for all who has the run of Shanghai, no matter the sacrifices they need to make in order to reach their goal.
This was a city shrouded in blood. It was foolish to try changing it.
And gang wars aren’t the only thing that Juliette and Roma are concerned with; a sort of ‘madness’ has begun to creep up from the recesses of the Huangpu River that runs through the city. Scarlets and White Flowers alike are somehow becoming infected, going seemingly crazy and clawing out their own throats without warning.
In order to find the root of this unknown illness that threatens to destroy both of their families, Roma and Juliette will need to do the one thing neither of them want to consider: work together. Along with their closest allies, they’ll weed through the recesses of their city’s underworld, and discover that there’s more to this sickness than they first thought, and a dark force has risen which will threaten to change Shanghai forever.
These Violent Delights Bard-a-rific Review
This book had so many great elements. The setting felt wholly original and not something I’d previously come across in a Shakespeare re telling. The whole city felt like a living, breathing thing on the pages. The descriptiveness added a layer of realism to a story that has an intricate history already woven into its pages.
The slight reversal of roles in These Violent Delights was a fun addition as well, with Juliette taking on the more aggressive and forceful role, and Roma feeling a bit more passive much of the time. Both characters have their own strengths and weaknesses, with neither being one dimensional. They’re young and unsure of themselves, carrying the weight of their families expectations and disapprovals while trying to ignore the feelings between them that cannot seem to be culled.
I had a particular fondness for the dynamic duo of Roma’s friends Benedikt and Marshall (aptly named after Benvolio and Mercutio from the play) who have their own complex sort of relationship that I’m very interested to see potential developments with in the future. The juxtaposition between the Cais, a Shanghai native power and the Montagovs, the Russian interloper add to the tension that radiates between the two families. Even the title, while obviously originally used in the play itself, speaks to the darkness bubbling just under the surface.
Shanghai knows. It has always known. This whole damn place is about to fall apart.
While I was reading I found myself wondering how such an intricate world and so much plot was going to be explored in this one novel. Then I reached the end, and saw the ‘To Be Continued’ written on the last page which explained a lot as well as the interview I read in which Chloe Gong has indicated that she’s currently working on the sequel. In reading it I also found out that Gong is writing as well as finishing her undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, which to this reader was that extra sort of impressive.
These Violent Delights was so much fun to read. From the characters and the fantastical villain to the fun nods to the original Romeo and Juliet, the story was full of mystery and suspense. Was there a romantic element to it? Of course, it wouldn’t be a Shakespeare inspired story without it. But the romance didn’t take over the entirety of the plot, which made me appreciate the moments of it even more. What can I say? I’m a girl who loves monsters, and this book has some fascinating ones, both physical and metaphorical. I’m thoroughly looking forward to seeing what comes next for Roma, Juliette and their lives in Shanghai.