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.
I was never much of a Shakespeare fan, but a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with rival gangs? How can you pass that up?
Roma and Juliette are heirs to rival gangs (White Flowers and Scarlets respectively) caught up in a blood feud in Shanghai. Although on opposite sides, both gangs have common enemies: a monster killing their people and foreign groups (British, Americans, French, and Russians) attempting to take over their land and cities. There’s too much bad blood between the current heads of the families to work together, but Roma and Juliette are intelligent enough to understand cooperation is required to eliminate these common threats. Each (especially Roma) is also trying to prove to their fathers and gang members they’re worthy heirs.
Although they had a brief relationship four years prior, I honestly wasn’t feeling the connection between these two. I liked Roma and admired the fact he wanted to take the White Flowers in a different direction in the future, and his relationship with his sister is adorable. Juliette is a different case entirely for me. Most of the time she comes across as a petulant child too hot-headed to ever be in a position of authority, and her cousins sense it. She tends to shoot first and think later. My favorite characters are easily Roma’s cousin Benedikt and Marshall (he has some killer lines). They support Roma no matter what and stand by him.
This is an action-packed, bloody, gory tale, which I didn’t mind, but other readers may appreciate trigger warnings. Although I enjoyed many aspects of the plot, some didn’t work as well for me, but that’s just personal preference. On the other hand, the diverse cast thrilled me, and I was actually shipping two male characters over Roma and Juliette and hope to see more of them in the sequel.
At over 400 pages, These Violent Delights is a chunk of a read, but an impressive debut (the author is still in college!) with important and timely overall themes.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.