REVIEW: ‘These Violent Delights’ by Chloe Gong is a dark retelling of ‘Romeo and Juliet’


Chloe Gong revamps a classic tale fit for the modern world in her stunning debut.

It’s the 1920s in Shanghai where two rival gangs are so deep into their blood feud that they fail to miss the monster that quietly swoops through their city ready to kill them all.

From the Blurb:

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.

When I think of Romeo and Juliet I think of their story as tragic and dark, so I went into These Violent Delights thinking it’d be somewhat similar. Which it was. This book is extremely twisted. Here’s a list of content warning from the author:

this book contains mentions and descriptions of “blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.”

Chloe Gong

Juliette Cai is the heir of the Scarlet Gang who has returned to Shanghai after being in America for four years. Since she was last home, she has perfected her reputation of being someone to fear. Rumors have spread of her killing her American lovers with her bare hands and that’s just how Juliette likes it. Becoming the next ruler of the Scarlet Gang deeply scares her, but living without that power in Shanghai scares Juliette more.

Then there is Roma Montagov, who is the heir of the White Flowers. His father’s gang controls the other half of Shanghai and is just as deadly as the Scarlet Gang.

Ever since Juliette and Roma’s paths first collided and deepened the blood feud between the rival gangs, their leaderships have been questioned by their people. So, the two of them have built up a persona. They want their fathers to respect them enough to leave their people in their hands. Juliette and Roma have a lot to prove, and it becomes more complicated to prove themselves when a monster takes control of the people in Shanghai.

Chloe Gong’s writing is beautiful and very descriptive which was both a positive and negative for me. These Violent Delights read as if I was watching a movie. With all the beautiful descriptions I felt like I was being shown everything happening, even the gruesome parts, which overall I enjoyed.

There were parts that felt too info-dumpy for my liking, though. It took me a while to feel connected to both Juliette and Roma. I had to take a break a couple of times in the beginning because it was hard to grasp all the information being thrown at me.

Which brings me to the characters. I was ecstatic to see all the amazing representation in this book. Chloe Gong truly took a classic and gave it a major upgrade for modern times. It felt refreshing to see so many marginalized groups having their stories told in this book.

Each character was perfectly flawed. Juliette and Roma the most. They have this cold demeanor but they secretly wish for nothing but love and acceptance. The two of them made this story for me. Their love is a tragic yet beautiful one and both of them are so much more than who the original characters were.

There are many subjects tackled throughout this book. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I applaud Chloe Gong for diving deep into each topic. I can tell from her writing how much it meant to tell this story, and for that alone, I will recommend this book to everyone.

Overall, These Violent Delights is an impressive debut. There is a lot that happens and even after finishing it, I find myself having more questions than answers. With all the action and the love story I was intrigued throughout the entire book and it kept me on my toes. Something felt like it was missing while I was reading, but I still enjoyed the majority of the story. Definitely check this book out if you enjoy dark stories with a hint of fantasy!

A dark and twisted story.

"And she is the reader who browses the shelf and looks for new worlds but finds herself." - I'm a writer who enjoys telling you all about the things I love, which includes a lot of books!

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