Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Pub. Date: November 17, 2021
Pub: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Rating: ⭐️ (DNF @ pg. 115)
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.
This will be a spoiler free review. Unfortunately I had to DNF this book. I am open to giving it another chance down the road, probably in the form of the audiobook. I can’t pinpoint exactly why this book just wasn’t working for me. It might be because it’s a Romeo & Juliette retelling (the worst Shakespeare work ever, imo) or it could be because it was over hyped, but this book failed to meet my expectations. I’ve been reading it for over a week and when I dove back into it, with the goal to finish it, I remembered nothing from the first 100 pages, and it had only been roughly 3 days since I’d been able to pick it up last.
I had a few issues with this book, but I don’t want to completely write it off. I just saw that the audiobook is finally out, so I might give it another try in that format, but for now, I have to set it aside. Ultimately, I just didn’t care. While I was initially intrigued and hooked, that quickly fell away. The writing is heavy. It’s overly descriptive and flowery and kind of felt like a slog to get through. Like, there was no way that I was breezing through this book. While this did allow for the world to come into a clear focus, it also left very, very little to the imagination. As the read I was being told everything, versus being show.
And I’ll admit, the idea of mashing Romeo + Juliet with a fantastical creature of sorts, is imaginative, but I just didn’t care enough to keep reading. With the whole mystery element surrounding the monster and the tearing out of one’s throats, characters stumbled across clues and people of note so easily. For all the description, shit happened so easily and conveniently. Like, I won’t care about a mystery element in a story if there’s no hardship – I want fumbles, I want dead ends, frustration. Even in just the first 100ish pages, I didn’t get that.
Which leads me to the pacing. Nothing really happens in the first 100ish pages. Things are still getting started. I didn’t care about any of the character interactions, or the characters. I just didn’t care, but I was being led though the book by my hand with all the descriptions and internal monologues. And when there were character interactions, there was barely any dialogue.
Take Roma and Juliette for example – they’re supposed to be this star crossed, enemies to lovers, rival gang heirs, and we’re supposed to care about their feelings? They have no chemistry. Roman came across as a wounded puppy and Juliette just seemed bloodthirsty and angry for no reason.
I really didn’t like Juliette because I think she was supposed to be this badass girl who takes no shit and can handle herself, but she’s just entitled and mean. I got Mean High School Girl vibes from her. I didn’t buy that she’s this badass Gang Lord’s daughter, she just felt like she was trying to hard.
And I have really nothing to say about Roma. I guess I didn’t read far enough into the book.
Like I said, I’m not fully writing this book off. I was excited to read it, and I do want to give it another chance. So, sometime in the near future, I’m going to try the audiobook and see if that makes a difference. I’m bummed I didn’t love this as much as I was expecting, but I do urge you to read it for yourself and see what you think. Maybe I’m just missing something.