These Violent Delights reviewed by Jaiden Heaton


Jaiden Heaton, Staff Writer

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1926 Shanghai. I picked this up because the title sounded interesting, so I didn’t have high expectations. After reading it, though, I have to say it was interesting. It follows Juliette, the heir to the Scarlet gang, and Roma, the (on paper) heir to the White Flowers gang. Shanghai has been divided into different factions like; the Scarlets, White Flowers, the communists, the nationalists, the French, and the British. It starts with Juliette being back in Shanghai for a week after being in America for four years. She’s doing business, but then Roma appears. Roma is trying to investigate mysterious deaths that started in Shanghai, so he goes into Scarlet territory to seek information. Their first interaction since the incident four years ago is tense. They were lovers, and Roma betrayed Juliette, so she retaliated. However, what they did to each other reignited the war between the two gangs, and Juliette was sent to America. Juliette then sees the madness with her own eyes. A man had clawed at his own neck, tearing himself apart, and his last words were monster. Juliette is concerned, so she starts to investigate. Unfortunately, the madness begins spreading, and it seems like it could be contagious. After a few incidents occur, Juliette and Roma are forced to work together to solve the growing madness outbreak before the entire city ends.

Things I liked and other positives with the book: I like the setting and level of the research done to ensure accuracy with the setting. I mean by this that Chloe Gong took the time to get places, things, and organizations right or loosely based on real things in 1920s Shanghai. Some examples of this would be the Great World, political turmoil, factionalism, and the Scarlets, loosely based on the Green gang. I enjoyed learning about the characters and their complex relationship with their respective gang. This is especially true with Roma, Kathleen (Juliette’s cousin), and Rosalind (Juliette’s cousin). The dynamics between the characters were also fascinating. I found the relationship between Juliette and Roma to be especially intriguing. While somewhat predictable, the twists and turns of this book were still captivating.

Things I or others might not like and problems with the book: I wasn’t a fan of the descriptive writing style and narration. If the descriptive writing had been dialed back in some scenes, it might have improved with pacing. It needed to do more showing and less telling. The pacing could have been faster, and while that worked at times, it didn’t most of the time. The messaging of the labor strikes could have been better. It was against people striking because of terrible conditions and poor wages. There were themes and messages similar to that in this that many people, including myself, aren’t a fan of. Thankfully that’s not the central theme. When it comes to retellings (especially Romeo and Juliet), people want it to be close to the original, but that’s not this. It follows the main plot points, but not closely. The romance is more along the lines of a subplot.

I gave this 3.5 stars. While it is entertaining, and I like the characters, I need help to look past the writing style. This is part of a duology, and I will review the second book called Our Violent Ends. There is also a spin-off called Foul lady Fortune. It has a sequel called Foul Heart Huntsman, set to release in September 2023. There’s also a book 1.5 to the Foul Lady Fortune duology called Last Violent Call.