Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
A bit of good news before I begin; for one, I got the SAT over with today! I actually feel fairly confident on the math portion, for once. And this afternoon, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ll be getting dose 2 in a few weeks, and I’m so relieved.
Anyway, this book has been on my radar for a while, what with it generating mountains of hype before and after its November 2020 release. It finally came to the library recently, and I’m so glad I got to read it! Not 100% worth the hype, but a truly inventive retelling.
Enjoy this week’s review!
Shanghai, 1926. A war between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers is brewing, and a gruesome illness and rumors of monsters run amok in the city. Caught in the middle are Juliette Cai, heiress of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, her ex-lover and sworn enemy. As members of both gangs fall ill to the gory malady, they must set aside their pasts and work together before they fall prey to it.
TW/CW: graphic violence, body horror, abuse, gruesome descriptions of illness, substance abuse, blood
The hype made my expectations for this one pretty high, but I’m glad to say that These Violent Delights lived up to a good portion of it! Not a perfect novel, but one I enjoyed a whole lot.
First off, can we give a round of applause to Chloe Gong for putting such an inventive twist on Romeo & Juliet? I LOVED the setting, first off; it’s both a time period and a place that don’t usually turn up in YA, and the descriptions made me feel as through I was walking in Juliette’s footsteps. The discussions of racism and colonialism gave another layer of darkness to the setting as well, which made it feel a lot more authentic, especially when we saw it through Juliette’s eyes. The gang rivalry set the perfect scene for an R&J retelling, and a lot of the related scenes gave me some slight Fargo (Year 4) vibes, which is always a resounding YES in my book. And to top all that wondrousness off, supernatural vibes! The fantasy element of the plague and the monster in the river were woven in seamlessly with the historical setting, making for a world that felt lush and wonderfully fleshed-out.
As for the characters, Juliette was probably my favorite; she had a refreshing amount of agency, and she was full of drive and wit. I didn’t like Roma quite as much, but his backstory seamlessly fed into his character and made him feel more authentic. And I LOVE LOVE LOVED Benedikt and Marshall! They had such lovely chemistry, and Benedikt especially (my favorite behind Juliette) had such distinct qualities that truly set them apart in this story. It was also loads of fun to make connections back to Shakespeare’s original work, although…I had one problem: Tyler. I get it that he was supposed to be the Tybalt-surrogate, but…Tyler doesn’t seem like a 1920’s name at all. I get it that most of the Chinese characters in the novel had Westernized names, and I get that Tyler and Tybalt are very similar, but when I think of the name “Tyler,” I think more of 1990’s-2010’s, not 1920’s. I looked it up, and it seems like it was a fairly uncommon name at the time, but I could suspend my disbelief a little bit.
My other problem with the novel was with a certain aspect of the writing. For the most part, it was stellar; like I said, lush descriptions, gripping action, amazing prose. Thing is, there were a lot of metaphors that got stretched out far beyond their use. If some of the metaphors remained at one sentence, it would’ve been fine. However, some of them got dragged out to…entire paragraphs, which…mmm, nope, not my cup of tea. [gets out a pair of gardening shears to trim the purple prose down] Lots of drama in the writing department, but it fit with the story, for the most part. It was a lot to handle sometimes, but given…well, everything about the plot, I can see the point of most of it.
All in all, a high-stakes, high-drama retelling of Romeo and Juliet full of action and authenticity. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
These Violent Delights is Chloe Gong’s debut novel, and is the first novel in the These Violent Delights duology. Its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is slated for release in November 2021.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!