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I’m back with another book review!
I’m going to jump right into this post by saying I originally wasn’t going to review These Violent Delights. It’s not a new release and it has been so hyped that I was certain pretty much everyone would have already read it anyway.
But before starting, I asked my Instagram followers whether they would enjoy a review anyway; the result was an overwhelming yes. Still, I had my doubts, especially since I haven’t read a fantasy/historical fiction book that I’ve really enjoyed in forever.
But then I read it.
Often, writing a book review isn’t the most fun for me. I struggle to gather my thoughts together in a cohesive way and I always end up not quite getting my feelings across how I want to.
This was different. Writing this review felt like a complete breeze . I didn’t really have to think about it at all. Basically, I had so many good things to say about it that I was just dying to get them on the page.
SYNOPSIS: “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 worried this book would be really slow paced but I actually got into it straight away and loved following our main character Juliette as she returned to Shanghai after 4 years.
The set-up is recognizable but not a carbon copy of the original play- the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers are rival gangs, with Juliette at the centre of the Scarlets and Roma at the centre of the Whites.
From there, the book divulged from the play into a totally original storyline (with a large dose of mystery and good chunk of romance).
Just a warning– the plot focuses on a contagion/infestation in the city (not a spoiler as this is established early on) so if this is something that you wouldn’t enjoy reading about, make sure you do a bit of research into the relevant spoiler warnings.
“That is what this city is. The party at the end of the world.”– these violent delights
The worldbuilding was INCREDIBLE and I say that as someone who finds it difficult to remember details and usually can’t imagine a setting very well. In fact, the depiction of Shanghai in the 1920s (something I’ve obviously never experienced) was so visceral and I loved every little detail included.
This setting also completely separated the book from the original, which definitely helped to distinguish it as its own thing.
“Even the land of dreams needs to wake up sometimes.”– these violent delights
Let me say to start with, I LOVED the diverse representation in this book, and I also had chance to learn a few things about different cultures which was really interesting.
Our main character Juliette was AMAZING– deadly, perfectly poised, witty but also totally human. The book was split between her and Roma’s (our Romeo character) perspective but weighed a little more heavily on her side. And I just loved being in her head- she never got boring and I never questioned her actions (it always annoys me in a book when characters do things that make no sense for the sake of plot).
I preferred her chapters to Roma’s but only because I loved her so much. Unlike with a lot of dual perspective books I’ve read, both characters were incredibly fleshed out and interesting to follow. I also adored how BOTH Roma and Juliette were incredibly badass and grudgingly helped each other out but Juliette never became a damsel in distress.
Juliette’s cousins- Rosalind and Kathleen– were also fleshed out as really complex and interesting characters and I loved reading a little from their perspective too.
You’ve probably read Romeo and Juliet so you’ll know the gist of this but These Violent Delights completely turns that on its head. In this retelling, Roma and Juliette had a relationship when they were 15, which ended with a shocking betrayal. Now Juliette has returned to Shanghai after 4 years away and neither of them know how to be anything but enemies.
This was just the kind of slow burn, rivals to lovers romance that I die for, and it was executed perfectly. Also, I normally hate miscommunication or misunderstandings, but this was done in just the right way (i.e. frustrating but in a good way).
“I was raised in hatred, Roma. I could never be your lover, only your killer.”– these violent delights
But what if I don’t like Romeo and Juliet?
Do not worry. If you enjoy Romeo and Juliet, this book has some fun references to look out for but if you don’t, it really isn’t too similar. Apart from the obviously recognisable names, the characters have complete personalities of their own. The plot and setting are also completely apart from the original, so don’t worry about reading a replica of the play.
I personally love Romeo and Juliet but this was even better because it didn’t have the parts I didn’t love so much: the writing was so gorgeous and lyrical, but not difficult to understand like the original Shakespearian writing, Roma and Juliette were 19 instead of 13 and 17(ish) like in the play and the romance was obviously a lot more built up and fleshed out.
“If Roma were ever again to run a tender finger down her spine, it would be to count her vertebrae and gauge where he could stab his knife in.”– these violent delights
Before I picked up this book, I hadn’t read a fantasy in SO LONG (I’m on holiday so I’ve just been reading a lot of cute romances). I was a little worried that it would be difficult to get into or that I would just be overwhelmed by a bunch of characters and a confusing plot to keep up with.
These Violent Delights was not that at all. It never got boring and was packed with fun details, but I could completely keep up and never felt confused. Despite the book being 450 ages long (another thing I was worried about before starting), I never wanted it to end.
I also adored the ending! Plot twists normally let me down at the end of a book but I did not see this one coming at all and I love how it’s set the next book up. November cannot come soon enough!