These Violent Delights is a very popular upcoming book which a LOT of book influencers have been talking about.
SO MANY PEOPLE were talking about it around a month back and I was being attacked from all sides. There were references on twitter, readers claiming to be part of either the Scarlet Gang or the White Flowers, and more.
All of that got me intrigued. It is a debut book which everyone loves and I wanted to see for myself as well. Fortunately, I was approved for the ARC on Netgalley which allowed me to pick it up early.
Note: I received a free Advance Readers Copy through Netgalley and all opinions are my own.
Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Book 1 of These Violent Delights series
Goodreads | Storygraph
Set in 1920s Shanghai, this Romeo and Juliet retelling with two rival criminal gangs is made better with a fantasy creature rising from the water to kill anyone it infects.
Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are NOT friends. Although they had a romantic past, they are firmly on opposites as the heirs to rival criminal gangs. But with members of both gangs dying because of a mysterious viral illness and third party forces creating ruckus in order to dethrone both gangs, Juliette and Roma have to put aside their differences and work together.
CONTENT WARNINGS: 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.
This book has the PERFECT premise.
Going in, my expectations were high. I was imagining dark vibes, star-crossed lovers reluctantly working together, blood shed, feuds, and other such things. I did get all of that, but there was one surprising element.
Interlaced with all the dark themes, there is wry humour through character dialogues and interactions which I did not expect. And that addition threw me off because I was only expecting dark and gritty vibes.
While I enjoyed the slight comedy brought out through the characters, I was not able to fully get used to the alternating dark vibes and light/humour vibes. It did not feel like the writing was consistent throughout the book and that soured my reading experience.
Other than that, I enjoyed the writing. Particularly, the descriptions.
The author describes everything really well with almost poetic sentences. Right from the start, I was transported to the book’s setting and had no problem imagining anything.
This place rubles on Western idealism and Eastern labor, hateful of its split and unable to function without it, multiple facets fighting and grappling in an ever-constant quarrel.
Descriptions of the crowds, markets, overall idealisms and more were highly familiar to me which was both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because the setting was so much like India and my city and hence I could easily imagine it. But bad because I couldn’t understand the uniqueness of 1920s Shanghai other than the historical perspective with politics etc.
Even though the book is set in another country during another time, the backdrop almost felt like modern India to me. This is a totally personal thing but I’m mentioning it because it had a huge influence on how I experienced the book.
Juliette Cai feared disapproval more than she feared grime on her soul
The characters were the highlight of the book for me. It was easy to relate to both Juliette and Roma because although their lives are very different than mine, their fears and ambitions were highly relatable.
The supporting characters were also really nice to read about. I particularly loved friends of both the main characters who are kind of the main source of humour.
With the author really going into the characters’ motives and emotions, the book is firmly character-driven and I LOVED that. Character-driven books are my jam.
The plot was super interesting too. The darker parts of the book were shining. There was tension and stand-offs and build up. The two gangs of Shanghai made the plot so interesting and eventful. I finished the book fast because I couldn’t wait to read more.
The ending disappointed me though. It is supposed to be a huge cliffhanger but instead was simply abrupt. I am really looking forward to the next book but I still do not like the ending.
Speaking of the sequel, several scenes in this book were clearly set ups for the next book and it wasn’t even subtle. That kind of made me cringe.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this book but also did not enjoy many aspects of it.
Aspects of the writing disappointed me, basically. While there were good points of writing (I have several sentences highlighted because they make really good quotes), the overall effect of it wasn’t great.
Also, the book did not make me feel much which is another reason why my rating is low. All my true opinions are mentioned above but my rating is highly subjective to how I feel when reading.