Imperialism and Stabbing: My These Violent Delights Review

At long last, I finally got my hands on my most anticipated book of 2020: These Violent Delights, a Romeo and Juliet retelling with gangsters fighting a river monster, set in 1920s Shanghai. As with any highly anticipated book, I was a little worried that it wouldn't deliver on my sky-high expectations.

Well, maybe I could have set my expectations higher, because this book blew them out of the water!

Book Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Publisher/Year: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Number of Pages (According to Goodreads): 464
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Book description (from Goodreads):
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

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.

After finishing this book, I legitimately had to peel myself off the floor before I could form any coherent thoughts about it. Now that I've had some time to process, I feel mentally stable enough to vomit words about why this book is AWESOME!

Your New Favorite Squad

The cast of characters might be my new favorite fictional #squad. From the whip-smart and deadly Juliette to the secretly soft Roma, from the wisecracking Marshall to the sweet yet cunning Kathleen, the Scarlets and the White Flowers totally drew me into their world.

I would have perhaps liked to see a little more of the White Flowers, since Juliette's perspective is the most frequent one in the book, but they'll probably get more fleshed out in the sequel. Not that Juliette wasn't a completely murderous delight! Hiding a bunch of weapons in her flapper dress? Iconic.

Add a Dollop of Social Commentary

I also loved the themes of imperialism woven in throughout the story, especially in Juliette's POV. My favorite fantasy novels are the ones that also contain important social commentary, and this one is no exception!

The different political factions and nationalities in the city of Shanghai made for some super interesting conflicts that brought up questions about national identity, ownership, and how "soft power" such as trade relations can still be insidious.

Trigger Warnings for These Violent Delights

This book might not be for you if you're sensitive to depictions of body horror, violence involving blood, gore, insects, transphobia, and death.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was a truly stunning read, and I think I'm going to be dealing with this book hangover until the sequel arrives! Never mind -- it's a small price to pay for the brilliant rollercoaster Chloe Gong just took me on.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the e-ARC of this book! These Violent Delights is available everywhere, so check out the links below if you want to snag your own copy:

Barnes and Noble | | Amazon | Goodreads

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