One Sentence Synopsis
Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are the heirs to two rival gangs in 1926 Shanghai who must work together, despite their difficult past, to save their city.
“Memories were beastly little creatures, after all – they rose with the faintest whiff of nourishment.”
Before I get into my post, I want to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!
You may not know this about me, but I’m a huge Shakespeare nerd. I don’t every play by heart or anything, but I’ve always been fascinated by his work and love reading a good Shakespeare play. So, when I found out that These Violent Delights was a retelling of Romeo & Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai, I knew I was going to want to read it!
This story follows two heirs of rival gangs that rule the city of Shanghai. Juliette Cai is the heir to the Scarlet Gang throne, while Roma Montagov is the set to rule the White Flowers. Juliette and Roma are fire and water, not meant to mix, but they have a complicated past that makes their present interactions even more volatile. When a mysterious madness starts threatening both Scarlet Gang and White Flower members, however, they must join forces to get to the bottom of this devastating destruction.
When I started writing this review, I was having a real “no thoughts, head empty” moment because all I wanted to write is…
“THIS BOOK IS AN ABSOLUTE GEM AND YOU MUST READ IT NOW.”
But that does not a good review make! So let me attempt to be a little more coherent.
This dark and captivating tale is one that will pull you in from the very first page and keep you in a chokehold the entire time! The action starts pretty much immediately and, from then on, your imagination is racing right along with Juliette and Roma to try and figure out what is going down in Shanghai. The writing is incredible! There were several passages that had me setting the book aside to just say, “Wow…” The imagery in this is evocative and makes you feel as though you are standing in dingy clubs right next to our main characters!
And can we talk about the characters? Juliette is dangerous and frightening and I LOVE HER. She’s got this tough exterior that hides a slightly less tough interior (but still pretty hard, ngl) and she would do whatever it takes to save the people she loves. She has plans for her city and is willing to put in the work to make it happen. She is a magician when it comes to hiding weapons and, honestly, one of my favorite characters from recent memory. And Roma! Though Roma and I didn’t connect as much, I still found him to be an incredibly well-written and compelling person. The secrets and twists between these two is some of the best stuff in this story. The tension, y’all. I absolutely loved them and can’t wait to see more of them in the next book.
Final thoughts: This YA fantasy debut was a fast-paced, intricate tale that keep my attention from page one until the very end! I loved the imagery, the writing, and the world-building that was woven throughout the story. It really invoked 1920s Shanghai in a beautifully vivid way. The character work is fantastic, with two main characters that practically leap off the page. Overall, this combines into a thrill ride in book form and I cannot wait to see how it ends in the sequel!