Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chlor Gong
Publishing date: November 17th 2020
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
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.
Content warnings: Graphic description of blood, gore, violence, death, and murder, loss of a loved one, mentions of drug use and addiction, brief mention of past transphobic microaggression, exploration of contagious disease and self-harm due to illness.
This book is SO GOOD. The whole set up with the two rival gangs who have been fighting for control over Shanghai for years was very captivating, but what made it even better was seeing these gangs dealing with other powerful players that were trying to take control of the city, whether these forces came from within the country like the communist and nationalist parties or from outside like the British and the French. I particularly found interesting the way this book explores colonialism and the way outsiders come and take land and erase culture and think they are superior to the native people of the country. There’s this underlining anger when these subjects are brought up that helps the message of the book resonate.
In terms of the plot, the mystery is really interesting, but it takes the characters a bit too long to figure things out when there are some obvious clues. Nonetheless, Chloe Gong does an amazing job of connecting the mystery about this madness that it’s swiping the city to the fight for control of the land and the trade by the different players within the city.
Beyond these aspects, one of the strong points of the book is the characters: Roma and Juliette feel so real and while they are not perfect, they are easy to root for, because behind the terrible things they do there’s a real love for their city and their people. The complicated, angsty relationship between them is captivating, they are rivals, they were in love at one point and there’s this betrayal standing between them, which is why it’s gripping to see them dancing around each other while there are all these conflicting feelings between them. Also, the side characters are pretty interesting and there is a relationship between some side characters that is full of tension and a bit of angst, they have this strong connection and it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes in the next book.
Finally, the ending is definitely intense and it sets up the sequel perfectly.