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These Violent Delights
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.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.
Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.
(4.5 / 5) “The stars incline us, they do not bind us.”
Has anyone seen the Romeo and Juliet movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes? It uses all Shakespearean language but it’s set in modern day. It’s fabulous!
This book reminded me a lot of that. While I’ve studied Romeo and Juliet in school, it’s been years. But because of that movie, I could see scenes played out using similar language (modernized) and purpose.
I adored this. It was done very well with exceptional writing, intricate world building (I’m going with that phrase cause while it’s the 1920’s time period, it was still created masterfully), and well developed characters.
The feud between the Cai’s (Capulet’s) and Montagov’s (Montague’s) is still fascinating as ever. It has gone on for generations. They are intent on maintaining their area of the city Shanghai, but also the “eye for an eye” concept; any death to one side, guarantees one for the other. Each are bent on this equality. Then, Roma and Juliette are almost forced to work together to save their people and to save the city. “Until the madness stops, that’s all I ask. Between the two of us, we put the knives and guns and threats down for as long as it takes to stop our city from falling. Are you willing?”
I already adore Romeo and Juliet but Roma and Juliette are just as easy to love. Their passion was born of hate and anger but thrives on each other. It’s is forbidden and their lives are truly at stake if even seen together.
The intricacies and twists of this story taken to a new level was something I couldn’t get enough of. I devoured each chapter and couldn’t wait for time to keep reading. I thrived on the similarities from the original story but relished the differences.
I did have a few small reasons it didn’t reach 5 stars. First of all it was loooong. The physical book is 464 pages, but it has to be a high word count because the time my kindle told me it would take to read was very considerable. It was pretty close too. However, I wouldn’t take any scenes out so I’m just going to complain about the length! Also, switching between protagonists was not smooth and lead to confusion. However, I wonder how much of this might be fixed in the final copy?
Content for this one is high. Violence is common, everyone owns and wears a gun but also knives, almost as a statement let alone protection. In the author’s words on Goodreads, “This book contains 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.” Check below in the content review for more in-depth details.
This will be one of my top reads of the year. The fact that it is Gong’s debut novel is astounding! Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing through NetGalley for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
Detailed Content Review
Derogatory terms etc-
Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking
Some men are very drunk.
A young woman smokes a cigarette.
At a club, a young woman assumes 5 different kinds of opium end up on her shoes.
A gang adds “unique toxins” to opium “until the drugs were modified into the epitome of addiction.”
A young woman helps those in charge of opium manufacturing and distribution.
An opium den doubles as a brothel.
A woman smokes a cigarette.
A 15 yo girl would steal from the liquor cabinet.
A young man drinks vodka.
A young woman drinks a bottle of gin and asks for another. Another young woman takes a sip.
A woman and a man are at a table with a needle for drugs (not illegal drugs).
“…bursting with a dozen different drugs in their system.”
A young woman and young man are in a bar. Many are drunk.
A man requires a young woman and young man to drink a shot for every question they ask. They get very drunk and the young man falls over.
A young man smokes a cigarette.
A young man plunges a syringe with medicine in it into a young woman’s arm without her permission.
Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty
*Small hints of LGBTQ+ aspects included*
Two men stumble out of a brothel.
Young women work in a burlesque club. A slit in their skirts goes from ankle to thigh. One is a dancer.
A transgender who identifies as a young woman tries to hide her Adam’s apple with necklaces.
Human trafficking was “at an all time high.”
An opium den doubles as a brothel. The women are very unkempt.
A young man likes looking at another young man’s abdomen.
“Girls high-kicked on the stage with dresses slit to their armpits…”
Prostitutes are at a bar and one goes upstairs to a room with a man.
A young woman rushes into a room and a man has his pants down. A woman is there also.
A young woman and young man are on a bed, him hovering over her. She slips around so she hovers over him then he sits up so she’s straddling his lap. He inches his hands up her legs then they kiss. He grazes her lip with his teeth, she feels his skin under his shirt with her hands. He kisses her collarbone. She tears off his buttons and shirt.
A young woman kisses a young man intensely.
Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood
Two groups of teens hold guns to each other.
A creature from the water attacks a group of men. One is able to run away mostly unharmed while others lie dead, glassy eyes staring upward.
If people loyal to one gang wander into the other gang territory, they are killed.
A young woman has “added to the death toll” of two rival gangs.
Seven dead bodies are found with self-inflicted wounds.
A group watches a man claw at his neck, digging out tendons until he dies. He had spurting blood and puddles forming around him while he tries to speak. A young woman closes his staring eyes.
A young man holds a young woman against the wall, pushing an arm against her clavicle. She punches him in the face. She then held a knife to his cheek, making it bleed.
A group of young men boasted of beating a man nearly to death before police came.
An explosion causes a ceiling to cave in. A woman is caught in the rubble with legs sticking out and blood pooling. Many died.
A mother was killed by a gang, having her throat slit.
Rumor has it that a young woman strangled her lover with a string of pearls. It is also rumored that she killed 4 gang members with 3 bullets.
A young man puts a gun to a young woman’s back. She spins around and hits his hand then bends his fingers back. She knocks him down and holds a knife to him, straddling him. He holds another gun to her side.
At 14, a young woman kills her first person. There was an ambush and almost all who ambushed are killed but one lunges toward the young woman and a young man shoots him in the stomach. Her parents are confused why she didn’t shoot too so she shot him also.
Previously, a gang blew up a servant house of their rival gang. Many died.
Many people (up to 40?) are screaming in pain at a hospital and clawing at their throats. Blood is everywhere.
A young woman puts a necklace on a woman but it’s actually a garrote and it is cutting her, blood bubbling out.
A woman’s “… fingers were already knuckle-deep into the muscle and tendon running through her neck. There was a horrible wet, tearing sound—a sensation of dampness as blood spurted outward—and then (another young woman) could see bone…” Blood flows out, seeping into the ground. Another is seen writhing in the ground, blood dripping down their arms. Still another is hitting herself. She then digs in her neck and blood sprays.
A father gives a “hard knock” on his son’s skull.
A man holds a gun to a woman for crossing territory lines. She screams and runs and a creature attacks the man. She hides while many men scream. After, the woman only finds insects. No bodies.
A young woman throws a knife at a young man, nicking his ear.
A young man has multiple knife scars across his abdomen.
A woman holds the bloody body of someone who has their neck barely hanging on. Blood is everywhere from them digging at their neck.
A young man holds a gun to a young man’s neck. Two young men hold guns to him.
A woman screams and tears apart her neck with her fingers. Many fall to the ground and do the same. One young woman tries to stop a man from tearing his throat but he throws her. An arc of blood covers her once he does.
A young woman sees a man with a bloody neck and tries to help him but hears his last breath.
A young man holds a gun to a young man. He shoots.
A young woman tries to claw at her throat. 3 young men pin her down.
A man pulls a knife on a young man.
A young man shoots a window out with his gun.
A man pulls a gun on a man. As the man turns to walk away, he is shot.
Two young men fight in a ring. One hides a blade between his fingers and continually slices the other. Both punch each other multiple times. One grabs the others hair, knees him in the nose and breaks his kneecap.
A young man shoots a man. Blood pooling. A young woman shoots a man in the neck. Men shoot at both of them as they run. A man shoots at the young woman and passes her ear. She shoots him in the shoulder then kills him with another shot.
A young woman punches a man with the back of her pistol, knocking him out. She points the gun at a woman.
A man knocks out a woman with the butt of his gun and carries her away. Blood leaks from the wound.
A young man elbows a young woman in the chin.
A man collapses and tears chunks from his neck “littering chunks of skin” around him.
A young woman pushes a young woman and she falls and hits her head, rendering her unconscious.
A young man holds a blade to a man’s chest.
A young woman holds a gun to the jaw of a young man.
A strike in a factory has the employees hit the manager with a meat cleaver in his head, killing him.
A man points a gun at a young woman.
A young woman sees the corpse of a woman who has torn out her throat.
A young woman shoots two men in their thighs. She then shoots a man in the gut, then again until he collapses and blood pools.
Three people dig and tear at their throats, killing themselves.
A young man shoots a man in the shoulder.
A young man shoots at a young man.
**SPOILER** A young man shoves a young woman into a wall, smacking her head then kicking her in the stomach. He shoves her head into the water, determined to drown her. She finds a syringe and stabs it in his neck then tackles him, both falling into the water. She grabs his gun and shoots him in the forehead, blood filling the water. She then shoots a man in the chest. Streams of blood flowed down his hand as he grasped his chest. Blood trickles down a young man’s neck.
Two young men have guns pointing at them. One is pointed at a young girl. Two shots are fired, blood oozes, one person is hit in the temple with the butt of a gun. One person collapses with loss of blood. Another is shot in the shoulder. One is dead, one is dying, blood pooling underneath. A person shoots and kills him.
Potentially Intense Themes
A highly contagious virus is killing people in a city. The virus includes insects, a creature and people tearing at their throats, ultimately killing themselves.
**SPOILER**Two young men examine corpses. They cut a small bit of scalp off and find many dead insects lodged in the brain. When an insect is pulled out, veins and capillaries from the brain are attached to it.
A creature surfaces the water, horns on its back and eyes glinting.
A young man is taken into a gang at a young age because his entire family is dead. No details. He lived on the streets beforehand.
A woman tells of seeing a monster that ran out of the water and when shot, the bullets bounced off.
Swarms of insects invade a city. Hundreds crawl on a young woman. Hundreds crawl on a young man, instantly making him gouge his neck.
Grief over a young man’s body is heartbreaking. A young man begs him to wake up as he shakes him and wails.
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