Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:
Synopsis for These Violent Delights (from Goodreads):
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.
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.
Series: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Historical Fiction, Romance, Drama, Action, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: November 2020 – November 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook
Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:
I was drawn to this series for a few reasons: the cover never failed to catch my eye when I was browsing library titles and I love the title. I’m a huge Shakespeare nut so anything Shakespeare related and I am so there. But when I read that this book would be set in the 1920s in Shanghai–I was completely sold!
The Concept / The World:
I think Romeo and Juliet gets a bad rap when it comes to the general public. Everyone knows about the doomed, naïve lovers and I think they get a lot of flack for that in popular culture. But when you study the play or even see it acted out, it really is a much richer story than people give it credit for. Which makes it the perfect foundation for this particular series and the world it takes place in.
I thought the setting of 1926 Shanghai was so great! You’ve got the gang wars and the lack of our modern conveniences. But more importantly, you have the cultural inspiration of China and what it means to be loyal to your family and country. It just adds another rich layer to this retelling that stays true to the original work but shows how the play could have very easily taken place somewhere other than Italy.
I will admit to being a little disappointed in the first book because it wasn’t what I totally expected. There’s a lot of information to take in from the rival gangs, to the politics of the city to the various characters we meet. And perhaps listening to the audio version wasn’t the best choice because I might have missed some important details and not have noticed. However, I did find it suspenseful with the Science Fiction aspect of the “madness” and overall, it does do a great job of setting up the foundation for the sequel.
The sequel was great! I found it was nonstop in the action and plot twists. I also think the allusions to Romeo and Juliet are a little more obvious; though I like the unique takes we get on those elements. It isn’t a carbon copy of the original text by any means.
Juliette isn’t the naïve girl from the play. Sure, she has her weaknesses, but she can hold her own in a fight if she needed to with her cunning wit and her fighting skills. I enjoyed watching her character overcoming obstacles and growing from the past.
Roma is a little more of an enigma but again, another strong character who had some great growth.
I really enjoyed the side characters we met as well. I had a hard time in the first book keeping everyone straight but everyone was well developed.
I felt like the passionate romance was missing a bit in the first book. Perhaps that’s because Juliette and Roma spend more time apart then together. Other than the passing mentions of their previous love affair, I wasn’t entirely sold that their connection was this amazing thing that would have them contemplating betraying their families.
Things definitely improved in the final book though in that respect and I was very happy to see how it comes together there.
My Audiobook Experience:
I really enjoyed the audio production. While I think it might have stopped me from fully grasping what was happening all the time, it is well done. My only complaint is that when the narrator does Roma’s voice, the pitch can be super hard to hear so I found I was constantly adjusting the volume as I listened.
Series Rating: 3.5/5
These Violent Delights 3/5 | Our Violent Ends 4/5
Overall, an original take on the classic Romeo and Juliet trope that will keep readers on their toes with its blending of Science Fiction and Historical Fiction.
Read if You Like: Romeo and Juliet retellings, forbidden love
Avoid if You: dislike Shakespeare retellings
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