These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Posted January 28, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 6 Comments

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These Violent Delights

These Violent Delights

by Chloe Gong

Series: These Violent Delights #1
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 17, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retellings, Shakespearean Retellings
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: Asian, BIPOC, LGBTQIAP+, Own Voices Author, Transgender
Content Warnings: Blood, Death, Death of Parent, Gun Violence, Murder, Racism, Transphobia, Vomit

Rating: ★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

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.

 

Fans of Romeo and Juliet are really going to like These Violent Delights.  As far as retellings go, it’s decent.  The best of the story is yet to come in the second book, I think, but the elements of the retelling are all there and nuanced in such a way that give fitting tribute back to the original work.  In short, you can tell in the reading of this book that Chloe Gong is a true fan of the original.

I struggled with the chemistry between the two main characters, particularly as we’re going into their story where they already have a history.  This is usually the type of romance I enjoy – the burnt out flame where the embers are still hot and there is tension that will most likely not get resolved (except this is Romeo and Juliet, so it probably will get resolved).  I thought the characters were interesting in their own rights, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between Roma and Juliette.  I did, however, feel loads of chemistry between Marshall and Benedickt.  Both were supporting characters who I liked better than the leads – Kathleen Lang, as well, was fantastic when she was given time and a little freedom to do her own thing.  I’d love see more of the supporting characters in the sequel.

One of my favorite things about These Violent Delights was the honesty with with Chloe Gong wrote the world.  There is sexism and racism.  The story confronts colonialism and corruption, and even takes the time to point out the American dystopia overseas.  Class privilege is also addressed, and there is one chapter where a trans character mulls on her struggles.  These dialogues sometimes made the narrative a bit clunky but I would rather have a bit of a clunky narrative in this case than ignore the issues outright.

As a whole, the writing style was a little slow-paced for my personal tastes.  It took me a really long time to get into the first half of the book.  Between the multiple POVs and the world building in all those different voices, I felt like the establishment of the situation took a long time.  There was action from the beginning, but it took a while for the story to gain the sort of momentum that kept me rooted to reading rather than pushing myself through each chapter.

In that way the pacing threw me as well.  Chapters are strikingly different lengths, the shortest being a single sentence and the longer chapters falling at 20 or more pages.  There’s nothing explicitly wrong with this. This happens in plenty of good books.  For me, it made it a little more difficult to find pauses in the narrative where I could take a break because of the structural inconsistency, making me restless as I read.  I cannot emphasize enough that this is a personal thing, but because I know chapter length makes a difference to some readers out there, I’m mentioning it here as well.  I think I would have been better prepared if I knew going in to expect longer chapters on the whole – it would have better helped me structure my reading time.

Rating this book is tricky for me because I understand why people love it so much.  These Violent Delights takes one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays and puts it in unique setting and pulls together a bunch of interesting characters.  But if I’m being honest with myself, I felt that this book suffered from a lot of really common debut flaws, including pacing and structure issues, that really dampened the overall enjoyment of the story.  At the end, that puts These Violent Delights on an “it’s good, but it’s not great” level for me as a reader.  I am so happy for Gong’s success with this book and I would definitely read the sequel (especially since things are just starting to get good at the end) but I don’t think it’s a groundbreaking work.

Please don’t let these last comments deter you – I am in the minority in this opinion and I have seen so many readers calling These Violent Delights one of the best books of 2020.  Definitely pick it up, or at least get Gong on your “Authors to Watch” list if her work interests you.  But brace yourself for an uphill battle in the first half of the book, as well as long chapters and clunky character asides.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★

3 Star Rating

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These Violent Delights WIll Be Donated

I’m going to donate this book, because I know I won’t read it again.

I will read the sequel – I want to know how the story ends… especially since as this book ends the action is just now starting to really ramp up.  But the world building and the characters didn’t enchant me in such a way that I know a year or two from now, I’m going to be thinking about them again and want to revisit this same story.  These Violent Delights was, honestly, a chore for me to get through.  And I really cannot recognize enough that this is impacted by my limited patience for slow-building books.  But the facts nevertheless remain, and it’s not one I’ll reread, and I could use the space on my shelves.

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Do you disagree with this review?  All the reviews I’ve come across for this book have been raving, so I’m open to hearing what specifically made These Violent Delights a great book for you – tell me all about it in the comments!

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6 responses to “These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

  1. I just started the audiobook of These Violent Delights today, I’m about 25% in and I feel this review completely. So far I feel its ok, but nothing amazing. I could stop right now and not care what happens (and lets be real, I KNOW what happens if its Romeo and Juliet LOL). I am enjoying the world building but it does feel like its dragging its feet…so slow….. and its a long book…. I’m giving it some more time, but I feel your review already! It can see why some people love it though!

    • Amber

      I felt very much that way throughout the first half of the book… just like… I could end now and it wouldn’t even matter. I pushed myself because I knew how widely loved it is (I’m more likely to DNF older books may people don’t care about anymore). I found it picked up at the end, but mine, was it worth it? I’m not sure.

      • I ended up DNF-ing These Violent Delights at 80% over the weekend. I just…didn’t care anymore sadly. I can see why some people liked it, but it just wasn’t for me! 🙁

        • Amber

          That’s fair enough! I’m glad you decided to DNF rather than suffering through. I hope your next read is incredible!

  2. Stephanie

    I felt the exact same way, except I don’t think I’ll be returning to the sequel with so many other books on my radar. I really wanted to love it, but it was a slog at times.

    • Amber

      Fortunately, my expectations were not crazy high (Romeo and Juliet has never been my favorite Shakespeare). I think I’d only come back for the sequel in an audiobook capacity because it was getting better at the end (and I’m invested in Marshall/Benedikt). I don’t think I could handle redingote physical copy of the sequel – those always require more of my bandwidth and I just… don’t think I could do it. XD