Tricia Lin at Simon Pulse has acquired, at auction, Chloe Gong’s debut YA fantasy These Violent Delights, pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of The Godfather.
A monster has awakened in 1920s Shanghai, killing off citizens and stirring trouble between two feuding gangs. The rival heirs, Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, must work together before the monster destroys all they hold dear, even while the Chinese Civil War breaks out around them.
Publication is planned for fall 2020; Laura Crockett at TriadaUS Literary Agency did the two-book deal for North American rights.
This review discusses the story and plot, but does not reveal any major plot reveals. However, I do make wishes about what I would like to see in the next novel, thus that may hint/spoil at some events in this novel.
Trigger Warnings: (Taken from the authors review) 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.
Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of The Godfather, is absolutely phenomenal. Gong adopted elements from both Shakespeare’s tragedy and Puzo’s novel and created something unique, and hers. While some of the elements of the story may seem familiar because of the intertextuality, Gong adapts them into nail-biting reveals, twists, and turns. I particularly loved how Gong used the ‘this will make you appear dead for a time, but you are not’ in to the plot in an unexpected, but no less heartbreaking, manner. I was on the edge of my seat the entire novel to see if she would include that, and if the end of the novel would be similar to that of Shakespeare’s tragedy…
Speaking of the ending – as the title suggests, These Violent Delightsdo have violent ends. I could not believe it when I read the last page, as Juliette read that later, and then chaos was unleashed…and then it was DONE! Over! And I’m left sitting here, yelling, because WHAT? I was already heartbroken and desperate for more over previous events a chapter or two earlier, and I was like “no! Not this too!” But WOW, am I excited for the sequel.
On the topic of heartbreak, oh, the angst and the yearning and the hate and the love between Roma and Juliette had be so emotional. The tension between them with all the hurt, the unspoken words, the hidden – but also obvious – love they still had for each other . . . it was killing me. I love them. The misunderstanding. The way they should just talk. The way they protect each other even if it means heartbreak. The people and politics standing in between them. AHHH. ALL I WANT IS FOR THEM TO BE HAPPY.
Aside from their relationship, I really liked both Roma and Juliette as individuals. I feel like Gong explored their motivations well, and gave a convincing backstory to why both of them are the way they are, and what shaped them. This happened through some analepsis, and anecdotal stories, which made the story feel fleshed out and well rounded despite many of the years that had a big impact on their characters not being shown fully on page (i.e., the relationship between Roma and Juliette before the betrayal and her departure for New York).
I enjoyed the relationships we saw between Juliette and her family, particularly that with Kathleen, who I thought was a wonderful character. I have my suspicions about Rosalind…and I absolutely do not like Tyler (he is a well written antagonist for Juliette). I do wish we got to see more of Juliette and her family, but it’s not something that impacted my enjoyment of the novel. I also loved if when we got to see Juliette interact with Marshall! Can they please be best friends?
I loved the relationship Roma had with his sister, and do wish we got more of that! His relationship with Benedikt and Marshall was also brilliant, and I enjoyed their scenes together. I am really glad we had the dual POV to be able to see both Roma’s and Juliette’s lives and the personal stakes each of them have, and the pressures on them – especially since both of them are not aware of some of the problems they have (Roma/his dad, Juliette/Tyler).
They were not the only characters I found myself invested in, but also Marshall and Benedikt. Oh, the quiet, soft, budding yearning between them . . . please. I love them. Their dynamic was soft and hilarious. And they are both such brilliant characters individually, too.
This novel is filled with political turmoil, with foreign powers trying to assert their influence and control, which unsettles the pre-existing domestic turmoil between the gangs. This impacts the way the characters move through the world, and their identity – particularly Juliette, who finds herself heavily impacted by her life, education and experiences in the West. Thus, opening up a wider discourse on imperalism, white supremacy & racism and not only how it impacts the individual, but the entire country.
Despite loving this book so much, I did have my issues with it. At times I found it to be particularly slower paced, not really moving anywhere which was disappointing. Because when it did pick up with the action, it was brilliant. However, for long build ups, it did seem sometimes as if the reveals just decided to jump up out of no where (because the book was finally coming to a close). Also, I feel like a lot was saved for the next novel, for example, what is going on with Rosalind (I have my suspicions), and Tyler etc… which, you know, is fine because this is a duology but it is disappointing that so much of the book spent time on things just to be like nope, wait for the next! I just wish there was a little more reveal/resolution to it, for the sequel to deal with the fallout (there’s a lot that book is going to have to do, and I just know when reading it I will be full of tension).
So overall, this is a 4/4.5 star read for me! And I am excited for the sequel.