Firstly, huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 17/11/2020
Length: 449 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction | Shakespeare Retelling | Fantasy
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.GoodReads
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.
Similarly to The Poppy War, I saw loads of people talking about how amazing this book is. I thought the title of These Violent Delights was an interesting choice as it is a Shakespeare quote, however when I read the description of the novel it made so much sense. As a huge fan of Shakespeare, and books set in North East Asia, I was excited eager to see how this retelling would work. And boy did it work.
Over the years there have been countless retellings of the classic story of forbidden love on both page and screen. My favourite has always been Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation set in the early 1990s. However, These Violent Delights is such a unique retelling that Gong makes it entirely her own. I think what was most refreshing about this novel was the way the characters were portrayed. Juliette was certainly not the meek, lovestruck, girl who she is often regularly depicted to be. Instead she was both fearless and feared and would do anything for her beloved Shanghai. I also really loved how the whole Montagov family was portrayed too (although I may be a little biased as I’ve always been a fan of the Montagues more than the Capulets). I also got stupidly excited whenever I realised who a character was based on, there were a few penny drop moments throughout!
The plot was really interesting, especially as it wasn’t a direct retelling of the story so it felt very fresh and original, but also had a sense of familiarity at times when there was some overlap with the original. In particular, I did enjoy it whenever I recognised a line from the play. I wasn’t expecting the novel to have as much of a fantasy element that it did, but I loved it. I liked how the novel would shift to different perspectives to give the reader a full overview of what was happening in the city; which built suspense as you wanted to shake the characters at times to tell them what you knew because you saw the other side of things! It was also a great way to compare how both of the gangs worked and how they were viewed by the city. Without giving away any spoilers, the ending was not what I was expecting at all and the final line packs such a punch that the noise I made when I read it was not human.
I’m so happy that this novel was brought to my attention as it brought together two of my favourite things in such a fun and interesting way. I cannot wait to see what Gong does next as it’s clear from this novel that she has a very promising career ahead! In the meantime though, definitely check this novel out when it is published on 17 November 2020!