Not too long ago, I read These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong. This duology is beautiful and lovely, but they definitely have some Content® that some people may rather avoid, so I wanted to write a more in-depth review of both books. If you would like to read my Goodreads reviews, you can find those here and here.
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.
Well…I was officially two years late to the Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai party. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book when I first heard about it because it’s quite violent, but after reading it, I’m completely sold and ready to defend these characters WITH MY LIFE.
This was my first time reading a book that addressed colonialism in an obvious way and had a transgender character. All personal feelings/opinions aside, it was really interesting (in a good way!) to see a glimpse into these perspectives because I’ve never personally experienced either of these things. So, that was a cool, and new, experience that I appreciated!
What I Liked:
The setting. Worldbuilding is pretty hit-or-miss for me because I either love it or it puts me to sleep. However, from the moment I started the sample of the audiobook, I was transported to this gritty, dark, glistening city of debauchery and bloodshed. Every moment of Gong’s descriptions enhanced the atmosphere tenfold, and I will literally spend the rest of my life trying to reach this level of epic worldbuilding.
Juliette Cai. She is such a strong, fierce female character. When I talk about the Strong Female Character, Juliette is honestly exactly what I mean. She embodies the badass girl, but also the feminine girl. Juliette embraces her femininity, she’s emotional at times, but she’s also incredibly calculated and careful and strategic.
Roma Montagov. *heart eyes* I’m not even sorry because I will never stop falling for Russian guys who call the love of their life a Russian pet name. *glances at Dimitri Belikov* Roma is really a great dude
who would 100% slit my throat in real life. He’s that broken, soft boy who just really needs a hug. However, he’s also incredibly brave and compassionate and bold. Ugh, I love this man with my entire heart.
The “side” characters. Marshall, Benedikt, Rosalind, and Kathleen were all so well developed, which feels rare for a story with such a large cast. I loved getting to see parts of the story through their eyes, and I think they all just added so much to the story.
What I Didn’t Like:
The multiple POVs. This is a hard one for me because while I loved seeing the story through multiple POVs, there were also moments where the switches felt too sudden. This ultimately made it feel a bit like Gong was head-hopping, which is a big no-no.
I kept getting Marshall and Benedikt mixed up. I’m pretty sure this is just a me problem, but it was frustrating because I love them so much.
At the end of the day, this is a gritty, violent book about enemies who used to be lovers, a mysterious and disturbing plague, and two rival gangs who will do anything to stay on top. If that’s your cup of tea, I’d highly recommend this book.
Blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse, colonialism, a passionate kissing scene (not overly graphic), a character is transgender, two main characters are gay, and strong cursing.
For a more complete list of trigger warnings, click here.
“Don’t you dare,” Roma said. “Don’t you dare fall apart now, dorogaya.”
“The stars incline us, they do not bind us.”
“Even the land of dreams needs to wake up sometimes.”
Listen to my These Violent Delights playlist
Our Violent Ends
Disclaimer: The blurb for Our Violent Ends contains spoilers for These Violent Delights.
Shanghai is under siege in this captivating and searingly romantic sequel to These Violent Delights, which New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan calls “deliciously dark.”
The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.
After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.
Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.
Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I don’t think it was quite as good as These Violent Delights, but I still very much devoured it within a couple of weeks.
What I Liked:
The character development. I swear, each and every character went through so much character growth in the sequel. It made my heart hurt for them, but it really demonstrated Gong’s ability to write characters.
The plot twists. There were some moments where I screeched and gasped and squealed because I hadn’t seen something coming. But, I did totally call the one plot twist about Rosalind’s lover, so that was a very satisfying moment.
Our boy who’s name I cannot say for the sake of spoilers. He really had his moment to shine in this book, and we know that he earned it completely. Also his friendship with Juliette was EVERYTHING.
What I Didn’t Like:
The ending. It’s hard to explain this without giving the ending away, but it just felt kind of lackluster to me. I thought it would remain more true to the original ending of Romeo and Juliet, so it surprised me, but it also didn’t make me burst into tears, so idk how I feel about that.
The sex scene. It was overly graphic, so I didn’t skip it on my audiobook, but I was very stressed the entire time because I was sure that it would become more graphic and make me truly uncomfortable. So, basically I didn’t like the level of stress that this scene put me through, even though it wasn’t actually that bad.
Overall, Our Violent Ends was a generally satisfying end to the duology. I would have liked the ending to feel more impactful, but I’d probably read it again (for what it’s worth). If you like enemies to lovers, gang fights, and political plotlines, I’d definitely recommend it.
Blood, violence, gore, character deaths, murder (including mass murder), war themes, torture, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse, passionate kissing (including a gay kiss), a sex scene (not graphic, mostly just describes them undressing and the guy asking “is this okay?” before the scene ends), and strong cursing.
For a more complete list of trigger warnings, click here.
“In this life and the next, for however long our souls remain, mine will always find yours.”
“Nothing in this world is complicated, only misunderstood.”
“What was love if all it did was kill?”
Have you read These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends? Which one did you like more? Do you love the worldbuilding, too? Would you rather join the Scarlett Gang or the White Flowers? Let’s talk all things Chloe Gong in the comments below!