If I were to tell the premise of this book in one sentence, it would be : a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette set in 1920’s Shanghai. How cool is that?

Disclaimer: this review is spoiler free.


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. 

Content warnings: 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.


Unsurprisingly, I was immersed into this gorgeous, brutal story (I never thought I’d write those two words together) from page one. How could you not, when the story begins with a line like this:

“In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens

*claps in awe*

Let’s talk about the characters.

Our main character, Juliette, is one badass girl. She’s ruthless and violent and carries about fifteen weapons about her body at a given time, but she also cares deeply about her friends, family, the gang she will inherit and the entire city of Shanghai itself.

Then we’ve got Roma Montagov, heir to the White Flowers, who hates violence but must be in order to prove himself as a worthy heir. Roma misses the old Juliette, before she left for America, but he can’t help himself falling in love with her.

And their love story…damn. It’s marketed as enemies-to-lovers, but I think it’s more of enemies-to-friends-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers, which is just as complicated as it sounds, full of angst and betrayal and everything we love about this good ol’ trope, except it was ramped up a hundred times. I loved reading every second of it.

I’m also glad that although the romance was there, it didn’t take over the plot at any time, but remained as a subplot. It didn’t feel like a subplot because every time Juliette and Roma interacted their chemistry was OFF THE CHARTS.

“That was what this city is. The party at the end of the world.

Let me tell you how much I loved the worldbuilding. Every historical story I’ve read was set in either Sri Lanka or America or Europe, so it was so refreshing to see early 20th century Shanghai on page. I also love how Chloe Gong explored themes like colonization, casual racism and sexism in her novel. Small things, like Chinese citizens not being allowed in parts of their own city, how westerners consider Juliette ‘better’ because of the American accent she has while speaking English, and how Juliette’s relatives seem to prefer Tyler, one of her cousins, over her to be the heir of the Scarlet Gang. I thought it was masterfully written into the story.

“Even the land of dreams needs to wake up sometimes.

The mystery was constantly intriguing and exciting, and the fantasy aspect of this story was done well too. But had a little trouble imagining what the actual monster looked like. Did it crawl or walk on four legs or two legs? I wasn’t entirely sure. But wow, those twists took me completely by surprise.

And, last but not least, I must mention these four amazing characters, Kathleen, Rosalind, Marshall and Benedikt. I loved how Juliette’s sidekicks were both girls and Roma’s were boys. These four were so well developed with their own problems, struggles and aspirations which were quite different from Roma and Juliette’s.

Plus, that ENDING. How can you end a book like that. I wanna read book two right now (it’s actually releasing in November) but I’m so scared because we all know how the original story ends…

My final rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 stars, rounded up to five)

You can also check out Ahaana’s review and Cherelle’s review!

34 thoughts on “Book review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong // Romeo and Juliet with gangs, guns and a monster

  1. Since reading Cinder, I’ve not read any other book set in China, so this should be really interesting! I love a classic retelling, too, and I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a long time, now. Also I like how you mentioned that this portrays themes (some of them which are hard to do in a YA novel).

    Ooh, I really hope it doesn’t end like the original Romeo and Juliet because when you are so invested in characters you hate when they die! I love the idea of Romeo and Juliet with guns and demons! Definitely going to pick this up soon—so many people have talked about this! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JAN!! omg i LOVE these violent delights with all of my heart, and i’ve been having an emotional breakdown ever since i got declined for an ARC of our violent ends 🥺😭 i’m so so so happy you loved it as much as i did, because it’s def one of my favourite books, and all the elements were done so beautifully!! thanks for mentioning my review!! 💓

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The book was a no-go at first, when I read it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling. I am not a big fan of Shakespeare- and that’s an understatement. But reading the review further, These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong sounds like a delight. I always thought Juliet as a fragile flower who needed saving. The twist in this China retelling makes it sound that Juliette is a badass. Also, enemies-to-lovers is one of my favourite romance tropes. I’m definitely reading These Violent Delights.
    Great review, Jan! I probably wouldn’t have picked it up simply reading a Goodreads blurb.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. indeed the romance was so twisty but well written ahh everytime roma and juliette started interacting i would start screaming internally haha… and agreed the themes of colonialism and the historical setting was so well written and it especially resonated with me as an own voices reader. AHHH so thrilled that you loved this one too and welcome to the wait-till-our-violent-ends-comes-out party! lovely review, jan! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i really loved juliette, which was surprising for me, because i typically like male characters better. but not at all here: juliette was so badass and unapologetic. i also really appreciated how the author intertwined the struggle of identity, which is something i read a lot about in YA contemporaries, but that i never imagined would be present in a historical fantasy, but it made a lot of sense for her to feel trapped “between” america and china.

    the setting of shanghai as a melting pot with all these different cultures was also SO interesting!

    i didn’t know that the romance between roma and juliette was actually going to be a second-chance romance and i think this trope made a lot more sense for the plot. i hope the sequel is just as good as the first one was!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Omg, I’m currently reading this book! I’m 200 pages in and I’m loving it! Your review definitely encouraged me to read it and stop procrastinating. Love your content! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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