In this young adult novel, Romeo and Juliet meets 1920’s Shanghai, with a little dark magic twist. Juliette Cai is from the Scarlet Gang, who have fought with the White Flowers for generations. Roma Montagov was her first love, but now they hate each other. When series of mysterious deaths break out with people clawing out their own throats, they have to team up to stop the evil.
I love the cover design and the whole idea behind this book. It feels vibrant and different, allowing a more diverse voice to tell a story. Chloe Gong has a real talent, and as a debut novel, this is really good. I understand that this will be a YA series, and I think it’s really going to find it’s fans.
For me, I feel like there were some things that I didn’t enjoy about this book, but that they are really points of taste, rather than anything wrong with the book or story itself.
Firstly, I found this a little too long. In some ways, the story moves along quite quickly, but there are times where it feels slow. The opening scene is really good, but then it feels dull around Roma Montagov and his group. They’re a little under written, I think, and don’t feel well rounded.
The characters and story feel a bit “teen drama”, which is fine really, because this is YA. For some reason, I found myself feeling a little distant from the characters. I wasn’t always immersed in the story, as in feeling inside the novel and kind of forgetting myself, but rather I felt a bit like someone was telling me a story, like the author was there. I think the dramatic tone that the author strikes and her use of the Romeo and Juliet story somehow drew me out of the moment. Perhaps some quotes felt out of place, somehow. Perhaps it was a little too melodramatic for me. That said, it’s no more dramatic than a lot of other YA, or even shows with teen characters. So I’m not sure why I couldn’t relax into this one.
My final complaint is that I don’t love the plot trope where the couple were together before, but something came between them, and now they hate each other, but inevitably find out that it was all a big mistake and get back together. I feel like simple communication would stop this initial break up from happening, and I think there’s perhaps something less fun about couples getting back together, as opposed to falling in love for the first time. I feel like this trope is used a lot in current YA, so it doesn’t feel fresh as well.
OK, so there are a few things that I didn’t like. But I do think that Chloe Gong has a talent, and this is a good first novel. I think that if you love your YA series, then the things that I didn’t like about this are perhaps the things that you love and I think this book will find an appreciative audience. I do wonder if in book two of this series, the author will homage a different Shakespeare play or use other elements from the Romeo and Juliet play. I really like the location and the way that the author took the 1920’s, Shanghai, Shakespeare and added in a supernatural element, there’s a lot here to like. The things that I didn’t like, as I said, are partly down to personal taste and preference.
Read It If: a great premise from a debut author, this series should please a lot of YA fans, even as it uses some current tropes.
Thank you Simon Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book for review. All opinions are my own honest thoughts.
These Violent Delights is out November 17th.