These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong- Book review

My review of this fantasy retelling of Romeo and Juliette set in 1926 Shanghai. Here is my review of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1 of a duology

Source: My own

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.


I was so excited to read this- I have seen this book everywhere on Instagram and I loved the cover. The idea of a fantasy set in Shanghai in 1926 with monsters also sounded very appealing too. But unfortunately, I didn’t love this as much as I thought would.

So, I will start with what I liked about the book.

The world-building in this book is fresh and new 1926 Shanghai is not a location or time that I have come across in Fantasy. I could feel the atmosphere and tension through the author’s writing. The author’s afterword about the complex political and societal tension at the time makes it interesting reading and worthy of its own book.

As usual, I found the secondary characters so much more interesting, and I wanted to read more about their stories and follow their subplots. Benedikt, Marshall, Kathleen and Lady Cai had so many layers I wanted to read about. The burgeoning relationship between Benedikt and Marshall was one of the highlights of the story.

The sudden madness that has taken over Shanghai and the reasons and the mystery surrounding this was satisfying in own right too.

The book ends on one of the best cliffhangers I have come across AND I have to read the next book to find out what happens next!

Now the parts that didn’t work for me.

There was just a bit too much going on. I just found all the plots and subplots a bit overwhelming – this story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet retelling, a monster story, a gangster story, a revenge tale, as well as a tale about the societal and political upheavals in 1926 Shanghai! So this is perfect if you love books with many subplots.

I personally think the book would have worked without the Romeo and Juliet elements- sometimes this felt shoehorned in. Roma and Juliette didn’t feel like a passionate relationship that is doomed to fail unlike the relationship between Marshall and Benedikt. To me, Marshall and Benedikt are the real star-crossed lovers. I couldn’t warm to Juliette and Roma as characters which don’t help when they are the lead romantic couple. The focus on the romantic tension took away from the more fascinating descriptions of the creeping colonisation of China.

I was a thrown by the sudden insertion of sentences in French and other languages without translation especially since my high school French is a tiny bit rusty.

Content warning

Violence, some racism

Demon of Yodok by Adria Carmicheal – Book review

A teenager is sent to a re-education camp in this realistic depiction of a dystopian world in Demon Of Yodok by Adira Carmicheal.Read my review

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

Series: Book one of the Juche series.

Available on Kindle Unlimited ( I borrowed the book from Kindle unlimited following a request from the author for an honest review).

Just when Areum, daughter of a privileged family in the totalitarian state of Choson, thought she was free from her personal prison, her world collapses around her as her family is taken away in the middle of the night to a hell-like camp in the mountains where people who have strayed from the righteous path are brutally re-educated through blood, sweat, tears and starvation.

There she has to fight for survival together with the family she hates and is forced to re-evaluate every aspect of her life until then: her deep resentment toward her twin sister; her view of her father in the face of mounting evidence that he is a traitor with the blood of millions of fellow countrymen on his hands; and even her love and affection for the Great General – the eternal savior and protector of Choson, whom she had always considered her true father.

From goodreads

I was intrigued by the author’s note on The Demon of Jodok’s Goodreads blurb. She wanted to write from the perspective of someone who has been brainwashed by a totalitarian regime and she has succeeded. The book, written from the point of view of the main character, I think captures what it might be like to completely believe a beloved Dictator which makes her incarceration in a re-education camp all the more heart-breaking.

I found it hard to warm to Areum at the start- she does seem selfish, unsympathetic and rigid especially when her overriding goal is to leave her family and become a gymnast no matter what. But then, I found her attitude made sense once I realised this was a young teenage girl whose life and dreams are slowly being destroyed despite being a loyal subject and having done nothing wrong.

The concepts of Juche in the Choson are explained early as is the particular rules in the world that Areum lives in. The writing is crisp and sharp which suits the story.

I really hope Areum escapes in the second book!

Content warning

Attempted rape. Violence,

Perfect for fans

Who love realistic dystopia

Series Review-Shadow and Bone

An engaging trilogy and introduction to the Grishaverse and the small sciences but could the TV ( I can’t believe I’m saying this) series be slightly better than the books?

A spoiler free review of the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the first season of the netflix show.

Author Leigh Bardugo

From Amazon

Books in series

Book 1 Shadow and Bone

Book 2 : Siege and Storm

Book 3: Ruin and Rising

Overriding arc

Alina Starkov, an orphan discovers she is a rare Grisha, a sun summoner when she saves her childhood sweetheart in the Fold a piece of land deprived of life when he is attacked by creatures called the volcra. The Darkling is the leader of the Grisha, a group of people with great power and the ability to manipulate the elements using a system called the small science and takes Alina under his wing to train her to use her powers in the hope this will destroy the fold and defeat Ravka’s enemies. Alina has to learn not only how to control her power but also how to negotiate life at court, people trying to use her power for their own purposes her own feelings towards the Darkling and Mal but also how to save Ravka.

The good

I have to confess, I only picked up Shadow and Bone after I finished the Six and Crows and The crooked Kingdom and was hoping to fix my Grishaverse craving. Even though I had some idea about how Alina’s. Mal’s, Genya’s, Zoya’s and Sturmhond”s stories pan out, I was still surprised by some of the twists and turns in these books. These books are in the first person from Alina’s point of view and she only really comes to life in the Siege and Storm, which not surprisingly coincides with Sturmhond dramatically making an entrance. Alina isn’t your typical feisty, hardass heroine and needs a lot of rescuing but I think this makes her more relatable if a little bland. The Russian inspired Grishaverse is an intricate tapestry of world-building, vividly brought to life by Leigh Burdugo. I found myself caring about the secondary characters more than Mal and Alina and  I found myself rooting for  Zoya, Genya, Nicholai and was beyond pleased when their stories continued in the King of Scars trilogy. The Darkling is an intriguing villain cast who like Dracula always seems to come back no matter how many times we think he has died and Baghra has now become my all-time favourite angry, old woman.

The story really picks up pace in Siege and Storm with more political and court intrigue. I may be biased but  Stormhond and Nicholai make their appearance here and bring some needed humour and swashbuckle to the story. The second book remains my favourite and you can see how Alina’s character develops into the Saint and the leader the people of Ravka would like her to be.

Alina’s takes control in book three (after a dramatic rescue) and finally fulfils her destiny and create a new Ravka but we find out more Mal’s unique role and the part he plays in saving Ravka.

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