Sometimes historical fiction with a splash of fantasy can be tricky to pull off. However, Chloe Gong does a splendid job of submerging readers in 1920s Shanghai in These Violent Delights.
World-building is crucial when doing a novel that falls into the historical fiction genre because, as readers, we are already somewhat familiar with periods. So, the structure has to be sound; it has to be believable and ground the reader in the story. When anyone thinks of the 1920s, they think of gangsters, prohibition, speakeasies, and flapper dresses, and Gong gives that to readers.
Gong builds up this retelling of Romeo and Juliet with incredible detail and a believable plot of warring gangsters. There probably were many Romeo and Juliet romances in real life. The point is that it is believable. The reader does not have to suspend their belief when reading the story because it is grounded and plays on the era’s romanticization to grip the reader.
There is such excellent detail that went into creating this world and it has this sharp edge to it to highlight the danger around every corner. This is, after all, a story about mobsters and monsters. Nevertheless, that detail, the color that Gong paints into her storytelling creates a beautiful painting, with shadows in all the delicate and places to add to the romanticization and mystery of the 1920s.
Characterization & Diversity
What also makes this a good retelling is how different it is. Gong took liberties to the romance of Romeo and Juliet by having the lovers be enemies. Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are so different from their parent story in the best way.
It is always great to see the story retold cleverly and uniquely, and that is what Chloe Gong has done with her story. Gong gives readers something new and unique. Juliette is rougher around the edges, more brutal, but she was always a bit cleverer than Romeo and it is great to see her intelligence elevated to new heights here.
Juliette is not the only character to shine here. Gong brings new life to this cast of characters. Everyone from the original play is here, but there is diversity and tension in their voices and characterization. Gong gives the LGBTQ community some strong representation. It is subtle in the context of the story, once again, this goes towards bringing out the realism, but it is evident to the reader which is great.
There is so much about this fantastic novel. From the brilliant characterization to the vivid world-building, These Violent Delights is a unique and standout retelling of Romeo and Juliet with a marvelous fantastical twist highlighting the tension throughout the novel, giving the story an exceptional edge.
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|Pub Date: November 17, 2020||Page Count: 464pp||Age Range: 14 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0||Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books||List Price: $19.99|