The sequel to These Violent Delights will dazzle you with its action-packed retelling of both Romeo and Juliet and the Shanghai Massacre of 1927. Filled with mystery, political intrigue, and romance, this one will keep you reading all the way to the end.
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 the warpath. 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 read the first book only last month, so it was pretty fresh in my mind and made the experience for this one even richer. I felt like the first book was good, but it definitely had a few flaws that many readers brought up. However, I saw this sequel as flawless and I would highly recommend checking it out if you read the first one and liked it. I’m probably bias because I loved it so much and overlooking some smaller issues, but it really blew me away.
The biggest components that I adored was using real Chinese history during the early part of the 20th century to help tell this tale. The communist and nationalist parties working in tandem with the gangsters was so intriguing. Incorporating them into creating Chloe’s own retelling of those events really made the story way more interesting! Of course, the gangs working alongside these two parties really brought another dynamic level to the story that really reminded me of Fonda Lee and her Jade City trilogy.
The characters were a huge part of why I loved this book. Roma and Juliette, of course, were so interesting and very different from each other. Roma is more of a lover than a fighter, but has no problems with pulling the trigger when needed. Juliette is always fighting for approval as a female heir to one of the biggest gangs in Shanghai, so she tries to keep a pretty stern air about her. But I love that you see all of that change for both of the characters throughout the second book. They grow and change into the people they’re supposed to be, which I loved reading throughout the process.
I think another surprising set of characters were Marshall and Benedikt. I loved seeing their friendship grow over time and although I don’t want to spoil anything, the book definitely dives further into that for you. And I think my favorite character of all was Alisa. In the first book, there wasn’t much about her. She was more the naive younger sister who was infected by the bugs, but in this book, she grows exponentially.
I did want to touch on Romeo and Juliet and how it plays out in this part of the book. If you’ve read the first book, then you know exactly where the story kind of leads you, but ultimately this second half of the book is no way similar to the play. And honestly, I preferred it. Chloe Gong has created something special here with her story and I don’t think the play was necessary. It was fun to see the nods to the play and see how she’s used the components within her own story, but I wouldn’t go into reading this series thinking you’re going to get a verbatim retelling. It’s way better than that!
Finally, the bugs aka the sci-fi element in the story that drew me to the book in the first place. It felt like it took a backseat in the second book and didn’t play as big of a role as it did in the first book. My anxiety thanks Chloe Gong for that. However, I think she did a good job incorporating into the story and making it a part of the bigger plot. I loved that the bugs formed a riff in power within Shanghai and subsequently led to the people wanting to move away from gang rule, but aside from that I like that she kept the bugs to a minimum (gross).
Overall, I absolutely loved this ending. The story wrapped up beautifully, surprised me all the time, and really captured the tragedy of the massacre days before it happened. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better sequel.