I was intrigued by the idea of this retelling/re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet but I was unprepared for the dark and vibrant world-building, the rich cultural immersion and the intense gore of These Violent Delights.

Set in 1926 Shanghai amidst the violent blood feud between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers, the story centers on the two young leaders of those gangs: Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov.  The parallels to Shakespeare are directly drawn, but also altered and twisted to fit the glamour and violence of a Shanghai under the siege and sway of a horrific monster and an army of (terrifying) insects that burrow into human skin and cause people to tear out their own throats.  The images in my mind associated with said insects are truly nightmarish.

Gong has created a fascinating, disturbing, beautiful story that certainly harkens back to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but also is, in Gong’s words “my mission as an English major to take a classic that we so dearly love and revamp it: in a new culture, with queer rep, and as a brutal takedown of colonialism—without losing its core themes about love, and hate, and loyalty.”

I highly recommend this complex and dark tale for readers who want to fully immerse themselves into another world, complete with passion, horror, mystery and romance.  These Violent Delights is available via LA Library’s Sora collection.