By Chloe Gong
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
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.
“When they were launching marbles along the uneven ground, they were just Roma and Juliette, not Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, the heirs of rival gangs.”Chloe Gong
A Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1926 Shanghai? Absolutely. And who doesn’t love a slow-burn, enemies to lovers? I genuinely enjoyed this book and loved the twists Chloe Gong put on her retelling. This is the kind of book where you scribble all over the margins, making predictions, underlining beautiful descriptions, connecting the dots… and let me tell you, my copy of this book is all marked up.
Let’s talk characters.
My favorite characters in the book were undoubtedly Benedikt and Marshall. I just loved the dynamic between these two throughout the story. Their personality, their relationship, their dialogue — Excellent. But obviously, Roma and Juliette were up there in my favorites as well. Chloe did an excellent job at creating believable banter between the two, and I couldn’t get enough of Juliette’s witty one-liners. Then there were Juliette’s cousins Kathleen and Rosalind. I didn’t care for either of them at first, but Kathleen certainly grew on me… Rosalind? Not so much. But I’m looking forward to getting to know her character more in the sequel.
As for writing style?
Extraordinary. I loved every second of it. I tend to be on the pickier side when it comes to writing styles that I enjoy, and Chloe Gong is certainly talented. Her descriptions were some of the most beautiful and unique that I’ve read in this genre in a while. She really strays away from the clichés.
And the plot,
I found the plot to be really fascinating and different and exciting– I definitely wasn’t expecting that when I saw Romeo and Juliet retelling. Prepare yourself though, the entire last quarter of this book was a wild ride and I’m still reeling over that ending!
About the Author:
Chloe Gong is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English and International Relations. During her breaks, she’s either at home in New Zealand or visiting her many relatives in Shanghai. Chloe has been known to mysteriously appear by chanting “Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s best plays and doesn’t deserve its slander in pop culture” into a mirror three times.
Her bio makes me laugh every time I read it. Also, read her acknowledgements! I normally don’t read the Author’s Note at the end of books but so really put her heart and soul and personality into every part of this book and it shows!
The sequel and final book to this epic duology is scheduled to be released on November 16th, 2021 — and I simply cannot wait to get my hands on it!
I hope you found this review helpful, inspiring, exciting — and it encourages you to go and buy this book because its in my top 5 books of this year! I hope you all have a lovely morning afternoon evening and I will see you next Friday for another book review. 🙂
Here’s a link to Chloe Gong’s Social Media so you can follow her for more updates: