Published: November 17th, 2020
Format: eBook ARC
Tags: 20th Century, Diverse, Historical Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Multiple POV, Mystery, PoC, Romance, Supernatural/Paranormal, Young Adult
| Synopsis from the Publisher |
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.
| Book Review |
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing & Margaret K. McElderry Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Describing This Book in Adjectives: engrossing, multiple plotlines, dark, dramatic
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. Sure, I am a fan of Romeo & Juliet, but I’m a bit wary of retellings these days, just because there are so many. However, Gong manages to slip past my defenses with this one.
This story is Romeo & Juliet on a high-stakes, complex level. It begins with the R & J well past a break up and completely at odds with each other. Add on top of that their feud between their families has escalated exponentially (the same feud that they had previously ignored when beginning their romance initially). Add a supernatural element set to the backdrop of 1920s Shanghai and you’ve got a real drama unfolding!
Upfront, I want to say that I initially didn’t take to this story because Juliet got on my nerves. She’s so cold and merciless and really it was just not fun to read from her perspective. She felt very one-note to me. I do think she improves over the course of the story, but it took a while for me to really like her at all. I will also say that this book is violent. Very violent. And I don’t really enjoy reading books like that. So it was getting difficult for me to enjoy the story. Eventually, the plot became engrossing enough for me to look past the violent elements to enjoy it.
The story itself is very well put together. It’s complex and dark and full of surprises. It’s a slow start, but as the mystery begins to build up, the book becomes more compelling. Gong is a talented writer. I really can tell that that she spent time working out the plot and making sure each piece fit together. This book will go down well for folks who like a complex, multi-level plot. There are definitely subplots that are equally well developed, happening alongside the main story. This book is told from multiple perspectives, so you get to see quite a few angles, which I think many will appreciate.
I can honestly say that I did not predict the ending. I also didn’t realize that this book would be just part one of a series. So now I have more of the story to look forward to.
Definitely Worth the Read
This is a strong beginning to what I can tell will be a very intricate, well-developed series. There is a strong cast of characters, a complicated mystery that will keep you guessing, and even a supernatural element that will keep you engrossed. This is like no historical fiction book you’ve ever read before. It also appears to be a love letter to Shanghai. The city is itself a character in this book, and I learned quite a bit, which wasn’t something I expected to happen when I picked this book up.
I’ll definitely recommend this book to readers looking for something more than just your typical, straight-forward historical fiction. Anyone who loves Romeo & Juliet will also get a kick out of this rendition, which is very original, despite borrowing from Shakespeare’s source material. With the promise of more, this book will definitely keep you guessing and coming back for the rest of the series.