Friday, July 09, 2021

These Violent Delights, by Chloe Gong

Juliette is a multi-lingual flapper girl and heir to lead the Scarlet Gang.  Roma and his fellow Russian are their competitors, the White Flowers.  The two gangs view for control of Shanghai in the 1920s. 

Shanghai itself is a city in turmoil and chaos.  Foreigners hold all the power and the people are rebelling, some seeking the promise of independence provided by the Nationalists and others seeking to throw off the chains of their oppressors, as foreseen by the Communists.  Amidst all of this, a monster is on the prowl, bringing a terrifying contagion to the city that causes its victims to claw themselves to death.  Juliette and Roma were once secret lovers, but their warring clans divided them. Can the threat that the monster brings with it unite them together to save their city?

An extremely involved story that already has promised a sequel.  It mixes elements of historical fact with fantasy, adding a little flavoring from Shakespeare, and a decent serving of anachronisms, this novel seeks to provide a fast moving adventure.

It left me cold.  Rather than build up heat with the romance that you want to happen, Gong mostly ratchets up the body count to such a ridiculous extent that the violence no longer matters.  There are lots of characters and most of them die.  Few of them grow important or interesting enough to develop an affection for before they do so.  While there's lots of promise here, from all of the color of Shanghai to various different (and changing) conspiracy theories, so little of this gels together.  Having created so much exposition, the last fifty pages of this first installment tosses much of this aside and becomes largely incomprehensible.

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