Book Review – Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Pages: 494
Published: 16th November 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Trigger warnings: Violence, injury detail

It is fair to say that after reading These Violent Delights at the end of 2020, I had found perhaps a new favourite book and so that catapulted this follow-up to the very top of my most anticipated list. Once again, I read it with my wonderful friend Alexia, who I am very grateful to have experienced this story with.

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.

This is the spectacular second half to a truly extraordinary duology. It had so much to live up to after the thrilling, all-encompassing brilliance of These Violent Delights and it emphatically delivers the goods with a plot brimming with incident and an almost indescribable level of tension that never relents until a dramatic, inevitably emotional final act.

The duology is of course a retelling of Romeo and Juliet and the Shakespearean influences are again in full force here, yet it is also a story unique for its individuality and the remarkably vibrant atmosphere it conveys. It creates an incredible backdrop which captures the imagination, enhanced by stunning writing and a group of characters that leap off the page and become wholly embedded into your consciousness.

It is 1927 in Shanghai where just a short time after the madness was seemingly eradicated, more monsters are now being released following the Larkspur’s death. The city is in a fragile political state, with frequent conflicts between the Nationalists and the Communists making the prospect of a bloody revolution appear dangerously imminent. At the same time, the two rulings gangs, the Scarlets and the White Flowers, continue the ongoing battle for supremacy.

The enmity between the two respective heirs has never been stronger, despite the unwavering love and attraction they feel for each other. Roma Montagov has vowed to take revenge on Juliette Cai after her apparent betrayal, but after a spate of attacks across the city they are forced to work together to track down the person controlling the monsters, much to their shock.

Both gangs are threatened by an unknown blackmailer, and Juliette discovers there is a spy among the Scarlets. As she grows increasingly disillusioned by the blood feud, her brother Tyler continues to question her true allegiance and carries out brazen attacks on the White Flowers. Then he makes a proposal that forces Juliette to choose between her family, and her unquenchable love for Roma.

Any fears that it would take a few chapters to reacclimatise to this world are immediately put to rest, and as a result the book immerses you from the start. It does not specifically recount what happened in the first instalment, yet it is written in such a way that you feel up to speed again fairly quickly, and we are soon thrown full throttle into the dynamic, angst-ridden intensity of it all.

The plot moves at a slightly slower pace and the action is less non-stop than in book one, but the level of tension and the palpable anticipation for what is going to happen next is so breathtaking that it is not a problem in the slightest. It reached the point where I was just completely invested and any miniscule faults mattered little, but make no mistake, it is another exceedingly accomplished piece of work.

There are numerous plot strands at play with a lot of main characters involved, and there is an effective balance struck between each of them, ensuring there is never really a dull moment. The concept of the monster and the madness is used slightly differently here; an interesting idea which works well along with the science and the politics that bring extra dimensions to the story.

Just like before, everything is written in the third person past tense, switching focus between each of the main characters, primarily Juliette and Roma. They are all wonderfully developed; complex and compelling in their own individual way. This makes it so much of a blast to experience the story with them, as they veer from feelings of hope to heartbreak and back again, either in terms of their relationships or just the ever-present threat of the conflict that surrounds them.

Even when they are acting like sworn enemies, you are rooting for Juliette and Roma all the time; clinging to the hope that they will have a happy ending. Juliette is not what you would usually describe as likeable, such is her fierce and extremely uncompromising nature, but she really does have a heart and the reader is made to feel every iota of her pain as she hides the best of herself from Roma. Her character progression in this second book is outstanding.

What is so fascinating about Roma here is his internal chaos in Juliette’s presence, as undisguised contempt mixes with a deep-seated affection that could never fade. In These Violent Delights he was the one to keep Juliette’s impulsiveness in check, but here there is a slight shift in dynamic and he is more inclined to act upon his emotions, especially in the first half of the book where there are flashes of humour to be found in their relationship amid all the unspoken words that hang in the air.

If the romance between Juliette and Roma is not enough, we also have Benedikt and Marshall, who are quite frankly adorable. Marshall in particular gets so much more development in this book to go with his wittiness and strong principles, also building a nice rapport with Juliette. It was sad to see Benedikt feeling so empty at the beginning, but the outcome of their story is certainly worth the wait.

Kathleen is an absolute boss of a character and it was good to see her sense of identity explored in a powerful way towards the end, while Rosalind is a dark horse here, full of unexpected surprises. The same cannot be said for Tyler, who lives and breathes the blood feud and likes to create havoc, often proving a pesky obstacle for our beloved main characters.

And as for Alisa, she is wonderful to spend time with. She embodies the spirit that is seen throughout this duology, so it was totally apt that the epilogue is told from her perspective. The ending itself comes after a prolonged sequence of events that had me holding my breath, and it is left very slightly open to interpretation, which felt rather fitting, and ensured that the intrigue remained beyond the last page.

With the unpredictability of the monster attacks and the simmering flames of the impending uprising, the Shanghai setting is just as captivating as before. The politics are incorporated into the story well, as are the diverse plethora of cultures and languages in a city buzzing with activity, so much so that it is made to feel like a character in itself.

The writing from this startlingly precocious author continues to be the epitome of excellence. There is layer upon layer of depth at every turn, which made even the moments in the first half of the book where the plot arguably meanders a little, impossible to tear my eyes away from. It is elegant and at times poetic, generating amazing tension. The pacing was just right towards the end too, with all the loose ends tied up efficiently.

Overall, it is hard to run out of positive things to say about this duology. Taking this particular book in isolation, it is more intricate and contains more twists and turns than its predecessor; pulsating for all the suspense and emotions it creates during the journey of these remarkable characters and the mesmerising city they inhabit. It is a retelling that deserves to be reread over and over again.

What can I say, there is just a special place in my bookish heart for this duology, and the amazing news is, there is another duology to come! This one may not be quite as thrilling as These Violent Delights, but it is just incredible in so many ways. I absolutely loved it, and lived every moment of it in my mind.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


14 thoughts on “Book Review – Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

  1. I just finished this last month and the ending has me in a chokehold – of course we all knew it was going to end that way, but wow
    Loved reading your review!!


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