Hello, it’s me again, a person who starts reading a book and then only finishes it after four months. But don’t get me wrong, the book is not bad and it’s not the problem, I am the problem because I am obsessed with starting multiple books at once and then I can’t keep up with my insatiable appetite for reading. But brace yourselves for this:
Shanghai 1920’s; gangsters; main characters inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; a monster on the river and a disease sweeping across the city.
Could you ask for anything else?
I begin by saying that I refuse to call this book a retelling. Yes, it is inspired by the characters created by Shakespeare, but this book takes such a strong voice of its own that calling it a retelling is only reducing its greatness. And also, how come Chloe Gong is only 21 years old and has written this masterpiece, and can I be her?
Meet Juliette Cai, the recently returned heir to the Scarlet Gang, she is fierce and fearless, she is beautiful and deadly and I am in love with her. Meet Roma Montagov, the heir to the White Flowers, the beautiful boy with a wicked smile, Juliette’s first love, and her first betrayal, yes I am also in love with him. In this book, we have points of view from both main characters, but also from their friends and family. Despite that, in my opinion, the main focus remained on Juliette, she is the most focused on and not only and her construction is flawless. She is a very intriguing person and little by little you unpeel the layers of her character, her fears and traumas, and the pain she so heavily carries on. She is truly special and my favorite character in the book.
The writing is something itself. At moments I found it to be a little too difficult to digest, the chapters from the first half of the book are enormous and you need to labor on them to get through but it’s worth it. You are splendidly introduced to this world, of betrayals and guns, blood and business, this vibrant and alive city. Seriously, I am already a fan of the 1920s and I love Asian countries, so combining the two was a true gift for me. The author manages to suck you deep into this landscape, her descriptions mesmerizing and impregnated with the smells, colors, and sounds from that moment in time. At the end of the book, you have a note from the author, telling a bit about her research and I was so glad for that! There were many gangs in Shanghai in 1926, another reason why I don’t like calling this book retelling. There are other sources of inspiration. Of course, some elements are there, the iconic mask ball, a certain poison that can make one seem as though dead…
This book was an incredible journey, and I never wanted it to end. If you have the slightest inclination to read this, I urge you to do so. It might take some time, but this book is more than worth it. I cannot wait for the sequel because of that ending!! I need more now.