Nothing humbles you like a disappointing anticipated release!
And nothing humbles you like a disappointing sequel specifically, one that follows a book you enjoyed!
While These Violent Delights took the book community by storm and had me and many other readers falling in love with it, I was sad to find myself experiencing nothing like that with its sequel. So, today I’m here to review Our Violent Ends and give my (unpopular) opinions on why I felt nothing over a book that was very much written to make me feel a lot!!
*Contains spoilers for book 1, These Violent Delights.
CHLOE GONG || NOVEMBER 16, 2021
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.
Thank you to Simon Teen for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.
All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
I truly wish I’d loved this book as much as I was hoping to, especially after enjoying the first one and finding myself excited to see how tragically Juliette and Roma’s story came to a close. But while this sequel was a disappointment for me, there’s no doubt that Gong is a skilled writer and I’m sure bigger fans of the series will find themselves more satisfied than me.
Our Violent Ends sees Juliette and Roma grappling with their feelings for each other yet again as Shanghai crumbles around them to the conflict between the Nationalists and Communists, as well as the return of the monsters they thought they eliminated. Both must make drastic decisions in their fight against—or perhaps for—love that may or may not change the fate of the city forever.
“In this life and the next, for however long our souls remain, mine will always find yours.”
Our Violent Ends was written to be especially angsty and emotionally destructive, after setting up a possible happy ending in the first book only to have it fall apart. But unfortunately, I genuinely just did not care enough to feel tormented in the way I was supposed to. Specifically, I felt extremely indifferent about Juliette and Roma, as well as their romance, which made it so difficult to feel invested in the book as a whole.
Both their individual arcs and romance felt repetitive, a rehashing of their struggles in the first book without enough new developments to keep things interesting. Gong knows her audience well and there are several scenes in this book that other readers will adore—sadly, though, I felt little over them, which was especially a disappointment after loving Juliette and Roma’s dynamic in the first book. But I did love how the tenacity of love was threaded throughout the book, the beauty of this idea only emphasized by the numerous conflicts in Shanghai that should stamp out love but somehow make it burn brighter.
I actually cared more about the side characters than the protagonists! The angst of Benedikt and Marshall’s relationship hooked me, and I felt much more invested in their romance than Juliette and Roma’s. And though I would have loved to see much more of her, Kathleen’s arc of growing into herself as her own person with her own choices was so beautiful. These characters’ chapters were a wonderful reprieve from the monotony of Juliette and Roma’s chapters and actually made interesting contributions to the plot.
Who cared about values when the history books were being written? What did it matter if the history books rewrote everything in the end?
A focal point of this duology is the subtle (to a certain extent) yet destructive nature of Western imperialism in China, and though I would have loved to see this explored more deeply, it was still heartbreaking to see the ramifications of Western exploitations. I also found it interesting to see how tensions between the Nationalists and Communists continually rose and stressed relations between the Scarlets and the White Flowers, as well as relations within the gangs. This sequel cemented that this series is a story of revolution, from literal political upheavals to the revolutionary idea of love persevering despite.
Unfortunately, though, the gripping politics were not enough to completely sustain my interest. I thought that Juliette and Roma were passive throughout the book—which makes sense since an overarching, tragic theme of the series and a major point of their characterization is that they are powerless against the unmoving walls of history and politics. However, it felt as if the two were running around in the beginning, chasing one thing after another without accomplishing much, which failed to engross me.
Overall, it felt as if this sequel’s plot was less cohesive the first book’s, made even more prominent with the continued inclusion of the monsters. One of my issues with the first book was that I was more interested in the politics of the story than the monsters, which I still felt with this sequel. But this time, the monsters played such a small role (and honestly, only played that role when convenient to other plot points) that they felt even more out of place. With so many things going on already, the monsters felt unnecessary and somewhat distracting.
“A rose is a rose, even by another name,” he whispered. “But we choose whether we will offer beauty to the world, or if we will use our thorns to sting.”
As a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it is expected that the ending of this book is dramatic and tragic. While I’d hoped that the ending might elevate the book for me, especially since near the end I just wanted to be done reading, I sadly found myself mostly unmoved by it. Despite this, I thought it was a well-written, fitting ending, with some open-to-interpretation aspects that I honestly loved—but it was disappointing that I didn’t feel any of the intense emotions I’d expected to hit me.
My indifferent experience with this book is one I think will be in the minority, though. Fans of the series will find a lot to delight in, from fiery confrontations between Juliette and Roma to Gong’s ever decadent prose. While I was disappointed to find myself detached from the story and its characters most of the time, Gong’s writing is nevertheless impressive and I do love her exploration of politics alongside romance. I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings to the table in the future.
:: representation :: Chinese MC, mlm Korean character, mlm character, trans woman Chinese character, Chinese characters
:: content warnings :: murder, gore, death, self-harm & suicide (not of own volition), disease/sickness, racism, body horror-ish type of things with insects, depictions of blood, depictions of grief
have you read These Violent Delights or Our Violent Ends? what were your thoughts? have you been disappointed by any sequels this year?