Start End

Review of Our Violent Ends by

Our Violent Ends

by Chloe Gong

Finally got around to picking up Our Violent Ends, the sequel to These Violent Delights. These books are a close-knit duology—although the main plot of the first book is resolved, Juliette and Roma’s story is not. Chloe Gong wraps it up here in a poignant, melodramatic way that remains true to the source material while also elevating it in complexity and scope.

Spoilers for the first book but not for this one.

The monster is dead, and so is its maker. Shanghai can breathe a little easier. The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers can go back to killing each other. Or can they? The monsters return, blackmail ensues, and the Nationalist army is marching on the city. The only way out seems to be for Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov to work together. Yet Roma believes Juliette has betrayed their forbidden love, believes her to be heartless, to be his enemy now. Juliette has no plans to disabuse him of her deceit. It’s star-crossed love indeed.

Romeo and Juliet is not in my top Shakespeare plays, though I gather from Gong’s bio that she thinks it gets a bad rap—certainly enough that she wrote this two-book reimagining of it! Yet what makes Our Violent Ends so good is that Gong has worked around the original play’s key weakness, which is its shallowness. Through her setting of Shanghai, 1927, and the depth with which she portrays the two main characters, Gong takes the themes and major beats of Shakespeare’s most famous tragic romance and makes them her own.

She wastes no time throwing us into the thick of things. Juliette and Roma are independently investigating the resurgence of the monsters, but it isn’t long before they are thrown together. In addition to switching between limited third-person perspectives of these two, Gong also gives us a glimpse into the mind of Tyler (Tybalt). We don’t get as much perspective from them, but we still learn a lot about the motivations of Lord and Lady Cai, as well as Lord Montagov. And it all comes down to power.

The first two thirds of the book are fine. But that last act, when all hell breaks loose? Oh my. As Roma and Juliette plot their next moves and struggle even to survive, Gong’s themes crystallize. It’s about power. Who has it. Who wants it. Should you even want it? Both lovers were born into power, shaped to wield power, yet their survival might lie in rejecting that power.

Juliette and Roma—as well as Marshall, Rosalind, and Kathleen/Celia—endure many temptations towards power. How they respond to these temptations, the courses of action that these characters take, is the principal focus of Our Violent Ends. Gong sets out to remind us that individuals are fickle, complicated beings. We are all capable of good, of evil, of selfish or selfless acts. What is truly monstrous are the systems we set up.

While at times uneven, when this book hits, it hits. Think what you will of Romeo and Juliet. Regardless, Gong demonstrates a remarkable facility for adapting Shakespeare’s tragedy into a tale all her own: one full of history, romance, combat, loss, and renewal. This duology, both volumes, is well worth your time.


Share on the socials

Twitter Facebook

Let me know what you think

Goodreads LogoStoryGraph Logo

Enjoying my reviews?

Tip meBuy me a tea