NOTE: The blurb below contains spoilers to These Violent Delights.
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.
I was provided an early copy of the book by the author. This has not influenced my opinions of the book. This book review is based on the early copy, and may differ from the final version.
When I was a few chapters away from finishing Our Violent Ends, I swear, and I say this without hyperbole: I think my feelings actually shut down. I was stressed, I was so tense that I had to get up and pace while reading, and I was literally sweating. By the end, I was a numb and absolutely wrecked mess – but I was also, funnily, a satisfied mess.
Following from the events of These Violent Delights, the phenomenal retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920’s Shanghai, we once again follow Juliette of the Scarlet Gang and Roma of the White Flowers as they must now navigate new dangers – powers and threats so dangerous that the two star-crossed lovers must put aside the blood feud and work again once more.
Here is an assurance that I can offer to all readers anxious to read Our Violent Ends: If you loved These Violent Delights, I can assure you that you will also love Our Violent Ends. Though the two are similar in structure and writing style, Our Violent Ends is a demonstration that what transpires in These Violent Delights was not the best Chloe could do. Everything that you may have loved about the first book is elevated to new and inspired heights: the deliberate and thoughtful pacing with twists that creep up on you, deft and precise storytelling, morally grey characters with complex motivations, and a story that builds slowly that, once it has built enough momentum, will begin hurtling towards its terrifying and incendiary ending. In other words, everything brilliant about These Violent Delights is made better, scarier, and definitely more stressful in Our Violent Ends.
With the characters feeling the aftershocks of Juliette’s actions in the first book, I desperately wanted to see more of Juliette and Roma, especially together in the same room. I wanted to see how the two would grapple with their undeniable connection with one another amid a new vicious animosity. Where the first book simply alludes to Roma and Juliette’s lovers-to-enemies relationship in a series of flashbacks, the gift of These Violent Delights is that we have witnessed their relationship oscillate between lovers to enemies, trust to distrust, tenderness to venom. This makes their dynamic in Our Violent Ends harder-hitting and we feel their emotions and desires more tangibly and acutely. Having gone on that journey with them, we understand the complexity of their relationship – the push of their familial duties in tandem with their pull to one another – which makes every interaction between them so delicious and satisfying, the two coming together like water upon hot oil. What makes Our Violent Ends so brilliant and compelling is that Chloe knows what readers want and she knows that we are familiar with the events of Shakespeare’s play. And so she does give us what we want – except that Chloe simply takes her time with it, in a slow, teasing and deliberate way that will make you crave for more.
Though I love Roma and Juliette together, the two characters also shine individually. Once again, the story is told alternating between Roma and Juliette (and occasionally the side characters get their own chapters too), as they wrestle with their own challenges and threats. As Juliette attempts to solidify her claim as the Scarlet Gang heir against her conniving and crafty cousin, Roma struggles to reconcile his feelings of grief and revenge with his love for Juliette. If you loved the side characters in the first book – Marshall, Benedikt, Kathleen and Rosalind – then you will be in for a treat. All four of these characters shine brightly in Our Violent Ends. Not only do we get to see more of them, we also get to see fascinating added dimensions and layers to each character, and the decisions they make are just as intriguing and compelling as Juliette and Roma.
Whilst the central conflict in These Violent Delights centred on a monster that threatened to tip the scales of the blood feud, Our Violent Ends centers on the mysterious re-emergence of the monsters, as well as the implications of a brewing civil war, revolution, and suppression taking place in 1927 Shanghai. (If you know your history, you will probably see where the story will go.) While I still found the monsters and the mystery surrounding them horrifying, seeing our characters contest with powerful forces within history added a whole other layer of terror. I actually felt scared and stressed while reading Our Violent Ends – terrified of how the characters that we love are pushed into a corner, where they too are influenced and their lives shaped by events and powers in history. (Because if you ask, how can things get possibly worse? The answer is: it can, and it will.)
Our Violent Ends is a dark book, and it can weigh heavily at times – as it should, for what the story explores and depicts. Yet, at its very heart, Our Violent Ends is a story about fighting for love and finding an ember of hope amid the wicked and dangerous. Ultimately, Our Violent Ends is a story about two teens who are born in stations and obligations that have predestined them to fight one another, but it is also a story that dares to ask otherwise, to hope for otherwise, and to love against all odds. The romance in this book is incredible; it isn’t exactly soft or tender (though there are such moments), but it is fierce and brave – and that is what will stay with me forever.
Endings to book series, whether a duology or a trilogy, can be fraught and challenging because they don’t always end the way that the story deserves or in ways that readers will find satisfying. I can confidently say that Our Violent Ends thankfully doesn’t have that problem. It ends the way the story should, in a way that makes sense, a product of careful plotting and excellent storytelling. By the end, I was in awe. I cried. I was breathless. And yet, I was so satisfied with how the story ended and it was, dare I say it, perfect? But I’ll leave that for you all to experience for yourselves come November.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Our Violent Ends is not just an explosive and undeniably satisfying conclusion to a phenomenal duology; it is also a fantastic book in its own right. I’m calling it now: The Violent Ends duology will become one of the young-adult greats, a timeless series that will define and shape modern young-adult literature for the years to come. To everyone looking forward to reading Our Violent Ends, you are in for an emotional and unforgettable ride. I am both excited and scared for you.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Following the events of These Violent Delights, the story follows Juliette and Roma as they have to work together once more to take down threats that could alter the course of their lives forever.
Perfect for: Readers who loved These Violent Delights; readers who enjoy darker retellings; readers who enjoy genre-bending work.
Think twice if: You did not enjoy These Violent Delights (the storytelling style is the same, so if it didn’t work for you in These Violent Delights, Our Violent Ends likely won’t work for you too)
Genre: young adult historical fantasy with science-fiction elements
Trigger/content warning: blood, violence, gore, death, murder (including mass murder), alcohol consumption, parental abuse, war themes