The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule. [From Goodreads]
This series blew me away. Wow. I was very wary going into the series. I haven’t seen that much about them, and what I have seen has been mixed. I also just am not a fan of gang stories and the gratuitous violence that goes along with them. This series has me rethinking that stance.
I just have never read anything like this series (except for, ya know, Romeo and Juliet). But seriously, what a refreshing take on YA fantasy. I listened to the audio for both books, and they were something I looked forward to pressing play on every day. The story was so unique, and I never knew what was going to happen. Gong also sets up the political conflicts between gangs, nationalists and communists so well–it felt very realistic and really helped to fill in the historical setting.
What really made this duology were the characters. I fell in love with everyone, especially Juliette and Roma’s star-crossed arc. I am usually suspect of multiple perspective stories–sometimes it can be hard for the author to develop all characters equally. That was not the case with this series. Every character got their own satisfying arc and end, and I loved reading each of their perspectives.
The only aspect of this series I can criticize is the ending, which I felt was slightly rushed and had too much packed into it. I was getting a little confused about the different sides everyone was playing on. This was such a small thing compared to how much I loved the rest of the books, though, so I was overall happy with how the ending turned out for everyone.
This series definitely deserves more hype from YA lovers.
If you’ve read this series, what did you think of it?