Let me remind you that I am not an expert when it comes to reviewing books. Take what I have to say with a grain of salt or whatever. I honestly just love reading. And if you’re a YA fantasy fiction lover, like myself, you’ve stumbled upon the right book review today.
Since I’m reviewing the duet instead of each book individually, I probably won’t cover everything. It’ll be brief but I’m going to try to include everything you absolutely need to know. So the duet is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in Shanghai during the 1920s. It’s been a while since I’ve read a period piece. I think the last one that I read would have to be the first Bridgerton novel? Anyways, I love a good period piece! I think it would be a beautiful movie to watch. Juliette wears some of the most stunning dresses in the novel and I would love to see them come to life on screen. I’m smiling just picturing all the sparkle! But I think I’m trailing off my little synopsis here… So, where were we? Ah – Romeo and Juliet! We all know the famous love story by William Shakespeare. However, Roma and Juliette are the main characters in this duet. They’re the heirs to two separate gangs that have been in this ongoing blood feud since the dawn of time. No one even remembers why they started hating each other to begin with. Juliette Cai is the heir to the Scarlet Gang, and Roman Montagov is the heir to the White Flowers. They were each other’s first love. And much like the original play, their romance is ultimately doomed. There is so much betrayal. On top of that, there’s a contagion they name “the madness” and a monster in the Huangpu river that is killing everyone in their city. The only way to stop it is to put their feelings aside, do what’s right for their people, and work together.
I think that’s not the most terrible explanation of the two novels, no? There’s a lot more in the second novel that I’m leaving out, but I think knowing the information that I mentioned above, you’ll figure out what comes next. I am in no means saying that the second book is not worth mentioning. A lot of people online (and I agree with them) have said that the second book was very emotional for its readers. I don’t know what it is about a forbidden romance. The fact that they love each other so much, couldn’t be more perfect for one another, but can never be together is just absolutely heartbreaking! If you’re familiar with the play, you’ll also have a good idea of how the story will go. I’m not saying that it’s predictable. Chloe actually manages to retell the story but still make it something completely different.
There are a lot of characters that I enjoyed getting to know throughout these two novels. My favourites would have to be Juliette and her cousins. Juliette is a badass woman. I love her. Although she demonstrates weakness when it comes to loving Roma, she’s still one of the strongest characters in the book. You know what, she’s probably the strongest. She’s tough both mentally and physically. She’s very decisive and as a woman in a gang in the the 1920s, working alongside mostly men, she’s very well-respected. They treat her with more respect than what you’’d expect during that time. No one would mess with her. I know she had to work hard to earn that respect, and I respect that a lot. There are times in the novel where she’s excluded in some important decision making because she’s a woman. Her father consults her cousin, Tyler, for too many things, and that’s a whole other side story that I could get into but you can find that out for yourselves. I’ll just let you know right now that we don’t like Tyler over here. Awful human. Anyways, I really feel like she’s for the most part an equal, but she’s wearing a gorgeous dress while doing it? That’s pretty freaking heroic/badass if I do say so myself. And Juliette’s cousins are the same way! Kathleen and Rosalind have grown up with Juliette and they all have an equal understanding on how they have to be in order to survive in their “Scarlet vs. White Flower” world.
What I probably love most about these books is that there’s only two. I really feel like most YA fantasy novels are drawn out for much longer than they need to be. Two books long is the perfect length for Chloe’s story, and I appreciate her choosing to do so. Am I the only one that has noticed that most fantasy series are at least 3-4 books long? And sometimes I feel like it’s just unnecessary information/a reason to sell one more book. With two books, I think this duet has much more value. Two really good books is better than 4 mediocre ones.
Another reason why I enjoyed these books so much is that they were a mix of genres. I got a little bit of everything. There was mystery, romance, historical fiction, and fantasy. Some might think it’s too much but I think it was perfect. It allowed so much interest and always had me wanting to know more.
I know I’m almost 29 years-old and still reading teen fiction, but I definitely think things between Roma and Juliette could have been much steamier lol. I’m not asking for porn. I just felt like there wasn’t enough passion between the two of them. Roma was kind of a “blah” character. I didn’t understand how he felt towards Juliette. I think Juliette’s feelings were much more apparent. I had a better sense that Juliette would literally do anything for Roma. Romeo was a hopeless romantic, was he not? I just wanted more from Roma. Personally, I think Juliette was too good for him.
I don’t think anyone ever wants characters to die, but it’s kind of obvious when this is a retelling of Romeo and Juliette that they’re gonna die in some way or another. I didn’t want that though. I really wanted to see them create a life together, away from their city. I wanted them to live happily ever after. I mean, that’s probably the hopeless romantic in me, but I still wanted it nonetheless. They deserved to be together! They had already gone through so much, so why did they have to die?! But I guess that’s the romantic tragedy for ya. The “doomed romance”.
Overall, these were probably the YA fantasy novels that I needed to get back into reading again. I’ve been on a roll! I’ve read almost 4 books this month! I can’t believe it. I am definitely on the path towards meeting my goal of 50 books read in 2022. I know it’s only the first month of the year, but it’s promising! I’m hopeful.
If you’re going to pick up these books, expect a little bit of everything. Like I said, there’s mystery, romance, historical fiction, and fantasy. A ton of twists and turns. It really kept me on my toes despite knowing the story of Romeo and Juliet all too well. Although these were debut novels for Chloe Gong, it really didn’t feel like it. Her writing was exceptional as far as I’m concerned. I think Chloe created amazing characters and told a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Much like Romeo and Juliet, her novels were full of emotions and pain. I think this retelling would be an interesting movie. It’s definitely something I’d consider worth watching.
My rating for this duet is 4/5 stars. The reason it’s not a full 5/5 is because I really think there were characters, like Roma, that needed just a tad more attention. I wanted to understand him more, especially since he was one of the two main characters. I might just be saying this because I love romance, and I wanted Roma to bring more romance to the table. As I said in the introduction, take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I do highly recommend these books if this is the sort of thing you’re into. I think they were a great start to what’s going to be a great year of reading.
If you liked this book review, please let me know in the comment section! I’m a little rusty because a.) I haven’t read this much in a while and b.) I haven’t really reviewed or talked about a book in a long while. I think the more I read, the more insight I have. At least I hope that’s the case ha-ha!
I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend!
Until next time,
– Tiny ❤