I am a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet. I am completely aware of all of its issues, but I still find it dramatic in a great way and it has some iconic lines. “Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?” Such a classic. Having said that, I am an even bigger fan of reimaginings of Romeo and Juliet. So, when I heard about this book, it was an instant add to my TBR list.
I didn’t realize this would be such a dark and back-alley book. I also didn’t realize it would be speculative fiction and not just “historical” fiction. I think the speculative aspect added so much to the story and the book. I also loved exploring Shanghai through the characters. I don’t know a lot about the history of that city, so I’m not sure how accurate the depiction and the people are, but regardless it was engaging.
Juliet is a cut throat character and I mean that quite literally. She is fierce, at times cruel, and completely loyal. I would not describe her as polarizing, but she is definitely a three dimensional character in that she has both strengths and weaknesses that relate to each other and make her so realistic as a character.
Juliet deals with many different problems that would be relatable to readers. She deals with being a person of color in America during the 1920’s, living abroad from her family and culture and returning having been “Americanized,” being a female trying to inherit a male position, and not wanting to be vulnerable in order to not be hurt again. These are all very relatable aspects for different readers.
Juliet was exciting to read about because she’s always setting things in motion through dialogue, action, or her own thoughts. I found her to be a very lively character who fights for her own agency constantly. I look forward to seeing her grow more and getting to be inside her thoughts once more.
Roma is instantly likable as a character. He is a steady and peaceful presence in contrast to Juliet’s violent and action-oriented person. Roma is from the Russian gang. I found that a cool dynamic that the Chinese gang that Juliet is a part of is deeply rooted in Shanghai in contrast to Roma’s gang, which is fleeing their home country to start a new life in a city of diverse peoples.
While Juliet thrives in her gang, Roma wilts among the violence and expectation. Although he does what he needs to, he doesn’t love it like Juliet does. I am a huge fan of his two friends and I hope they are more a part of the next book (which I believe they will be).
This story was very different from the original, however there are many homages to it which I greatly appreciated. I love when an author makes a well-known story their own, but leaves traces of the original for the reader to smile knowingly at. However, some of the homages gave some key twists away, which was a little disappointing when I got to them. Overall though, I throughly enjoyed this fresh and vastly different take on this story and I look forward to the next book!