Rating: 3 out of 5
"And hope was dangerous. Hope was the most vicious evil of them all."
"The stars incline us, they do not bind us."
The year is 1926 and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the street red with blood, leaving the city in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is 18 year old Juliette Cai, who has returned to Shanghai to assume her role as the heir of the Scarlet Gang. The only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlet Gang for generations, and whose heir apparent is Roma Montagov, Juliette's first love... and betrayal. When gangsters on both sides begin clawing their own throats out the people start to whisper. They whisper of a contagion, madness, and a monster. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set aside their grudges and work together, for if they can't stop this mayhem, there will be no city left for them to rule.
I have mixed emotions about this book it started out really creepy and interesting with a hint at something diabolical in the works. Yet, that quickly shifted. Instead all we got were overwhelming descriptions of Shanghai and the shifts in times, people and power. It was a Romeo and Juliet retelling but I swear it wasn't until like the last 100 pages that we had any hints of romance. All the romance was just hinted at as something that happened four years before the book started. It was mostly just about the power struggles of each gang and even the power struggle that both heirs were facing in their own gangs.
The book was very slow which was frustrating because it was beautifully written, but I honestly felt like half the chapters could have been taken out and the book would have worked just as well. We get a lot of tension between Roma and Juliette with little point. Honestly, most of their dynamic was frustrating because of some big betrayal that we don't find out until closer to the end of the novel. That being said Juliette was an amazing main character, she was ruthless and fierce. I hated that this talked about a monster, because it took forever to even get to the monster in the plot. It wasn't until the last 10 chapters that this book really took off and then had some surprise twists! However, will I read book 2... yes, because I don't feel like anything is resolved in this one.