These Violent—How I Ended My Reading Slump—Delights by Chloe Gong

Reading slump is a known term in the bookish worldit's the confusing stage of a bookworm when you don't feel the desire to read nor touch a book. I, too, am not immune to the so-called plague. After years of reading every time I had the chance to, office workloads finally got me into a slump. It lasted for about three months.

I tried to shrug the slump off like it was some kind of dust. Rereading old favorites did not work this time, however. I simply did not fancy a read. I even questioned my 'past' at some point of this lunacy: how could I ever get myself into reading?

It turned out that all I needed to do to get rid of it was a short visit to a bookstore after lunch. Upon seeing those pretty spines on Jane Austen's collections, some famous covers that I had virtually seen back when I was still an active bookstagrammer, and the fantasy piles I had planned to read soon but did not have the time yet, something in me awoke. By mere impulse, I opened my Kindle and bought a book that had been on my wish list for so long: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.

The book sets in 1926's Shanghai, where the city is divided into two main territories. Coming from two different networks of criminals, Juliette Cai is the heiress to the Scarlet Gang while Roma Montagov is the heir to the White Flowers.

Enemies but also ex-lovers, Juliette and Roma are sworn to hate each other's gut. Both has also killed many people from the other side of the gang. But when a madness starts to spread across the city, clawing its way out of Huangpu River to kill anyone on sight, they have to put their hatred aside to work together in secret, or else there will be nothing left in the city to rule upon.

Much to my embarrassment, I have yet to read Shakespeare's well-known Romeo and Juliet, though I am quite familiar with its concept of two younglings forbiddenly in love. As its loose retelling, These Violent Delights had its own charm and intrigue: the book was not thoroughly faithful to its original play that it was able to explore its own potential, but at the same time we could see how alike both were in some ways (Tyler for Tybalt, Rosalind for Rosaline, Benedikt for Benvolio, Marshall for Mercutio, and um, hello, the mention of Montague?).

I also thought that it was such a clever decision to pick Shanghai as its main background. The city was written as full of secret, and with a beautiful writing this book possessed, it managed to stand out even more. I did not know what I appreciated the most: the phrasing, the setting, the political intrigue, or even the mystery surrounding Shanghai.

It goes without saying that this book hooked me. I totally get why it is so hyped up: forbidden love and masterminds are always interesting tropes to combine. But sadly, the plot felt a little too all over the place. Something felt lacking beneath the work of the so-called monster, and how easy our heroes unraveled the secret. The fact that Roma and Juliette could meet in broad daylight without anyone quickly noticing was a miracle in itself. And Julietteshe was not exactly unlikable. She was strong and badass and thoughtful in her own way, though it did not erase the fact that she was a bit of an asshole.

In conclusion, These Violent Delights is a very promising debut from a very young author. It might still have a few holes here and there, but I got to enjoy it hence it got me out of a slump, so I would recommend it if you're looking for a quick-but-not-too-quick fantasy read whilst I'm here debating whether or not I should make a beeline for the next book (miscommunication trope currently tires me easily, so...).

Actual rating: 3.5