Published by Indigo on November 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Barnes & Noble
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There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.
Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.
I’ve been meaning to read The Walled City for years now, especially because I loved Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood so incredibly much when I read them. I love Ryan Graudin’s interesting alternate history stories and the fast-paced and thrilling nature of her plots. And The Walled City definitely didn’t disappoint for me.
The Walled City is set in a fictional world that is closely based on the Kowloon Walled City and incorporates aspects of different Asian cultures. The book follows three characters who live in Hak Nam (the Walled City), a densely-populated, dangerous and crime-filled city where young boys turn to violence and crime and young girls are sold into prostitution. Jin Ling is a 14-year-old girl who disguises herself as a boy to avoid being forced into prostitution. She lives in dark and damp alleyways, with few possessions to her name and a cat who is her only friend. She steals food and essentials from others in Hak Nam in order to survive in the city – a city that she has searched high and low for her sister, Mei Yee, who was sold by her abusive father to work in a brothel. After spending 2 years searching every brothel, it seems like her last hope is the brothel owned by the dangerous leader of the Brotherhood, Long Wai. And to get inside the brothel, she needs to work with a mysterious older boy, Dai, who doesn’t seem to act like others who live in the Walled City. Dai offers Jin Ling a chance to get inside the brothel, but has his own dark secrets and reasons for being at the brothel. The two begin to partner together and soon, they realise that what they are each after are both closer and farther away than they realised.
And throughout it all, there’s Mei Yee. Mei Yee, who’s trapped inside the brothel with no escape. Because those who try to escape suffer consequences far worse than the subservent life they are forced to endure. But when a strange boy knocks at her window one day and promises her a chance to be free in exchange for information about Long Wai, it’s an offer that she can’t refuse.
I really loved the characters and the plot of this book. Although there was very little world-building (likely due to the fact that the world is based so closely on the Kowloon Walled City), I felt a sense of familiarity and understanding of the world. I had a good sense of the run-down city with its dark and desolate streets and people. The despair, need for survival and raw emotion that I felt from the characters, especially Mei Yee, really tugged at my heartstrings and I fell deeply into the story and fell in love with all three of the main characters. I was emotionally invested in all of their stories and couldn’t help but root for their survival and happiness.
The book is written from three perspectives and I highly enjoyed how well they integrated with each other. Despite the short chapters and the shifting between perspectives, I thought that the story and plot were seamlessly written and I was able to fly through the book because of how well-written it was. I loved the shorter chapters and felt that they contributed to the atmosphere of the book and made it more impactful.
I highly enjoyed The Walled City and found it to be an exciting but impactful read. It made me want to learn more about the Kowloon Walled City and the impacts that it had on millions of people. The characters and writing made it a very easy read that left me wanting more.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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