Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Walled City

The Walled City
Ryan Graudin

Published 2014

First Sentence
"The are three rules of survival in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. "
Publisher's Description:
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

Dear Reader,

Wow - this book was nothing like I was expecting!

I think I was anticipating a dystopian future novel, which this often had the feel of - but it was steeped in so much reality (and modernization combined with lack of progress - it's so difficult to explain!) that it was even better because of its strange connections to real life. At first I couldn't place the story in any time period, which actually worked well - but despite much of a traditional Chinese feel, the reader could occasionally see glimpses of cars and electronics which indicated that the time period was more contemporary than the setting usually let on.

The story is told from the point of view of three young adults trapped inside the Walled City - which Graudin fictionalized, but which was actually a very real part of Hong Kong for years. Dai, Jin Ling, and Mei Yee are all trapped in different places and in different ways, and the reader gets to watch as their lives all come together at towards suspenseful tipping point. The book is full of the seedy underside of a city - a side which the bigger city largely tries to ignore and keep repressed within its confining walls. The reader travels through brothels and opium dens, noodle houses and trash-filled alleys, following the adventures of the three protagonists - adventures which twist and turn as much as the narrow streets of Hak Nam. I picked this book up when I knew I'd be alone most of Halloween weekend, needing a good diversion, and I found I couldn't put it down!

NB: I was lucky to receive this book both as an ebook ARC from Netgalley and win a physical copy (signed by the author, even!) from the Goodreads First Reads program. Thank you to the publisher and suppliers all!


The Walled City

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