The Walled City
Written by: Ryan Graudin
Published by: Little Brown books, September 8, 2015
My star rating: 5 stars
This book sat on my shelf for a good 6 months and now I regret not picking it up sooner!! I bought this one shortly after reading Ryan Graudin’s other book Wolf By Wolf. I enjoyed that one very much as it’s a historical fiction which is one of my favourite genres. I especially enjoyed that it was an alternate historical fiction where Hitler wins the war. But I have to say that it seemed a bit young for me and focused too much on a romantic relationship where I wish it would have been a little more political, dirty, calculated and bad ass. But this post isn’t about that book. I’m just mentioning it because, as much as I did enjoy the book, I still found faults with it. The Walled City however – I found no faults at all!
This book is historical fiction based on an actual place called the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. The city spread less than 7 acres I believe and there were over 33,000 people living within its walls. Kowloon city no longer exists as it has since been torn down and turned into a park.
Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live within the city’s walls dealing with poverty, crime, gangs, drug lords, and the sex trade. Jin is a girl disguising herself as a boy to keep hidden under the radar of the gangs. If it’s found out that she’s a girl she may end up in one of the many brothels or she may end up dead. Dai, a boy with secrets that haunt him, runs into Jin thinking that she may be the key he needs to escape. Jin doesn’t trust anyone but he could know how to save her sister who was taken to the city many years ago. They have 18 days to work together and escape before it’s too late. No matter where you go, always look behind you and always carry a knife.
This book FAR exceeded my expectations. They author did a fantastic job building the world and the setting. After reading this book I felt like I knew exactly what this place looked like, the colours, the lights, and the buildings. When I further researched Kowloon City, a picture popped up and I was floored. I had never seen a picture of this city yet it seemed so familiar. Like I was already there.
The character development was amazing. The perspectives switched between Jin, Dai, and Mei Yee so you got the chance to see everyone’s day to day life, their thoughts, their feelings, and what drove them to this place. You get to fully understand their love, determination, will, trust, and loyalties.
But what I found most spectacular was the writing style. With a book that has such dark subject matter (prostitution, drugs, gangs, violence, murder), I didn’t expect to find such poetic beauty. While explaining all of the horrors held within the cities walls, Ryan Graudin managed to find the beauty in every situation and explain it to the last detail. Some authors write this way but you can see the effort. Some of the beautiful sentences seem forced and choppy, but not this one. Her writing just flows without effort and you find yourself pausing to re-read a sentence to fully comprehend what was just said.
If you liked Wolf By Wolf I highly recommend this one!! I gave it 5 stars