The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Just finished reading The Walled City which was an intriguing read.
This is really a story of survival based on the lives of three fictional characters as they try to stay alive. And, for me what makes it a compelling read is the setting. It’s difficult to actually believe that this place was a real city in Hong Kong. More than 33,000 people living in what amounted to approximately 6.5 acres of land. The place was run by gangsters and the living was harsh. Until the decision to demolish it was made in the late 80s.
We start the story with an introduction to Jin Ling. Jin is a young girl. She ran away from home to search for her sister. She lives rough on the streets taking one day at a time. Her only companion her cat! The mantra on the front of the book ‘run fast, trust no one, always carry your knife’, are the rules by which she survives.
Mei Yee is Jin’s sister. Sold by her father to the reapers she now belongs to the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon. Mei is not only trapped in the brothel but she spends most of her time locked in a small room where she receives only one visitor. A powerful man who has paid for the exclusive right to Mei. She is sad and lonely until an unusual and mysterious boy starts to visit her. Well I use the word visit loosely. He creeps up to her window and talks to her. Giving her a tantalising glimpse into the outside world that is prohibited to her.
Dai is something of a mystery for the most of the story so I won’t spoil his secret! Not originally from the Walled City Dai is something of an enigma. He runs drugs for the Brotherhood and desperately wants to find a way in. Between Jin, Mei and Dai things are about to become more dangerous and the clock is ticking. Literally the timeframe for the story is 18 days.
What I enjoyed most about the story was the setting and the way the writing made it so easy to imagine. This undoubtedly isn’t my typical read. There is no fantasy or supernatural creatures in The Walled City. There is however a lot of darkness and suffering. This is a gritty slice of reality.
In terms of criticisms. Well, nothing major. I enjoyed the author’s style, very evocative. I would say it took me a little time to get used to it and I’m not overly fond of the repetitive style that is sometimes adopted. For example, ‘I run, run, run’. I found it a little bit distracting somehow. But, in the scheme of things that was only a very minor niggle.
My thanks to the publishers for the review copy. I thought this was a very good read. A strong story of survival and redemption.