Ryan Graudin – The Walled City

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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.

The book starts with a countdown to New Year’s, where something big happens in the ungoverned Walled City of Hong Kong (which is called Kowloon Walled City, and you can actually visit it).
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The Walled City is home to prostitutes, murderers, thieves, gangs, and all sorts of unruly and unrepentant criminals. It is not a nice place to live or go to, and only the desperate are seen there. They certainly aren’t there of their own free will.
I think the biggest problem with the book for me was that it kept me involved, but I never got active in reading it. I found myself checking the bottom of my ereader to see if I was close to the end quite frequently. It’s one of the books that I could easily lose interest in if I didn’t have so much free time; where if I stopped reading it for a while it would’ve been hard to get back into it. The premise is certainly interesting enough, but I guess the weight of the words didn’t carry enough for me.
The book goes in alternating point of views from Dai, Jin, and Mei Yee.

Dai
The first words from Dai’s POV is “I’m not a good person.” Sounds killer, right? I was expecting some ruthless cutthroat vagrant, not some rich kid trying to save his ass from something dumb he did two years ago. I dunno man, I guess I was expecting a more hardened guy roaming around the streets of the Walled City. Honestly the best thing he did in the book was bring the other characters together and use his money. Sure, he’s all guilty because of what happened with his brother (part of his “haunting past” in the blurb) but in comparison to the other fugitives in the Walled City, his story is a first world problem.
world's smallest violin
Jin
She was my favorite character out of the three characters narrating the story. This girl has got more balls than Dai man! She chases after her sister after their father sells her to a brothel. (Imo much more moving than Dai’s situation.) Most of the action was from her side of the story. She starts off the book in a chase against Kuen, a vagrant whom she just stole boots from. This causes Dai to notice her, and from that point on they team together against the baddie in the story: Longwai, the leader of the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon, who basically owns the Walled City

Mei Yee
Alright so Mei Yee is super pretty and gets sold by her father to a brothel where she’s bought off by some rich ambassador, Osamu.
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I think we’re supposed to feel bad for her because she’s trapped inside the walls of the brothel but I’m pretty sure she had it way better than her sister for the past two years. Bro while she was languishing in the rooms of the prositute house (fed and protected), her sister was in the streets trying to survive. Like I know they’re both bad situations, but someone obviously got the better part of the deal. So yeah I couldn’t really pity her, I honestly didn’t care for her character at all, and I really didn’t care when Dai stared at her and she was gaga over him like you would expect less naivety from a two year standing prostitute. Maybe that’s just me?
don't care
So basically all three characters go against Longwai who as a villain didn’t come off as a character. I would’ve liked to see more depth to him (and the rest of the characters as well). I was kinda surprised that the worst things he did were being a pimp and a drug dealer. I mean, I guess I just expected a little more. Typical underworld villain, I would say. He didn’t even kill anyone in the book! (Which was a little disappointing) I really like it when the antagonists have more contribution to the plot than being a second hand party to the bad stuff that happened to the main characters. Out of everyone in the book, I felt bad for Longwai. I mean think of the story you could’ve made with him rising to the top of the Walled City! Instead he was just someone that the three main characters mutually disliked.

Anyway I think Jin’s chapters were the best to read because it had the most action (and I liked to read about her trying to survive). It stands to fact that I never really connected emotionally to any of the characters. When something happened, I just… didn’t care. (Except for the fact that we were heading close to the end of the book.)
So yes, not a bad book (and I loved the concept!) but it’s not something that I would remember for a while.

Rating: 3/5

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