“The Walled City”
Publish Date: Nov 4, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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 traffic 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 have mixed feelings about this book. I definitely enjoyed it. It was well written, and I greedily had a couple of late nights saying “ok, just one more chapter”. I think my biggest issue was that I wasn’t exactly sure of the “when” of the setting. At first I was assuming this was a dystopian-esque novel set in near-future China, but outside the wall the world was very current day normal. It wasn’t until the end of the book where I read an excerpt from the author about how the idea came from an actual walled city in China that was just forgotten and full of crime. I guess I just felt a sense of being lost while reading. I kept expecting an explanation of how this city came to be. I like to place in my head where the story belongs, and I wasn’t exactly sure where this should fit in.
Ok, a silly thing to nit-pick at, but I think if I had known about the real walled city going in it just would have sat better with me.
The story is told through the three main characters Dai, Jin and Mei Yee. At first I was worried that it would be a bit confusing. I’m terrible with names, often finishing a book and completely forgetting the protagonist’s name. With this book having Chinese characters I thought I would be doomed. But each chapter lists the character’s names and it was easy to follow along. I don’t think I once forgot who I was reading because each character had their own unique voice.
The Walled City is a very harsh world, and from page one you can easily visualize the squalor in the walls with it’s dark, small alleys and buildings so tall you can’t see the sky. Each of the three characters lives within the city, experiencing their own side of it. I quickly felt the biggest connection to Jin, the younger sister who willingly entered the city to try and save her sister who was sold into the slave trade. She was strong, tough, and someone you didn’t want to mess with.
Dai was a young man full of intrigue, who had some sort of dark past and a mission within the city. It was interesting trying to piece together his back story and figure out why he was in the city. Mei Yee was the least interesting of the three, as most of her chapters were about being trapped in a room and whether she dared to defy the master and break free.
There was a tiny bit of romance, that just didn’t exactly sit right with me. It seemed to come on a little too easily, but I have my own view of how I think that should have worked out in the end, but no spoilers. It definitely didn’t overwhelm the story which is always a plus.
A book full of action, this story touches on some horrible realities of things that are happening in our world today. I suggest reading the author’s note in the back of the book before reading, as it sheds some light on where the idea for the story came from. Overall it was an enjoyable, fast-paced read with some interesting characters.
I received a free copy of this book via netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review