Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Format: Paperback
Published6th November 2014
Number of Pages: 448
Book: For Review*
Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Action-Adventure, Contemporary, Gritty-Realism, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 14+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol, Drug and Sexual Assault References
Author's Site: Ryan Graudin

“There are three rules of survival in the Walled City:
Right now, my life depends completely on the first.

These streets are a maze.  They twist into themselves – narrow, filled with glowing signs and graffitied walls.
DAI traffics drugs for the most ruthless man in the Walled City.  To find freedom, he needs help from someone who can be invisible…
JIN LING hides under the radar, evading the street gangs as she searches for her lost sister…
MEI YEE survives trapped in a brothel, dreaming of escape while watching the girls who try fail and die.
Damaged and betrayed, can these three find the faith to join forces and escape the stifling city walls?

“Hak Nam Walled City.  A recipe of humanity's darkest ingredients - thieves, whores, murderers, addicts – all mashed into six and a half acres.  Hell on earth, he called it.  A place so ruthless even the sunlight won't enter…”
In a city full of violence, correction, death and abuse, run by a vicious and all-powerful gangster, three teenagers try to find a way out...
Dai has been trapped in the Walled City, smuggling drugs, whilst he attempts to clear his name of a crime he did not commit so he can finally go home.  And he is running out of time.
Jin Ling knows that girls cannot survive in Hak Nam, and so she disguises herself as a boy, stealing to survive, doing her best to seem invisible.  She is searching for her sister, who was sold by their father and is being used as a slave in a brothel.  All Jin Ling wants is to save her sister.
Mei Yee is Jin's lost sister, trapped in a brothel.  She knows that to attempt to escape will get her a fate worse than death – but that doesn't mean she doesn't dream of freedom.
Alone, these three teenagers stand no chance of escaping the Walled City.  But can they make it out together...?  With just eighteen days left...?
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up The Walled City.  Certainly not just how brilliantly dark, dangerous and addictive it turned out to be.  From the moment I began The Walled City, I was just hooked.  I was thinking it would be a dystopian, a fantasy, but it was just... real.  Too real at times.  And that was just so gripping, so shocking.  And so utterly original.  I've never read anything like The Walled City before – and that's saying something.  I've read a lot.  It might not be for everyone, but it was absolutely addictive and amazing and stunning and eye-opening for me. 
Jin Ling was brilliant – clever, brave, fast, caring.  I loved seeing her with her cat, Chma, and with Dai, loved when she thought of her sister, who she protected as best she could.  She was just such an amazing character, one I truly rooted for, from the very beginning, because Jin was fierce, loyal and fearless.
Dai was an enigma – to begin with.  And then... I got him.  And I loved him.  He was brave and solitary and clever and caring.  He was haunted, like everyone in Hak Nam, desperate to get out, but he knew how to save himself, was willing to sacrifice himself for others.  He was, in short, a hero – just as Jin was a heroine.
Mei Yee was perhaps the quietest and subtlest of the heroes, the one who was doubly trapped.  She wasn't badass like Jin and Dai, but she was brave in her own way.  She may have started out as the typical damsel in distress, but she wasn't helpless.  Mei Yee was clever and brave and strong – stronger than she thought, than I thought.  
There were few other characters in the book with large parts – after all, the second rule is to trust no one – but the minor characters all felt so real to me, even the ones that were just memories.  But none were as vibrant and alive as our three narrators.
Because the writing was just... wow.  I love multiple perspectives – like love them to death.  And I adored getting to read from Jin, Dai and Mei Yee's points of view – it made everything so much more vital and intriguing and gave the book more depth.  And Graudin had a way of writing: dark, gritty, suspenseful, addictive.  It utterly put me under a spell and kept me hooked from the very first line to the very last.
The plot was just nonstop: always running, always fighting, always hiding, always sneaking...  It was relentless and so addictive.  And the way Graudin wove these three people together, wove their lives and chances for escape together, was nothing short of genius.  And the action – the running and hiding and fighting... It was like a blockbuster movie put into words.  Like reading a gritty thriller movie, watching it all play in my head...  And yes, some might be... disappointed by the ending.  But I, personally, loved it.  So... there.
This world... it was stifling, oppressive, so very dark and bloody.  I can't believe that this city really existed once, where children are just...  It’s horrible.  And it's still happening, isn't it?  All over the world, so many children are at risk – and this book is, as Ryan herself says, inspired by children who are invisible to most.  It's the dark, hidden world no one wants to admit exists.  Maybe The Walled City is a dystopian, set in a dystopian world inspired by this city that once existed.  But, to me at least, it felt too damn real to be dystopian.  So real and so brutal.  I can't say it's a world I loved reading about, but it was amazingly crafted – and made the three teenagers feel all the stronger for simply surviving in it.
I've read few books that feel utterly original and utterly amazing.  That leave me speechless, leave me reeling.  Leave me... different.  But The Walled City... it was one of those books.  It took my breath away, had me utterly hooked from the very first line.  The Walled City...  It's probably the most original thing I've read for a long time and it was stunning.  
I will say that The Walled City isn't for everyone.  It is dark.  It is brutal.  But it's the kind of book that makes you think – without forcing a message down your throat.  It shows a city based on one that once existed.  It shows a city ruled by corruption, gangs and violence.  It shows you how hard children have to fight to survive, what they are forced to turn into when confronted by the hopelessness and death around them.  It shows you survivors, surviving in their own way, and it makes you feel like you're besides them as they fight.  It's an amazing book that is hard to read at times, but all the better for that fact.  
The Walled City blew me away: it is deep, dark, pretty damn near perfect – I was left speechless for days, unable to say anything but 'My god, READ IT' to all my friends.  The Walled City was simply stunning – I literally can't find the words to truly do it justice.   It put me under a spell, an enchantment, and has left me breathless, needing, absolutely desperately needing, Graudin's new book, Wolf By Wolf.  
And so I conclude this review by pointing out that dystopian worlds don't have to be the same – with revolutions and warriors.  They can be set in a world that is dreadfully real, following three amazing characters as they try to save themselves.  You can write storylines worthy of films or comic books as YA novel, show the darkest sides of the world and create something that is utterly unique, utterly amazing and so freaking brilliant.
I know I'm rambling.  I'm sorry.  But can't you see?  This book, The Walled City, is worthy of my rambling.  It is worthy of nonstop recommendations.  I just...  Ugh, I still don't have the right words.  Just, if want to think whilst being thrilled, if you don't mind darkness and violence, and if you want brave, real characters, read The Walled City.  You will not regret it.  Trust me.  Trust the rambling.  Read The Walled City now. 

Star Rating:
4¾ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Fearless by Emma Pass
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Street Duty by Chris Ould

Happy Reading

* This book was received from Indigo in exchange for an honest review

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