I received this book for free from Orion Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Orion Books Limited on November 6th 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Orion Books
Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling searches for her missing sister, Mei Yee, who was sold into the brothels of the Walled City. It's a cut-throat world of gangs, drug-dealers and warlords and every day is a struggle to survive. Jin Ling relies on her speed and cunning but how long will her luck hold? When a mysterious boy, Dai, requests her help with a dangerous mission Jin Ling's inclined to say no - this is a world where no one can be trusted - but the mission offers her a vital chance to see inside the brothel where her sister may be being held.Jin Ling and Dai join forces, but will either of them survive the mission? Is Mei Yee still alive? And how will any of them ever escape the stifling city walls?
With a fantasy setting inspired by Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong, Ryan's novel has a rich authenticity and an intense atmosphere, and its pace will enthral the reader from the very first page.
Review: I had heard a lot about The Walled City and was really intrigued to read it, especially when I discovered the real-life inspiration of the city of Kowloon.
The Walled City is a gripping read and one I found chilling too. Exploitation is a central theme and there is some disturbing content around Mei Yee’s character.
I thought Jin was really strong and her desire to save her sister, along with the dangers she was placed in herself were well written and sympathetic. The only character who felt a little flat to me was Dai. There are some interesting developments and motivations for Dai View Spoiler »though I was unhappy with his manipulation of Mei Yee at certain points « Hide Spoiler I thought his self-destructive and self-loathing streaks were well evoked however. I found Jin’s chapters the most compelling personally and Mei Yee’s were very emotional. I did think Dai’s plot was interesting, it was just his character didn’t quite grab me in the same way as the other main characters and this is just personal preference, but also I felt certainly at the beginning of the novel his stakes didn’t feel so high, though this did develop as the plot progressed.
The Walled City is structured as a countdown from 18 days to zero and really reads like a thriller, one with a very real and ‘gritty’ edge. As such, this book may be less suitable for younger readers but also has wonderful crossover appeal. What makes this book more profound and powerful is the fact the city itself is based on a real city, that the exploitation and danger and crime was an everyday occurrence. We need more books like this in YA and literature, books that shine a light on a period of history or topic that needs more awareness.
While Dai’s character and some of the romance did not work for me, the thriller elements, the tense countdown to day 0 and Jin’s highly compelling and vivid character made this book for me.I found the Walled City an assured and powerful novel I would definitely recommend.