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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.

424 pages, Hardcover

First published November 4, 2014

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About the author

Ryan Graudin

19 books1,856 followers
Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, South Carolina, with a severe case of wanderlust. When she’s not traveling, she’s busy writing and spending time with her husband and wolf dog. She is the author of Invictus, the Wolf By Wolf duology, The Walled City, and the All That Glows Series.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,376 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
September 25, 2014
DNF at 50% - I just can't do it.

It's true that I don't often give more than one star to books I couldn't finish, but I can't argue with the fact that there's a lot to praise here. If I wasn't so sold on the concept, I would not have pushed myself past so many unbearably slow, purple passages.

The Walled City is perhaps mistakenly labelled as "dystopian" when in fact it is based on a once very real place - Kowloon Walled City, an ungoverned settlement in New Kowloon, Hong Kong. The society will seem fantastical to most readers because a place without laws is, thankfully, so alien to us. Streets that are run by drug lords and criminals are not something we have to deal with on a daily basis; nor do we feel threatened by the mass kidnapping of underage girls to work in brothels.

This is the scene we are first introduced to in The Walled City and, I admit, I was intrigued rather than repelled by this unusual display of grit in YA. Similarly, I love books that incorporate non-Western cultures and places into their fiction. The names and "feel" in this book are Chinese, which was another point in its favour.

But it took less than two chapters for me to feel the Stormdancer syndrome taking hold. If you loved that book, then there is hope for you. But this is one of those books that is sooooo slooooowwwww. I made a promise to myself that I could DNF it if it hadn't improved by the 50% marker; I kept forcing myself to pick it back up and thinking "just make it to 50%, just a bit more, you can do it..." It was torture to read half of the book.

It was one of those situations where I kept waiting for the good stuff to happen. The concept was so strong, the world promised so many interesting things that I couldn't believe something awesome wasn't just around the corner... so I pushed on... and on. I was so bored.

Perhaps it was the characters. The narrative jumps between the perspectives of three people - Dai, Jin Ling, and Mei Yee - and none of them feel particularly distinct. Many times I had to flick to the beginning of the chapter again to remind myself who we were with. Part of the problem, it seems, is that the author has deliberately withheld a lot of information, been vague about the world itself and vague about the characters. It doesn't make for a compelling read.

Perhaps it was the language. I actually think I have quite a high tolerance for purple prose. I know I've been carried away by pretty sentences that others found nauseating and, for the most part, it didn't bother me that much here. But there are two things that irritated me:

1) When the romantics came out (in the most inappropriate, dire moments, I might add): “I try my hardest to follow, try not to get distracted by the curl of those lashes. They’re perfect for catching raindrops.” Ugh.


2) The use of metaphors and similes that really do not make any sense: “My emotions are like pounds of overcooked rice noodles.” Seriously, what does that mean? What do overcooked rice noodles say about your emotions?!

Some people are calling this book a page-turner, which is something I evidently missed out on. Maybe after the 50% marker shit goes down, action kicks in, and the pages start flying by. Maybe. I just have no desire to find out.

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Profile Image for High Lady of The Night Court.
135 reviews5,057 followers
October 18, 2018
“Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife."

It seems crazy to me that this book has so many bad reviews, I really enjoyed it and finished it in no time. When I started reading this book I hadn’t seen the reviews, it was an impulsive read, I started reading couldn’t stop and here we are. The whole book adds up to this small story that I could sum up in no time, but the book didn’t feel dragged out and the description let me understand each of the characters in a much better way.

The story follows Jin Ling, Dai, and Mei Yee three people who are each trapped by their lives in The Walled City. Jin Long came to the walled city in pursuit of her sister, who their father sold to a drug lord,who runs a brothel. Now she has learned to survive in the harsh conditions of the city and disguises herself as a boy.
Dai has been stuck in the city for 2 years now and now time is running out, he only has 18 days left, but 18 days left to do what? And will it give him a way out of this place.
Mei Yee is stuck in the brothel and doesn’t have any way out, but now a mysterious opportunity makes itself known, will she risk her life for a way out that might just be built on lies?

Jin Ling is definitely my favorite character in the story, her determination and loyalty to her sister knows no bounds and she will stop at nothing to find her. She has made a living by stealing, and being the fastest runner in the walled city definitely helped. And now all 3 of their paths cross in the most unlikely circumstances yet at the perfect time. The world beyond the walled city is preparing to put an end to it and now in 18 days that's exactly what's going to happen and our protagonists have to figure out how to accomplish their goals with barely half a month left. But time flies in the walled city and the situation is going from bad to terrible and the characters are each in dire situations, will they find their way out of this place?

The difference in the personality and situation of each of the characters makes it all the more interesting. As the perspective changes the readers view of this world also changes which allows us to see the different angles in the walled city. They each haves different goals, different worries, and different morals which adds to the mystery of this book. the book is written very well and maintains a good pace.

Overall, I really loved the book,and I rate it 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,365 followers
October 15, 2014
"There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife."

I admit, this is all I read of the blurb before I dived into this book in line at BEA, so what I expected was some kind of dystopian. And in a way, it is a dystopian-like setting inside the city itself, but this book is not a dystopian/post-apocalyptic story at all. It's a contemporary thriller. Outside the Walled City, the world is just like ours today, with modern civilization and normal people living normal lives. Inside this city, however, we've got another story. In a gist, this book is about the horrors of human trafficking in a city without laws, controlled by gangs and criminals, ruled by brothel owners and drug lords. THERE IS NO SCI-FI IN THIS NOVEL!

The Walled City was inspired by the very real, very intimidating Kowloon Walled City that existed in Hong Kong not so long ago. Knowing events in the book really happened in our own world made it all the more horrific. Hell, human trafficking is still happening today. From the author's notes, in 2006, nearly 2 million children were trafficked into the sex trade. That is some scary ass statistics if you ask me. As expected, now that you know what this is about, parts of the story are quite disturbing, but it's not overly gory for the fun of it. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of bloodshed and violence, but it's done in a way that's made to show the grittiness that is life inside such a city. And let's take a look at this for a moment (source: Mail Online's "A Rare Insight Into Kowloon Walled City" which I urge everyone to read as it's quite eye opening!):

After seeing this once I finished the book, I have to say that the author nailed the grim atmosphere and claustrophobic streets. She painted this exact picture in my mind of dirty, ominous streets that never see sunlight - it feels like a prison in itself.

This novel is narrated by 3 different characters who give us different perspectives of this city. One is inside the brothels, a girl sold to them by her alcoholic father. Another is a boy from a rich family who, after making a mistake, lives in fear of his days running out. The 3rd, and my personal favourite, is a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to survive the Walled City streets and save her sister. All three perspectives are closely tied together, unbeknownst to them at first. This made for a highly compelling story where you're anxiously awaiting what seems like rather horrific outcomes, while wondering how badly they will become intertwined. What I also enjoyed was the romance. It's kept light throughout, with only hints of a spark here and there, but most importantly it's free of tropes like insta-love and love triangles. I especially appreciated how a boy-girl partnership between two of the narrators was kept totally platonic. How refreshing!

I did have one minor qualm. Whether it be ignorance or a simple lack of knowledge, before I read the author's note at the end, I had no idea about Hong Kong's Walled City and I kept waiting for some kind of explanation or "world building" (expecting a dystopian and all) that would tell me how the heck this city existed, exactly. Some explanations are given about how it came to be, but very briefly, as if we were expected to know already (I only clued in after reading the author's note that, being based on the real-life thing and all, we probably were supposed to). Still, a quick history of how a city like this gets built would have been appreciated. Or at least a prologue explaining the origins of the real Walled City. Anyways, it was a complaint I had while reading that ended up being irrelevant.

What you should expect: Sex trafficking, brothels, drug lords, street gangs, hunger, poverty, claustrophobic living, dirt on top of dirt - Welcome to the Walled City! A place where criminals make the rules, and survival is a daily struggle.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,573 reviews33.9k followers
August 6, 2016
2.5 stars Mild spoilers.

Great premise with a fascinating setting that feels dystopian, but is actually based on a former real walled city in Hong Kong. But the writing is uneven and occasionally tries too hard to be descriptive without being convincing (there are hands moving like hummingbirds and people darting like dragonflies, for example), and the plot and characters and relationships could have used a great deal more complexity and emotion. I was interested in what would happen to everyone, but I was never really excited or moved by the possibilities.

Still, I think it's interesting for books to look at human trafficking, and it's Mei Yee's overall storyline (along with Jin Ling's quest to save her sister) that is the most compelling. But...more emotion, please! I'm tired of these negated dangers and HEAs, which seem to be the default for a lot of YA novels. Suffering and sacrifice are part of the human experience, and while I don't want to see manipulative tear-jerking *cough* Rue *cough*, books feel much more real and meaningful when we experience real pain with the characters. The stakes in this book are mostly Mei Yee's terrible situation, but even that could have been written in a way that incited more compassion.

I will say that I met the author at ALA and spoke to her at some length about this book, so I know she did a good amount of research (she lived there for several months, if I remember correctly) and this certainly seemed like a passion project for its creator. I just wish more of that had come through in the text of this story.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

I keep writing more than I intend in my quickie 3 am reactions typed on my phone, so I suppose I should actually blog this at some point.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
July 8, 2017
1.35/5 (The .35 is out of pity for how I didn’t finish this.)

A day and a half ago, I was telling you all I didn’t want to DNF it. Now, I’m DNFing it.

If you’re familiar with my (work in progress) 2016 favorites shelf, you’re aware that a lovely little number called Wolf by Wolf is featured in it. That book is so great. (If you’re not familiar: 1. It’s YA and a hypothetical historical fiction, exploring a different scenario in which the Axis powers won World War II and also centering on a badass global motorcycle race; and 2. Pick. It. Up.) If you are familiar, you may know that the sequel came out earlier this week. It is one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I am unbearably excited and continually checking my Amazon shipping status.

If you’re wondering why I’m yammering on about this duology, it’s because they’re by the same author. I’ve been anticipating reading this book for a long time but I’ve saved it for the final pre-sequel stretch, both to stave off my crippling enthusiasm and to remind me why I loved the book.

Here’s the thing, though. I hated this book.

The characters were flat, the writing was mediocre to rough, and--worst flaw of all when compared to Wolf by Wolf--this shindig was goddamn boring.

Also, what the hell genre is this? Unless an entire history from today until when this book takes place was revealed in the last stretch, I see no reason to believe this is a dystopia. If it’s fantasy, it’s the lamest fantasy ever. Things like Styrofoam and Gucci exist?! So uncreative. Bleh.

I had to stop reading because this was killing my excitement, and I refuse to allow for that to happen. This was making me question just how creative Graudin’s concept of hypothetical history was. She wrote it, of course, half a century after The Man in the High Castle was published, and likely in the wake of a renewal of that story’s readership when the Amazon series was announced. (God, what a great series.)

Anyway. So goes a DNF. I hate doing this, guys, mainly because it makes me feel unqualified to complain. But…

Bottom line: I found this book silly, confusing, flat, uncreative and boring, as well as an excitement-killing monster. Nope, nope, nope-ity nope.
Profile Image for Shannon A.
674 reviews530 followers
July 8, 2016
4.5 stars!

I loved this book! It was dark and gritty and adrenaline pumping. It gave me just enough and never too much. Well written and a super unique plot and setting. I definitely recommend!
Profile Image for Maria Angelica.
365 reviews342 followers
September 26, 2016

A primeira coisa que eu gostaria de deixar bem claro é que este livro não é uma distopia, como circula por aí. É quase uma ficção histórica, pois essa cidade existiu de verdade. Só não é, porque a autora substituiu os nomes dos locais para fazê-los fictícios. De qualquer forma é baseado em um lugar que existiu até 1994 em Hong Kong e era, assim como a do livro, uma cidade controlada por gangues e tráfico de drogas e humanos.

Bem, agora ao que achei do livro.

A estória do livro em si é bastante simples e direta, sem grandes surpresas, mas que é o suficiente para prender o leitor ao que está acontecendo. O problema a ser solucionado é intrigante e faz estória ficar emocionante. Torci até o final para que tudo desse certo. Não fiquei muito surpresa com alguns plot twists, mas o livro me pegou de surpresa de vez em quando. Especialmente quando tomava um rumo com os personagens que eu não estava esperando. A escrita da Ryan Graudin é bastante fluída e bonita. Suas descrições de ambientes, sentimentos e momentos eram muito palpáveis e passavam as sensações que eram sua intenção.

Outro ponto fortíssimo é a ambientação da Cidade Murada. A autora descreve o local muito bem e nos faz sentir toda a pobreza e dificuldades que exigiam ali. Por ser um livro standalone, nós não conhecemos muitos outros moradores e nos concentramos mais nos personagens principais. Mesmo eles sendo fantásticos, não me importaria de ter visto um pouco mais de como o crime que dominava a cidade afetava a vida dos cidadãos comuns.

Definitivamente o grande forte desse livro são os personagens e os seus conflitos internos. Eu não conseguia evitar de sentir o que eles sentiam e torcer para que ficassem bem no final. Eu fiquei encantada com as jornadas emocionais de cada um deles. A força e perseverança incansável da Jin, o esforço do Dai para acreditar que é bom e que pode fazer a diferença e a Mei Yee finalmente sair da resignação com a sua situação para desejar a liberdade (particularmente minha favorita, pq eu amo um fraco e oprimido!). Todos eles me cativaram e foram o que fizeram o livro para mim.

A Cidade Murada é para quem quer uma aventura rápida, com personagens cativantes e localização interessante. Se você não estiver muito afim de ler uma série, este livro é leitura obrigatória!
Profile Image for Vivianne.
338 reviews64 followers
August 13, 2017
I’ve seen this book come by a few times on Goodreads and I was totally in love with the concept. The blurb sounded like a cool action filled plot, so I was looking forward to reading this for a while now. It did live up to my expectations but I have to say the conclusion and romance in this book was a little too perfect and sweet for this book. Due to this it felt sometimes a bit like a children’s novel, which disturbed me because there was also much violence and blood. And this made the plot predictable. But overall this was a fun read. The writing style was great, the main characters where not annoying and the plot was as action filled as I expected.

Spoiler free!

“There are three rules of survival in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.”


Design (2,5 stars)
I kind of hate the cover. I thought when ordering a hardcover that I would get a beautiful edition but I got like a library edition without a dust jacket. The cover design really disappointed me just a black doll running on a blade, with the ugliest writing ever. And though that sums up the rules of the Walled city it’s a very simple ugly execution, it could have been so much more. No one would pick up this book based on the cover. On the contrary the inside design is very cool and original. I love the division of the days and the art beside them.

Start of the book (4,0 stars)
The introduction of this book was gripping and compelling. We get thrown right into the Walled city and see it through the main characters eyes, who have been there for about two years. There is a lot of action and mystery in the beginning and I really liked that. It was interesting to read about this whole other culture and I think the beginning builds up in the right tempo.

The writing style (4,0 stars)
The writing style was good, I love some of the quotes! It was okay to read and had a good tempo. Although the writing style didn’t compel me I was drawn to the book because of the unanswered questions and the great plot. I felt like some pieces where a little longwinded and unnecessary. And that mostly referred to introductions every chapter, I wanted to continue reading the story and not know how the wall looked or how the character felt every minute.
The story is told from three POV’s and I really liked that. They all have their own take on the city and are in completely different situations. The POV change was really refreshing and made me want to continue reading. And I liked that there weren’t that much cliff hangers in the end of each chapter.
“Turns out there’s a law higher than survival. And I don’t know what it is, but I feel it surging, throbbing, burning away the rest of my doubts and fears.”

The world building (4,0 stars)
The world building had my yaw dropped. I could NOT understand why people would want to live in the Walled City by choice. The gruesome that take place there and the rotting smell I could almost smell. The starving people and animals at the side of the streets, Jin’s poor little camp, the hunger, Chma�� I can’t even imagine a place that awful. I have to say I was intrigued by this, in the Netherlands we have it so good I’ve never seen a stray dog or cat in my life and I don’t think I was ever worried about not having dinner. I know that there are places in the world like this but I just can’t … imagine it.
On the other hand this book takes place in the Chinees culture. I don’t think that that becomes very clear there aren’t many aspects shown off that besides the names of the characters, and I think that that is a shame. Because that was one of the reasons I bought this book and I’ve always been interested by this culture.

Main Characters (4,5 stars)
The main characters where okay, not hard to have sympathy with them because they were in such hard conditions and situations. But they could have been a little more debt out because they were all very simple and had only one or two motives.
Dai: he makes a great character improvement in my eyes. He was really self-centered and cocky in the beginning and would betray anyone to get out of the Walled City. But after a while he started to get a weakness for Jin and Mei Yee and wouldn’t betray them for anything. I liked to read his chapters in the beginning because the reader doesn’t know why he’s even in the Walled City. After his secrets got spilled I was afraid that his plot would get boring, but that didn’t luckily.
Jin: her chapters where the most exciting. I loved to read them and looked forward to every single one. Jin is sooo brave, smart, and fearless. She will be one of my favorite new characters. I can’t believe she would go through that length to find her sister, SOO CUTE! I loved her interaction with Chma!!
“But I remember the way Jin Ling made her wishes. How she said I wish we could be together forever with the bite of a tigress. Nothing would be impossible enough to keep her wishes from being fulfilled. Not even the Walled City.”

Mei Yee: In my eyes in the beginning about half of her chapters where unnecessary. The only thing we actually read where the scenes about her and Osamu and her depressing thoughts. After her chapters I always looked forward to that of Jin’s. Mei Yee got put down as this ‘perfect girl’, the prettiest, the sweetest… And I was a little annoyed with that in the beginning because she was not half as brave as Jin who was risking her life outside while Mei Yee didn’t even dared to walk upstairs for example. Half way through the book that got turned around and I started loving Mei Yee also. She started to get braver and I started to love her interactions with the other girls in the brothel.

Other characters (3,0 stars)
There were not that many side characters present in this story. I have to say I hated almost every single one of them. Kuen is the most ruthless bastard I’ve ever seen. I disliked him for who he is and that he’s after Jin. But how can you do that to a poor little innocent starving kitty!!!! I couldn't even read that chapter!
Longwei and his man are the other bad guys in this book. He didn’t actually appear much in the story himself, but he's also terrible. I also hated Osamu for what he did to Mei Yee, I can’t believe he’s that delusional. But I don’t quite understand his obsession with Mei Yee.
The side characters I did like where Dai’s mom and dad. They were cute and helpful especially in the ending.

Romance (3,0 stars)
Hmm the romance in this book…. It was too perfect and fluffy and a little too sweet.


This made their love unbelievable for me. It was kind of an insta love thing that happened through a window and I’m not a fan of that. But this all aside I think they are cute together.
“But this...her...she's more than warmth. She's fire, a soul, a name. Mei Yee reverbs through my head, my veins. Lodges like shrapnel in the far reaches of my chest. More powerful than a pound of C-4. Uncontrollable.”

Plot (4,0 stars)
The plot was entertaining and there was the right amount of action and excitement. But to be honest the blurb sounded so different then the plot really is. The blurb says that Dai has only 18 days to find a way out the Walled City. And I was quite disappointed when I found out why. I thought he had to break out of the Walled City and that was not the case. It was surprising yeah but it was a little duller and not as excited as I thought it would be. Maybe I thought it would be some sort of Ocean’s eleven or something and that they would break in and do all cool mental stuff but that wasn’t the case. I also had a problem with that some things where really predictable. I had some things figures out in the beginning, that actually happened on the last few pages.

“There are moments you wait for. And then there are moments you wait for. Moments you spend every other moment preparing for. Points of your life that click and turn. Push you in a completely new direction.”

I seriously don’t know how Graudin did it, she made a story this pink and fluffy in the Walled City. Sometimes it felt a little bit like a children’s novel. I think that was mostly because of how everything came together and the romance between Dai and Mei Yee.
I was afraid in the beginning that Dai and Jin’s plan would go as planned and that it would soon be and then they lived happily ever after. So I was so happy that that everything didn’t go as they planned, because then this book would have really sucked. I loved the obstacles all the main characters had to take and the way this story came together in the ending.
I think this book would have been a little bit better if the first half of the book was a little shortened (left out some of Mei Yee’s boring chapters) and if the secrets of Dai and Jin would have been spilled sooner. The first half of the book was a little longwinded and a lot of the same happened over and over. I personally think that the book didn’t need 425 pages.

The ending (5,0 stars)
The ending was predictable, yeah. But if it didn’t went like this I would have been so mad! I loved that there weren’t any loose threads and that everything was just realistically okay in the end.

So after this perfect ending there is an author’s note before the acknowledgements, explaining her idea on this book and some background on the real Walled city. There are also some pictures included. I loved this and I really wish more books would do this!!
Profile Image for Dana.
440 reviews290 followers
January 11, 2016

I finally finished this damn book! I'm so proud of myself! *goes to get cupcake*. This book took me ages to finish and I put it down multiple times. The setting of the book is fascinating and based off of a real place which is really cool, but the pace was so slow it.felt.like.I.was.reading.the.book.like.this.

Jin was a really cool character, she was super bad ass and it was heartbreaking to see just how much she was willing to sacrifice for the people she cared about. Mei Yee was an okay character, of course I felt terrible for the situation she was in, but she read very flat for me. Last but not least is Dai, the mysterious vagrant with a dramatic past. He was an interesting personality, but I must admit to some feelings of ickyness regarding his romance in the book.

I am a bit of an odd man out with my review of this book. My main issue with this book was that it felt twice as long as it needed to be. It got to the point where I was actually impressed with how dramatically the author dragged out the story. Where did she find the words?

Overall, very cool setting, decent characters, but way too slow pace. I can't really recommend this book, even with the passable plot.

Buy, Borrow or Bin Verdict: Bin

Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nina.
306 reviews407 followers
February 10, 2017
3.5 stars

This was my first ever Ryan Graudin book, and the first thing I discovered was that Ryan wasn't a dude. Chrm, perhaps I should have visited her author's page on GR und looked at the back of the book, but well, my ignorance made for an interesting start with this book ;)

The Walled City was inspired by Hong Kong's historical Kowloon Walled City, and its general atmosphere was therefore inherently dark. Very dark. Which made this dystopian tough to rate because, though I enjoyed the gloomy setting and strong female lead, the read was slow-going at times and I couldn't get onboard with the romance.

But let's dissect this book one step at a time. Firstly, if you are wondering why I'm referring to this book as a dystopian, albeit being based on a real place: The names of the places in this book are fictional, which is why – in my humble opinion – The Walled City does not classify as historical fiction. But feel free to enlighten me on the matter, if you have a different opinion.

☀ Told from three points of view, The Walled City dives into the heart of a gated city where organized crime, prostitution, and drug trafficking rule daily life. Where survival determines people's actions. Though the world-building could have been more extensive, it was sufficient to make this "world" of struggle and hardship come to life.

☀ The fact that one of the female protagonists was disguised as a boy (yes, one of my favourite book elements) already had me starting off on the right foot with Jin Ling. I was a fan of this main character either way, though, because she was a caring yet hardened soul. She was tough and suspicious and stubborn; a lone fighter really, but she squashed her fears because her love for her sister was greater than any obstacle thrown into her path. She also showed an interest in general knowledge, which made me appreciate her for both her bravery and her brains.

☀ The sisterhood bond is strong in this one. If you know anything about me, then you'll know how much I adore the focus on sibling dynamics. Even apart, these two sisters were fuelled by their love for each other, finding the necessary courage to pull off their risky plans in the other's strength. Though I didn't like Mei Yee quite as much as Jin Ling, perhaps also because she didn't have the same depth to her, she was an enjoyable character. The opposite of her younger sister, Meyi Yee was a shy girl who sought protection in her spitfire of a sister.

☀ Graudin broaches many serious topics such as domestic abuse and human trafficking and basically every crime against humanity that crawls out of a dirthole like the Walled City.

☁ Dai and Mei Yee were enjoyable but lacked the depth I needed for them to be memorable. Though I'd say the concept will not be something I'll forget so quickly, because Graudin put a lot of thought into it, the characters were fillers rather than pillars of a marvellous story idea.

☁ The plot was interesting, even gripping at times, but could also be very slow-going. The uneven pacing of the storyline disrupted the flow of the plot a bit. I wish the pacing would've been smoother and less disruptive of the build of tension.

☁ The romance was based on no foundation whatsoever. I dare call it insta-love because I couldn't fathom what was happening before my eyes, and it just left me confused and bitter instead of having me ship them.

All in all, I'd refer to The Walled City as your average dystopian which delivers a ton of entertainment but just doesn't offer the kind of depth I search for in novels these days. Dystopian isn't my go-to genre for well crafted worlds and multi-layered characters, but I expected a little more from this one, I'd say.

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Profile Image for Lindsay Cummings.
Author 16 books5,125 followers
April 22, 2014
Wow. Beautiful. One of the most well-written, gorgeously done stories I've read in a long, long time. It gave me chills that reminded me of when I first saw Moulin Rouge. Touching story based on a real place, and I think it will really open up lots of eyes to the human trafficking in today's modern world.

So, SO good.

Gorgeous. Ryan Graudin is now one of my favorite authors.

I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews755 followers
February 20, 2017
After reading a ton of bad reviews, I was bracing myself for this to be absolutely horrid. I was quite pleasantly surprised and ended up absolutely loving this book! It's quite dark and violent and that's exactly why I loved it! The story totally grabbed my attention right from the start, it reminded me of Six of Crows in some ways and that very much added to my enjoyment of this story. I loved seeing the story from the different points of view, it really added depth to the story. I really can't say enough good things about this book, it was just brilliant!
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,135 reviews8,144 followers
August 25, 2016
Where do I begin?! Well first of all: I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions expressed in the following review.

But seriously, I had NO clue what to expect when going into this book. I had heard things going around about how it was supposed to be a good upcoming release and that it was available on NetGalley, etc. I am so, so glad that I did. Seriously.

First of all, this is a standalone! Which makes me incredibly happy, because it seems like all YA action/adventure type books these days are part of a series (particularly trilogies). Nope, not this one. And it doesn't need to be. Graudin, the author who has an excellent voice in her writing, creates a story so well executed in 432 pages that it needs no more books to complete it. Finally! A story that feels so full of life, rich characters, intense plot that actually makes sense, and more, but is self-contained in one book.

This book is a three person perspective novel. It's told from the view of Dai, Mei Yee, and Jin Ling, three young adults (I believe between 16 and 18) that live in the Walled City of Hak Nam. I won't say much about who they are or how the connect.

The Walled City (based off the real Kowloon Walled City once a part of Hong Kong) is a densely populated slum filled with drug lords, street urchins, and prostitutes. This book is quite intense and contains some thematic elements, not for the young or faint of heart, by the way. Dai, Jin Ling, and Mei Yee live in the Walled City and are working to make their way out. Each has different motives, and these motives are believable. Never once did I find myself thinking, "What [the character] just did there is totally unbelievable or counteractive to their personality/motivations/etc." Their goals and struggles are so realistic and engrained in them as characters that they are believable. It was really refreshing to see from each perspective and understand why they do the things they do, and what they want to accomplish.

The writing style is beautiful. It creates a very vivid picture of the Walled City and the struggles that come with being stuck in that lifestyle. The only problems I had with it were little. There were many instances of repeated words, especially adjectives. For example (and this is not from the book, I am just illustrating my point): "The sky was a deep, deep blue," or "She twisted her strands of hair into tight, tight curls," etc. It was more noticeable about halfway through the book because it kept happening. Again, not a big deal, just something that caught my eye.

Plot-wise, like I said above, it all makes sense, it all feels necessary, and it all connects well to keep the story moving along. I never got bored. I thought about the book a lot when I wasn't reading it. I just wanted to return to the story and find out what happens.

All in all, this is one young adult standalone that I am incredibly happy with it. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well written story that has deeper themes of regret, separation, and sacrifice that come from things like human trafficking and dehumanizing activities that take place on a daily basis worldwide. Seriously, I can't recommend this enough.

P.S. This book is described as dystopian which I would argue is NOT the case. So if you are hesitant because it is categorized as such, ignore that and read it. Also, it may interest you to look up the Kowloon Walled City and learn more about that (something I didn't even know existed before this book!).
Profile Image for Caitlin.
339 reviews700 followers
November 16, 2017
This book was great. I had almost no expectations for it but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it. The subject matter is definitely a mood read but it was exactly what I needed.
Profile Image for Kaila.
736 reviews13 followers
June 15, 2018
3.5/5 stars

"There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife."

This was a thrilling, exhilarating book that kept me on the edge of my seat. I am in love with this author's ability to get me hooked into the story and tease the suspense throughout the novel. It was such a captivating premise full of promises of a dark and gritty story from the underworld. To some extent this book fulfilled what I was expecting and beyond, but I was still left a little disappointed in the end. Nevertheless, I was gripped to the story from the very beginning and I can't deny that my heart raced with the action-packed scenes. I really enjoyed our characters, mostly Jin, but I wish they were developed a little more so I could have really fallen into their personalities. I still can't wait to read whatever this author writes because it always gets my blood pumping with excitement.

The Walled City is ridden with crime, slums and people ready to steal and kill at any chance. Jin has come to the lawless city to try to find and save her sister, who was sold to become a prostitute. She has to pretend to be a man to protect herself, and take up jobs with the worst gangs in the city to earn a living. Dai is in the city for a different reason, he's trying to escape his past and find a way to escape. He enlists the help of Jin to help with his drug trafficking jobs, earning them both money and an opportunity to escape. Mei Yee was sold by her father to become a prostitute, she has been trapped in a brothel for the last two years, losing hope that she'll ever escape. In this city where trusting someone is a sure way to be betrayed, these three must learn to survive and perhaps even find a way to escape.

(Real Kowloon Walled City that the book was inspired by)

Undoubtedly, Ryan Grauden has a talent for writing intense, thrilling and action-packed novels. Wolf by Wolf is one of my all time favourite novels and it was so thrilling and fast paced, so I had high expectations for the suspense in this book. Even though The Walled City is completely different than that book, it still had my heart racing and my body full of adrenaline. I read it so quickly because I just couldn't bare to put it down. It was as if I just began the book then I looked up and I was almost finish, the only indicator that I'd gotten so far was my racing heart and excitement to see what was going to happen. This feeling really made me enjoy the book because I was so intrigued by the story. Not only was it written in such a way that I was constantly on edge, but the premise itself was so intriguing and I was just dying to figure out how everything would end.

As I was saying, the premise behind this book was so intriguing to me. I remember picking this book up at the bookshop, seeing the blurb and knowing that I had to buy it immediately. Knowing that this city is based of a real place is also just so crazy to me. It was lawless, ruthless and dangerous. The premise was so strong and some of this was maintained in the story, but I did have a feeling of being underwhelmed in general. I was hoping for a grittier, darker and more complex story which we just didn't receive. I also admit that since I loved previous books by this author so much I had very high expectations, so I was already unfairly judging this book. Nonetheless, I just through the story was too simple and I really didn't the ruthlessness or lawless nature of this city, it was actually quite timid. In saying this, there were still points in the novel where we got to see the underground crime, the danger on the streets and the hopelessness of many residents, but it didn't feel like enough.

I really liked the characters individually, but I wasn't really a fan of the relationships. They were just quite strange to me. Jin and Dai met only a few times then were willing to risk their lives for each other, despite me not feeling any real connection between them. This wasn't the main problem for me, it was the romance. I usually love romance, but I didn't like it at all in this novel. It was out of place, made no sense to the story line and was ridiculous in general. There was absolutely not chemistry between Mei Yee and Dai, and I just hated their relationship. It also became a vital point in the conflict of the novel and the book began t focus around this relationship, which I didn't enjoy. I also wish that we got to know the characters a bit more. I enjoyed the characters but I think we could have been shown more complex personalities and motives from them
Profile Image for Elena.
570 reviews180 followers
July 22, 2015

Such a fascinating read !
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
114 reviews405 followers
January 22, 2016
Overall, I give this book three “mehs” with a special shout out to dat cat, “Chima, you my dog…or I guess, cat. You know what I mean.”

The character development between the sisters was wonderful and refreshing. The character of Dai…not so much. He comes off as a mix of Bruce Wayne and the Affluenza teen. “My life is so hard because my addiction to coke and Phish concerts got my bro killed. You don’t know the pain and anguish I’ve felt!”

The plot. I felt the book started out really strong. It was oddly fresh and gritty with a lot of flash photography action. Bam! Meow! Slice! I really liked the idea of Dai and Jin Ling working as double agents/partners in crime but that was never fully developed. I felt like a lot of this story was never fully developed. I wanted the bad guys to be scarier, the shadows to be darker, and the plot to be plotier. I was expecting something more like Oldboy circa 2003, but I guess that wouldn’t be acceptable for a 12-16 age group.

Even with all my criticism, I’ve got to give the author credit for something uniquely powerful but still entrenched in reality. So much better than the dystopian drag lining the YA shelves.
Profile Image for Bee.
430 reviews855 followers
June 6, 2016
I thought I was going to love this book. So, I partly put this two star review down to ridiculously high expectations. What I found most frustrating about The Walled City was the pacing - it's nowhere near as pacy as Wolf by Wolf - and at times I found I had to force myself to keep going. Also, because it's a three character POV story NOTHING is a surprise. Jin's looking for her sister = Mei Yee has lost her sister and is in a brothel. There's a boy at Mei Yee's window = Dai's POV tells us he's that boy. Dai's working with another boy = Jin's disguised herself as that boy (aka the Mulan reveal is no surprise.) See where this is going? Because we knew every secret, the book became a waiting game of when will the other character catch on.

Also, the book is really depressing. The Walled City is based on a similar area in Hong Kong that was thankfully destroyed. So, I kind of feel obligated to give this book three stars because of the amount of research and imagination put into it, and because it really did transport me into these characters' horrendous lives, but the sheer lack of enjoyment factor meant I only gave it two stars.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
October 14, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC from a friend

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

What I Liked:

I was pretty apprehensive about this book at first, when I read the summary months and months ago. But I really enjoyed Graudin's All That Glows, so I added this on to my TBR list. Flash forward a couple of months, and Jessica at Lovin Los Libros sends me a copy of this book! She's the greatest.

This book follows the perspective of three teenagers - Jin, Dai, and Mei Yee. Jin is a street urchin pretending to be a boy. She is a fast runner, so she delivers things. Really, she is looking for her sister, who was sold and taken away from her years ago. Dai is a rich boy pretending to be a street vagrant. He takes jobs from the Brotherhood (think: mafia), but really, he is trying to gain access to information that will bring them - and the Walled City - down. Mei Yee is a prostitute of the Brotherhood's brothel. Longwai (head of the Brotherhood and this brothel) basically runs the city, and there is no escape for anyone.

I'm not a huge fan of multiple perspectives - more than two is usually too many for me. However, I really liked this aspect of the book. Each teenager is so different, and has a different role to play. Dai and Jin intersect pretty quickly, but Mei Yee doesn't interact with either of the other two protagonists until later in the book. So it's not about each character seeing the same scene through different eyes - because most of the time, each character is in a different place at different times.

Dai finds Jin because he wants Jin to do a job with him, for Longwai (the Brotherhood kingpin). Dai is trying to get closer to Longwai so that he can get information on the Brotherhood. Jin wants to hind her sister, and she is completely sure that her sister is in the brothel. So this is how those two meet. Dai is under the impression that Jin is a boy - but not for the entire book. It's actually pretty interesting how he finds out. Reminds me of a certain Disney movie.

Jin's is the first perspective we read from, so she was the one I latched onto first. Usually the first protagonist introduced is my favorite - and she definitely was my favorite. She is fearless and brave, but not without flaws and faults. Her devotion to her sister is very admirable. After years, she still hasn't given up hope.

I liked Dai next. He's an interesting character, tormented by his brother's death, his brother's words to him. Dai doesn't think that he is a good person, but he is. He really is. He wants to protect and save so many people, even though he knows better - you just don't do that in the Walled City.

I liked Mei Yee the least, but it wasn't really her fault. Her character is very stagnant, so I just wasn't as interested in her story as I was interested in the other two characters' stories. However, again, not her fault, since she is locked in her room in a brothel all day, waiting for her special guest to visit her when he pleases. It's so heartbreaking, her life, but I feel like she never really gives up. She's just sort of there for a while, but she isn't broken.

The world-building of this book is really important and really great. I kept wondering how Graudin would make the world-building unique (a walled city seemed very cliche and overused?) - but I like how well Graudin developed her Walled City! There is so much culture and rules and dangers. The city is no joke at all. Graudin crafted the setting well indeed!

The plot is definitely intriguing - I never stopped reading, and was never bored. In fact, I couldn't put the book down, and finished it in one sitting. Definitely a good sign, especially when it comes to long books.

I believe this book is a standalone? It definitely ends like a standalone, and I would love for it to "stay" a standalone. I really enjoyed this story!

What I Did Not Like:

I feel like things were just a little TOO perfect, in terms of how everything wraps up. Like, from the beginning, the reason why Dai is doing all that he is doing... everything is just so coincidental and lucky. Would everything have fallen into place like that if one small thing hadn't happened? I know real life totally works like that, but it messed with my head. The plausibility seemed a tad bit off to me. But then again, this is a fantasy world. I think it's fantasy? It's based on a real city in China, I believe.

Would I Recommend It:

I would recommend this one! I'm having a hard time pinning down the genre - it seems kind of dystopia-like, but it's really not a dystopia at all. There is no government trying to make things seem perfect. But then, it doesn't really feel like a thriller, and it's not contemporary. I'm tagging it as dystopia and thriller, but honestly, I have no idea how to classify this book.

Which goes to show the uniqueness of the book, perhaps :D


4 stars. Well-deserved! This is a very original and fresh novel - I haven't read one quite so unique in a while! Props to the author!
Profile Image for Carly .
78 reviews25 followers
November 12, 2017
Jin has been searching for her sister Mei Yee since the moment her father sold her to the Walled City. Dressed as a boy to hide among the city vagrants, Jin steals to survive while searching for her sister. Dangerous as it is, she can't help but itch for the Survivor to take over--the part of her that loves the challenge and the chase.
Dai has a plan to free himself and atone for his dark past--this involves finding a runner to help him get him close to the Walled City's greatest Drug Lord. And this runner is Jin.
Mei Yee is a prisoner, worn down to accept her circumstances and serve the men who are willing to pay. She dreams of escape, but never acts on it. That is, until a face appears outside her window asking for her help to bring down the Drug Lord who has imprisoned her. A face that holds both tenderness and terrible secrets. A face with the name of Dai.

This was a fairly good read. I enjoyed it, though I was a little bit disappointed with the last quarter of the book. The opening chapter really drew me in. I loved the high stakes action, the attitude of the character, and the mystery surrounding the lawless labyrinth-like city. I even loved reading from Dai's pov. These two characters had very interesting back stories mixed with an air of mystery, so when Mei Yee was introduced, her character just fell flat for me. I found her kind of boring, though I was deeply saddened by her circumstances. Unfortunately, I found myself speed reading through her chapters just so I could get to the next part with Jin or Dai. The first half of the book I loved and deserves 4 stars. It was the second half that brought it down to 3. It just started to get boring, and there wasn't enough character development for me. The pace slowed down and I just found myself wanting the book to hurry up and be over so I could move on to the next book so I could have more action. I also found the romance between two of the characters hard to believe because there wasn't enough depth. It just seemed to be an insta-love type situation and I found myself rooting for Dai to be with the other sister, though this never happens. If the story had been told through Jin's eyes, I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more because she was definitely the most interesting character. She was the fighter of the group, the one I could most easily connect with. She's stubborn, snarky, and a risk taker. She's a thief and a loyal sister. There were so many sides to her and I just wanted to stay in her head the whole time and ignore the other characters. Though I have given a lot of negatives, I really did enjoy reading this book, though it did not live up to my expectations in the end. I am still glad I read it and recommend it to those who like crime and mobster stories.

Writing Style: 10/10
Story Line: 6/10
Characters: 7.5/10
Profile Image for Taylor.
301 reviews116 followers
November 7, 2014

This book definitely surpassed my expectations. I don't even know how to label it, it's so unique.

The writing was beautiful. I didn't find it overwhelming at all, like some others have mentioned. Imagery can be a wonderful thing, my friends. Yes, it can be easily overused, but I thought it was applied perfectly here. The story read smoothly, and I didn't feel like I had to stop to figure out what the author was trying to describe.

The plot was intriguing and exciting. I hated having to put this book down.

I loved the characters, and liked that the story was written in three different perspectives. It gives it more depth, and allows the reader to understand each characters' motivations.

The insta-love was a little much, but I didn't think it was completely unrealistic since both characters had to endure extreme loneliness and desperate situations.

The bits of cultural flavor made the plot even richer. I especially loved the descriptions of the food stalls and the delicious dishes. It made me crave dumplings and seafood and noodles!

The Walled City is an exciting mix of mystery, drama and action. Very well-written, and so entertaining. Definitely recommended!

I received this eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,566 reviews259 followers
June 11, 2016
Dai is a drug trafficker for a kingpin of the Walled City and in order to get out he needs someone who knows how to be invisible. That's where Jin comes in, she has to pass as a boy to stay safe and has been looking for her sister in the chaos of the city for two years without much luck. Now she only has eighteen days left to find her and escape before the city is destroyed.

Initially, the concept behind this story is what piqued my interest and thankfully the execution of the story itself is pretty fantastic on its own. The author does a brilliant job of creating the world of the Walled City from painting a vivid picture of it to laying out its rules for the reader. She also does a great job of handling the three alternating perspectives of Jin and Dai, my two favorites, plus Mei Yee. Personally, though, I think Mei Yee is the weakest voice of the three; however, I appreciated seeing all three originally separate characters come together in the story. Overall, The Walled City by Ryan Graudin is a fast-paced thrill ride of a dystopian set in a fictionalized version of the real-life lawless Kowloon Walled City. It shouldn't be missed. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ryan Graudin in the future.
Profile Image for Jillian .
431 reviews1,781 followers
June 23, 2018
4.5 stars!!!

this book was SO DAMN GOOD. if you like gritty historical fiction which covers a part of history that you probably have never heard of...maybe. well i had never heard of it prior to this book and the walled city is FASCINATING. i want moooooore about this place and the countless endless stories that took place in such a crazy place.
910 reviews256 followers
June 17, 2017
It’s easy to forget that “YA dystopian fiction” isn’t merely a paint-by-numbers genre, needing a futuristic, wholly invented world with a feisty heroine with special skills to take down the nasty government. Unfortunately this seems to be the case with many of the recent YA offerings, so you can imagine how refreshing it is to come across a book that actually has a new take on a dystopian world. The Walled City has just that – and the best part? It’s based almost entirely on historical fact.

Graudin’s Walled City is entirely based on the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, with a few simple name changes giving her a little more creative license than if this was straight historical fiction. However this is certainly not sci-fi, despite its dystopian leanings, and it’s interesting to see how difficult people have found it to separate the two genres. After all, a dystopia is simply a “society characterized by a focus on negatives such as mass poverty, public mistrust… squalor, suffering, or oppression, [which] that society has most often brought upon itself” (thank you, Wikipedia!). The Walled City is all of those things and more, and the research that has gone into recreating this world is obvious.

Graudin never shies away from the darker aspects of the world she is exploring, but also knows where to draw the line – rather than descend into gruesome detail, she leaves just enough to the imagination, though still I wouldn’t recommend this for very young readers. Occasionally the character voices do begin to blend together, but the very different experiences they each go through keep this from becoming confusing. Although The Walled City stumbles around the occasional cliché – how many more cases of instalove can the literary world take? – the plot is unpredictable enough to keep you guessing until the end.

Full review here

Received from the publisher through NZ Booklovers
Profile Image for Paulo Ratz.
185 reviews4,932 followers
June 3, 2016
Eu gostei MUITO desse livro, mas vi uns problemas nos pontos de vista e no final. Explico melhor no vídeo de leituras!!
Mas amei, hein. Só tirei 1 estrela por isso.
Profile Image for Caroline.
592 reviews799 followers
October 12, 2016
MEH I wasn't really a fan of this book which is a shame considering how much I loved Wolf by Wolf by the same author. The main disappointing thing was the characters. There are three main characters whose perspectives we get and the annoying thing was that I couldn't tell them apart. All their chapters kind of blurred together because they didn't stand apart individually. There were a few times where I had to flick back to the start of the chapter and double check who I was reading about. I didn't like the characters. They were boring and didn't really have anything remarkable about them They all felt forgettable.

The plot also left something to be desired. It was meant to be very fast paced and exciting but I found myself skim reading a lot of the time because nothing grabbed me. One of the characters is meant to be mysterious but we go more than half of the book without any explanation as to why he is on the run or anything! It would've been okay if his entire character wasn't dependent on that point.

The writing was okay but metaphors were overused to the max. Every sentence had one. Every description had ten. I'm just not a fan of writing like that. This book had an interesting concept (it's based on a real place in Hong Kong) but I just couldn't get into it.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,288 reviews395 followers
November 23, 2015
This YA book takes place within the walls of what had been Kowloon City in Hong Kong, no longer in existence. The novel effectively contrasts the haves/have nots and what happens inevitably in the slums. The book is narrated from three POVs: a privileged boy, who has a mission, a young girl masquerading as a boy to survive, and her sister, who has been sold into prostitution. While the story is predictable and the bonds that develop between the three too quickly to be believable, the characters are strong and I liked the writing. Don't forget to look at the photos included by Graudin at the end, which are very interesting.
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