The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Note: I received a free copy of “The Walled City” from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I finally got around to reading this book after having requested it months ago and I’m so disappointed in myself that I hadn’t read it earlier! This was a wow book.

“The Walled City” by Ryan Graudin is set in Hak Nam, a fictionalized version of Hong Kong’s very real Kowloon Walled City which was a densely populated settlement that was a hot bed of gambling, prostitution and drug use. And the three main characters are involved in it all (well other than the gambling…I don’t believe there was any gambling?)

The chapters were told from the point of view of three very different and distinct characters who all have their own secrets. (And the author did a very good job of keeping the sections distinct, I never forgot whose section I was reading as I read it!) There’s Dai: a boy who traffics drugs for redemption, Jin: a young girl posing as a boy in order to find her sister who has been sold into prostitution by their father, and Mei Yee: a girl who has been trapped in a brothel for two years and who, throughout the novel, learns that she has more strength than she could have ever imagined.

Just from the book blurb I knew how two of the characters were connected but I was very curious to know how they were all going to meet and it was splendid. It was dark and gritty and real and not the situation, the characters felt real as well. Every time someone pulled out a gun or a knife or interacted with the gang leaders I feared for the characters lives. And I was cheering them on as they raced to beat the clock and get what they needed to get out safely.

And to add to my enjoyment (though it feels wrong to say I “enjoyed” a book with such horribly realistic dark situations like human and drug trafficking) I also decided to do one of those 2015 book challenges and I chose this one to qualify as my “book set in another country” because even though Ryan Graudin changed the names of the real locations it was very clear what city this was based on (there was even an author’s note at the end of the book) and that city was in China.

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