Published by Orion on November 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Bookworld Reviewer Program
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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 run 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.
The Walled City is billed as YA but is full of brutal and heart-breaking issues.
The Walled City itself is a kingdom of thieves, prostitutes and drug lords. Three teenagers live there – Mei Yee, who was taken from her family as a young girl and forced to be a prostitute for the drug lord Longwai, Jin Ling, Mei Yee’s younger sister who traveled to the city to find her and has been searching for two years, and Dai, who has a much more complex reason to be living in the slums of the city.
The point of view is passed between the three of them, one in each chapter, which really helps to reveal each story gradually and keeps the reader on edge. It took me a while to get through this book, and not just because I happened to be reading it during the busy Christmas period. There are some beautiful descriptions through this story that really help to bring Hak Nam and its inhabitants to life, but they also help to slow the pace somewhat, especially early in the story. It just didn’t grip me as much as I would have liked until the last 30% or so. Then, it was all go go go!
There are some heavy issues in this book – human trafficking, prostitution, drug use and violence, including among children. Unfortunately, the city of Hak Nam is based on a real place – the Kowloon Walled City was a very similar tall, dark and walled city run by the drug lords. While the city no longer exists in Hong Kong, the issues still stand all over the world and that is what makes this book so interesting and incredibly sad.
Each of the characters had their own agenda and I loved how each plan wove together almost by accident at the end. I also loved Jin’s cat, Chma. He adds a bit of levity to an otherwise dark story.
I’d recommend The Walled City to fans of dystopian sci-fi – while not a dystopia itself, this story certainly feels like it’s about one.
– With charismatic characters and nail-biting action, although can be a little slow at other times. An excellent stand-alone.