Spotlight: The Walled City

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

Jin is living off the streets and her own speed while searching for the sister her father sold into slavery.

Dai tries to escape his past even if that means running drugs for the ruthless kingpin who holds the city in sway.

Mei Yee has been trapped in a brothel for two years, until freedom is nothing more than a dangerous dream.

Ryan Graudin weaves a heart-pounding story of trust, betrayal, and redemption that kept me up late as I turned page after page.

The Walled City

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped. 18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.

The story starts with all the elements needed to make a good novel. Pulsing action. Hurting characters. A unique setting. And a timeline, set in stone, after which nothing will matter.

Characters/emotion: The Walled City has three main characters the novel rotates through. Though there was one storyline I found a little less interesting than the others, all three of them were engaging and wove together to a satisfying climax. I felt very connected to the emotions of the main characters. While most of the side characters weren’t very developed, they did well at being unique thematic foils. 7/10

Plot: The Walled City is a standalone novel, yet does well presenting a storyline you won’t forget. Each of the three storylines are simple, driven by desires and needs with a single set goal. And, while I enjoy complex climaxes and twists, it was also fascinating to see how a climax without many twists could still be suspenseful. 7/10

Setting: I don’t normally have this category, but The Walled City deserves a mention. Based on the Kowloon walled city, the setting mixed a dystopian feel with contemporary. Narrow streets, buildings leaning into each other, the sky out of sight somewhere beyond towering roofs—the real Kowloon walled city was one the most densely populated city on earth while it existed.

(Basically, it was an area barely 100th of a square mile in size held 350 buildings, almost all between 10 and 14 stories high, occupied by 8,500 premises, 10,700 households, and more than 33,000 residents. Yes, I found it fascinating. Yes, I keep talking about it. Click here to read more.)

Theme: Like Ryan’s other books, this one had solid themes of love, trust, and placing others over one’s self. 7/10

Prose: I’ll be honest. Ryan’s prose is a good portion of why I love her writing so much. Each character’s voice is subtly different and her prose is a beautiful study of unique writing without saturating the novel with ‘cool lines.’ 8/10

Content: This book is fairly gritty as it deals with topics like drugs, addiction, slavery, and brothels. I will say that Ryan does a great job presenting the realities and darkness of the world the characters live in without dwelling on it or going into unnecessary or graphic details.

I would recommend this book for ages fourteen and up, though I would potentially let someone younger read it if I felt they were emotionally ready.

If you enjoy dystopian settings, a touch of mystery, fear, courage, and sacrifice, check out The Walled City today.

And if you want to learn to write prose like the author of The Walled City, check out my breakthrough prose coaching here!

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