Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

July 28, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 16 ★★★★½

The Walled CityThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on November 4th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: ARC Tour
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<p>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.</p>
<p>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.</p>

Since I was unable to attend BEA (Book Expo America) like I hoped and dreamed to this year (*cries*), after its completion I sent out a tweet, asking those who did go what were some upcoming books I should put on my radar. What book came up? The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. Instant add! (Thank you Kelly!)

walled city tweet

The synopsis given is short and intriguing but this book is so much more than what I expected from a dystopian-typed fantasy novel. And when I label the book under those genres it is because it pulls threads from both but in fact, it read very much like something I could see as plausible and happening in the world today and is even based off of real history with the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. Crazy right? The Walled City is a place forgotten. An old fort not belonging to any government, where rule breakers go unpunished making crime and vagrant life plentiful. But that is all about to chance with the New Year.

The story is told from three POVs within the Walled City. First we have Jin Ling, a girl living on the streets in filth and despair, disguised as a boy to help avoid capture into the world of human trafficking, much like her sister, who she is desperately trying to find. Jin Ling is a fighter, fast on her feet and keen on survival. She has barely anything to her name but stolen boots and another homeless creature, a cat named Chma. It is that speed and instinct to run that attracts the attention of another main character, Dai. Much of Dai’s story is vague in the beginning, unraveling piece by piece as we move through the story and find out who he is and his purpose. Dai recruits Jin’s help running drugs so he can get into the Brotherhood – a powerful crime lord family that runs the Walled City. There is something there he wants… and it turns out there is also something there Jin wants as well, since it is home to the brothel her sister, Mei Yee, is imprisoned at. Mei Yee was sold as a sex slave by her abusive father. And she wishes to break free, see the ocean. All three characters find themselves tied together, fighting to be free.

I think what is probably the most amazing about this story is how the world building and character development are both so strong and well done for a one-novel dystopian fantasy read. In fact, I read through the novel a lot easier than I expected with 400 pages. But it didn’t feel that length. The setting was so engaging, exciting, and unique. Gritty. It takes quite a bit of the novel to get the full details on what exactly the Walled City was but that didn’t bother me and I had that ‘ohhh’ moment when we were finally given answers. I had honestly never heard of the Kowloon Walled City before reading this novel and found myself very intrigued and wanting to know more when I finished reading the Author’s Note about the real life inspirations for the plot.

All three characters brought so much to the table but I feel like it was Jin Ling that was truly the shining star! Her courage and resolve were inspiring. A true fighter. Her cat was pretty awesome too and added a nice sweet touch. Romance is on the light side with only a few touches and glimpses of what may come in the future and it fit the storyline beautifully. It was also surprising and unexpected in direction which was refreshing.

Overall, The Walled City has so much appeal and was everything I hoped it would be!  I definitely recommend adding this one to your TBR for this fall!

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


About Ryan Graudin

I write books. Some are about rowdy-partying princes and their faery guardians (ALL THAT GLOWS, HarperTeen, 2/11/14). Others are about teenagers fighting for their lives in the slums of the Hak Nam Walled City (THE WALLED CITY, Little, Brown, Fall 2014). I love writing, traveling to new lands, drinking chai lattes and hanging christmas lights. I also love Jesus. I’m repped by Adams Literary. My official website is at

Sara @ Forever 17 Books

16 Responses to “Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin”

  1. Stephanie

    Now see? I would never pick this up because it’s not my genre, but you make this sound fantastic. I was at BEA and I didn’t see this at all. Must’ve missed it:(

  2. Renu

    Yay, so pleased that you enjoyed this! World building and character development are important to me so it’s good to know that they’re both well done. I’m even more excited about reading this now. 😀 Great review!
    Renu recently posted…The Jewel by Amy EwingMy Profile

  3. starryeyedjen

    Ugh, my internet locked up and ate my comment. Grr. Anyway, I was just saying that I’m interested in this title, but maybe not as much as I should be since I’m past the dystopian stories, even when they have an element of fantasy to them, so April’s going to review this one. Glad to see the buzz is more than just buzz, though.
    starryeyedjen recently posted…Review: The Best Things in Death by Lenore AppelhansMy Profile

  4. Kayla

    Your review made me even more excited about this book! It has so many elements in it that I love, so I’m glad to hear they all come together really well.

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