The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was offered, nor would it have been received.
THE WALLED CITY was inspired by Hong Kong's now demolished Kowloon City. It was crammed, dirty, and dangerous, overrun by gangs and thugs trying to rule over those just trying to survive.
Ryan Graudin has created a story within these walls that highlight and show the depressing, and oppressing, feel of the hopelessness, danger, and claustrophobia of living in such a place, amidst vicious survival, squalor, and no thoughts beyond surviving the next moment.
Jin Ling is on a mission to find and save her sister, Mei Yee, who was sold to a brothel, a slave of the sex trade, by their own father so he could have money to buy more rice wine. Jin assumes a boy's identity to survive and enters Hak Nam determined to find her sister.
Dai Shing is in Hak Nam as a spy -- half-desperate to die and equally determined to do what he can to right a wrong from years ago and make up for his role in his brother's death. When Dai finds Jin, he figures "he" is perfect as a collateral damage.
Dai Shing and Jin Ling bond and race against time to find Mei Yee and to stop the evil head honcho of Hak Nam, Longwai.
The pace of the novel flies even as it slows down for introspective thought and is very focused on the goals and a constant awareness of a silent countdown. You see humanity's worst, humanity's best, and just how fragile we are as creatures. A few years can determine your life and destroy your psyche. Some are stronger than others in this manner. Some are weaker. And you can't help but empathize with each.
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