Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 The Walled City


A city within a city. The walls of an ancient fort enclose Hak Nam, a city with its own rules. Those who want to live beyond the reach of the law stay within its walls. So do those who have no choice. Dai is a bit of both. In one tragic night he lost his brother and used a gun to defend himself, now there is a warrant for his arrest. But if he can find the information that the police outside the walls want to know, then they have bargained to give him his freedom. The problem is Longwai and the Brotherhood. They are the criminals who control much of what goes on illegally within Hak Nam. He also owns the brothel where Mei Yee and other girls are held after being sold off by their families, or snatched off the streets. She has seen other girls punished for defiance or escape attempts. Does she have the courage to help Dai get the needed information so that he can help her escape? And there is Jin, the slim runner that helps Dai ingratiate himself with Longwai. Jin has been searching for a missing sister for 2 years in Hak Nam. The money Dai pays helps to buy food and continue the search. They all have their reasons for being in the city, and for wanting to escape from it. Will they succeed? Can all of them make it out alive?

The idea of people living on the edges of society, marginalized and disenfranchised from the protection that civilization is suppose to offer, is nothing new. But the way Graudin has pieced together this intricate ecosystem of criminals, vagrants, and impoverished is masterful. The descriptions of the tenements, the tiny shops selling noodles or clothing, even the details of the litter on the ground all build the scene in the reader's mind. The way the story alternates between the viewpoints of the three main characters makes the differences in their lives very apparent. Dai has his guilty conscience and desperation to make things right. Mei Yee is stuck inside the claustrophobic walls of the brothel, only seeing daylight through a tiny barred window. Even if she escapes, she can't go home; her father would only sell her again. It is nearly impossible to keep any hope alive in such conditions. And Jin is filled with the determination to find and rescue that lost sister, powered by love and determination. They all see and react to things in such different ways.

If you enjoy thrillers with the clock ticking on the chance to make it out alive, then you should give The Walled City a try. Of the other books I have read, The Young World is sort of similar in the need to get out of a city and the fight to survive long enough to do it.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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