Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Walled City


Book Title: The Walled City
Author: Ryan Graudin
Date Started: January 3rd 2015
Date Completed: January 6th 2015
Genres: Adventure, Action, Dystopian, Romance
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Stars
Final Rating: Four stars

The Walled City is a brilliant book that surprised me with its crazy storyline and rougher subjects, but when I think about it there was just something missing that kept it one step from blowing me away.

Jin Ling is masquerading as a boy in the Walled City. Every day she runs from thieves, steals from stalls and hides from the Brotherhood. She'll stay there until she finds her sister. Dai is stuck in the Walled City. He has eighteen days left for his mission, eighteen days to infiltrate the Brotherhood's headquarters and eighteen days to prove his innocence. Mei Yee is caged in a Brotherhood brothel, desperately searching for an escape, for peace, for freedom. They are all connected to help each other, but they can be torn apart in a second.

I really like Graudin's style of writing. It flowed well and had a good balance between the character's narration and the actual events that were unfolding before them. It was also cleverly arranged to control what information we knew at certain times.
Having said that, there wasn't much distinction between the three narrator's voices and the differing lengths of the chapters did get on my nerves when I was waiting for news of a specific character - though this could be seen as a positive since it kept me reading really fast.

The setting is the obvious selling point for this book, but I have to admit it wasn't exactly what I expected. That's not exactly a negative comment - this dystopian-feeling poverty-stricken community just outside of the wealthy city was brilliantly made and perfect for the story - but it did catch me off guard. But it's also brilliant for slowly introducing the characters and revealing their connections to each other and their backstories by reflecting aspects of the place in the narration.
I really like the darker subjects focused on in the plot, but I felt at some point it just hit a development wall that the story refused to push though. This was fine, but I was preparing myself for things to get a lot more twisted, since the story starts off so bleak and has major conflicts every few chapters. The biggest annoyance for me though, was the tagline that seems to be heavily pushed for the novel having basically no impact on the story. 'Run fast, trust no one, always carry your knife,' sounds like it's going to create some conflicts in the story, but it's broken within literally the first few chapters and has basically no consequences in the entire novel.
The progression and storyline of the book really impressed me. It wasn't the typical 'try once and fail to stop it from being too easy, then try again and win because we've learnt so much from this one defeat' set-up: things failed again and again for the characters, but they just kept going on anyway. In fact, there wasn't even a point that comes to mind when any of them gave up; this is their life and this is what they want to get back. They're going to keep trying until they can't anymore. This definitely got my approval for breaking the success vs failure rate of most YA out there.
I really liked the climax and how the characters thought on their feet as they went through, and built their strength in a short space of time. The ending tied together a little too nicely for what started out quite dark - note this is a personal thing - but it was satisfactory enough for me to be able to walk away from this book happily.

Each central character is this book stood out as an individual and thought for themselves: so much so in fact that they ended up messing each other's plans up more than once. And even the minor characters each had a personality and purpose in the story.
Jin Ling, though being a brilliant main protagonist, did have a fairly repetitive story when she was on her own, and though things got darker each time, it wasn't communicated through the narrative as well as it could have been. However, Jin was the driving force for the whole novel and brought her own power to the role of the 'strong' female.
Dai is basically a better version of the typical self-hating hero in almost every Young Adult story. But, emphasis is needed on the 'better'. The story is set up so that you start caring and understanding Dai before the sob story is brought in, so you can actually like his character before feeling you have to like his story.
Mei Yee's story was the most interesting for me, and I think she definitely went through the most character development. Though her perspective of events happening was very limited because of her situation, she still seemed to hold her own plot line solidly and had an impact on the progress. I actually felt pretty proud of her by the end of the story.

The pacing at the start was good in slowly introducing the reader to the setting, the characters and the context. As the book went on, it got better since I felt like there was going to be a climax every few chapters, and each plot development felt like a big deal because of the balance  of recognition and consequences either side of it. The only slight problem I felt was that the climax felt like it dragged on for such a long time, and was then it was done and we moved on incredibly swiftly.

The Walled City pleasantly surprised me, despite being quite different to what I had been expecting. Yet another book that doesn't quite fit into any category, it's definitely a book driven by characters and twists in the plot line. There's a dystopian-like atmosphere, but a very modern side to the story that really brings the poverty that exists around the world to the reader's attention. It's an action adventure a tad romanticised, but it makes a solid change from a lot of YA.

Image Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24070160-the-walled-city

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