I met Ryan Graudin at ReadUp in Greenville, SC just recently in August 2016. I had heard of her book Wold by Wolf through Instagram and was intrigued by the story but it never really grabbed me. Most the books I read latch on to my conscious and I can’t stop thinking about them until I read them and get them out of my mind. Most the time I can read them, think through the story and then I’m on to the next book. One of the panels at ReadUp was called “Bad Blood”. All about plots, back stabbing, revenge and clever plans, and blood (of course). This is where I met Ryan and her book, The Walled City. She started talking about the plot and the story and the characters and I found myself instantly wanting to know more. I couldn’t get this book off my mind but I bought Wolf By Wolf instead and asked her to sign it for me. After all, I had never heard of any of her books except Wolf by Wolf. So the day goes on and I am still thinking about The Walled City during the keynotes (I know, so unfair to the speaker), during the romance panel and finally we got another chance to hear Ryan at a panel called, “Magic: A Gathering,” (not the 90’s card game…sorry kids). Ryan talked about the magic in Wolf by Wolf and I was thinking, “okay cool. I made a good choice.” But for whatever reason, The Walled City was still stuck on my brain, I could not let this book go. I knew nothing about the book except what Ryan told us on the panel. That this book was inspired by a real location and it was dark. I bought the book last minute and again asked Ryan to sign in. She probably thought I was nutty. I don’t normally like dark books so why am I stuck on this book? Well I am going to tell you. This book was the shit.
“Run fast. Trust no one. And always carry your knife.”
At first I had no other words except “holy shit.” That’s all I could say after I finished this book. What I loved most about this book is that on page one it put me on edge and kept me there till page 424 when it was over. This book never lacked for me. You know how some books take about 350 pages to get to the big scene and you’re thinking, “FINALLY!!!!”? Not this one, and I was glad for that! It follows three teens through this maze of a city Hak Nam (The Walled City). I read the authors note before I read the book, and I am so glad I did. It put me in the right mood to read this book. Not mentally, I don’t think anyone could have done that. This was more in the right setting space, I was easily able to imagine the world and found myself letting my mind go there. It is really important to know what the author is talking about when she says the The Walled City. Having spent way too much time on google looking at the real Walled City of Kowloon, I had a really good idea of where this story was taking place. Again, this is super important to the story.
The author clearly states that she did not want this book to be a historical fiction and through the book I think she did a really good job of walking the line because it is so easy to see how her story could have happened. Ryan made it feel so real. So real that, I was holding on to the fact that this was a story she created. That it all started and ended in her head. All I wanted to do was hold these kids in my arms and tell them it will be all right and I will shoot anyone who comes near them. I was protective of them. This goes to show how incredibly real this story felt to me. My heart was racing with these characters, I was holding my breath through chapters because I couldn’t control what was happening. I cried so hard for these kids, their families. This book was so real, and it took me to a really dark place. I knew it would be dark going in, but I didn’t have my guards up. The way the book was written made sure the guards stayed down. The trials these characters went through, I can’t imagine where the author had to go mentally to make this story seem so real.
One character I took to really fast was Jin Ling, this fierce protector. Who didn’t think twice about what she would be going through to get her sister back. I’m choking up right now thinking about her. I think I felt that instant kinship with Jin because I am fiercely protective of my siblings. I felt so bad for Mei Yee, every time her chapters came up, I found myself holding my breath and wanting her chapters to be over before they even began but her story perhaps was the most important. Her trial was even more troubling, I can’t imagine going through anything she did. The amount of strength it took for her to not give up; astounds me. She is definitely a strong female character I will not soon forget. And finally my beautiful, tortured, Dai Shing. What a character. He was in such a dark place and found his place in life through love and helping others. He is my favorite character. I am a sucker for dark souls who are misunderstood.
The over all message I got from this book was this, love with no regret and unconditionally. Always know your worth and never, ever give up hope for a better future. We are all survivors capable of incredible things if only we remember what we are surviving for. Our family, our friends, our pets, work, hobbies. There are people out there who understand us, even at our darkest times. We just have to stay open to find them. Don’t blink, or over think. You just might miss the perfect opportunity you need in life.
Ryan’s writing is so magical, so poetically beautiful. She weaves this story so well, you can’t help but get sucked in. You’re lost to the words. You have no choice but to ride out the journey with the characters. This was my first read from Ryan Graudin and it will not be my last. Her words are power and she has a new fangirl.
Thanks for reading!
Live long and Prosper.