The Walled City is a cut-throat world of gangs, drug-dealers and warlords and every day is a struggle to survive.
THE WALLED CITY is a dark YA thriller set within the walls of a lawless slum city where Jin Ling searches for her lost sister and Dai struggles to complete an impossible mission.
A fantasy setting inspired by Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong, Ryan’s novel has a rich authenticity and an intense atmosphere, and its pace will enthral the reader from the very first page.
Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling searches for her missing sister, Mei Yee, who was sold into the brothels of the Walled City. She relies on her speed and cunning but how long will her luck hold?
When a mysterious boy, Dai, requests her help with a dangerous mission Jin Ling’s inclined to say no – this is a world where no one can be trusted – but the mission offers her a vital chance to see inside the brothel where her sister may be being held.
Jin Ling and Dai join forces, but will either of them survive the mission? Is Mei Yee still alive? And how will any of them ever escape the stifling city walls?
10 random things about THE WALLED CITY.
1. The novel’s setting is based on a real neighborhood that existed in 1980s Hong Kong. It was called the Kowloon Walled City and was a no-man’s land in terms of the law. There were 33,000 people crammed into 6.5 acres, which made it the most densely populated place on earth. There was no formal architecture in the neighborhood, and the buildings were so closely interconnected that no sunlight reached the streets.
2. When I first started writing THE WALLED CITY, I intended for it to be a more fantasy-based tale. But magic never really worked its way into the story and I found that it was much more impactful and striking in a real world setting.
3. Chma, the novel’s resident feline, was based on one of my childhood who sneezed in a most frequent, ungraceful manner. Chma’s name also means cat in the Khmer language.
4. The real Kowloon Walled City was torn down and replaced with a park. The decision to tear down the neighborhood was announced on January 14th, 1987. The exact day and year I was born.
5. There’s never a specified date in the book, but it takes place in the age before cell phones. When transparency sheets were still used regularly. (ie. The 1980s.)
6. THE WALLED CITY is set in the fictional city of Seng Ngoi, but it is heavily based off of Hong Kong. Tai Ping Hill, Seng Ngoi’s richest neighborhood is meant to parallel Hong Kong’s wealthiest region: Victoria Peak. The rice farm with the surrounding mountains that Jin Ling and Mei Yee come from was based on the Yangshuo region of south China.
7. Most of the names in THE WALLED CITY have a deeper meaning. Sing, the first girl in the brothel who tires to escape, means “star.” Kuen, the boy who tries to hunt Jin down because she stole his boots, means “power.” Longwai, the kingpin and head of the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon, means “dragon.”
8. I actually got to visit the site of the real Kowloon Walled City in January. It was around the time of Chinese New Year so I was able to see some New Year’s fireworks as well!
9. I initially started the book solely from Jin Ling’s point of view. It took nearly fifty pages for me to realize that I needed to tell part of the story from Mei Yee’s perspective as well. I was about 60,000 words into this dual narrative
when I decided that Dai, who’d been a secondary character up until that point, had a voice to contribute to the story as well. It wasn’t until I added him in that the story really clicked.
10. Jin Ling’s character—a street girl who sleeps under a tarp, scavenges food from trash piles and disguises herself as a boy to stay alive—is based very heavily on some children I met in the slums of Phnom Penh, Cambodia (where I lived and worked for a summer in 2007). The book’s dedication (“To the children of Boding, who taught me to see the invisible.”) is meant for them.
About the Author
Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, South Carolina with a severe case of wanderlust. When she’s not travelling, she’s busy photographing weddings, writing and spending time with her husband and wolf-dog.