The Walled CityThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Genre: YA, Thriller

Publisher: Little, Brown on November 4, 2014

Source: Publisher

DNF at 46%

This book was provided by the publisher for review. No compensation was provided and my opinions are my own.

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.
18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.View Spoiler »

I’m not sure why, but for some reason I thought The Walled City was going to be a sci-fi dystopian novel. So when I picked it up and found that it was actually more of a historical thriller I was pretty bummed out. This is what I get for trusting Goodreads, I guess. My expectations around genre weren’t met – but that’s not the book’s fault nor is it Ryan Graudin’s. The rest of my issues with it…well. Those are a different story.

The Walled City is a great concept: it’s about the brutal and lawless world of a walled city run by Triads with an economy controlled by prostitution, gambling, and drugs. Even more compelling, the setting is based loosely on Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, a settlement of the same nature that was demolished in 1994.

Unfortunately Graudin’s writing doesn’t live up to her creativity. Her prose is wordy, jumbled, and downright purple. The whole novel is completely overwritten to the point where a character name couldn’t be introduced without an extended metaphor coming into play. I mean, give me a break. Want some concrete examples?

“My emotions are like pounds of overcooked rice noodles.”

“Names. That’s all the boy wants. Just syllables strung together like herbs drying from rafters.”

Ugh. That kind of writing actually offends me. Stop with your useless similes, already! You’re telling me you feel like soggy noodles? What does that even mean?! These quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof so they may appear differently in the published version, but I think you can get a sense of what the writing’s like.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Graudin makes use of some pretty unfortunate decisions in regards to characters in The Walled City. One of the protagonists, Mei Yee, is a young woman who has been horribly abused and forced into sex slavery. This is a horrifying situation made even more disturbing by its basis in reality (this frequently happened in Kowloon), and as a result she cowers in the presence of men and fears their touch. And yet when she sees a cute boy outside her window, she’s not only cured of her fear of men – she’s also in love! I just found that really sloppy. Insta-love is bad enough on its own, but using it for a character who is traumatized and afraid of men and sexual intimacy was just too much for me to take.

Considering this is supposed to be a thriller, I found The Walled City to be pretty boring. Barely anything happens in the first few chapters and I started to get annoyed with the characters’ dithering. I gave it until about 40% and then, in a pretty weird moment for me, I set The Walled City aside and made it my very first DNF.


  1. Yikes, that language does sound bad. I never know what to do with DNF books – do I review them or not? I only had one such book for review (from Netgalley) so far and I wrote the review but then I wonder – why bother? It’s bad publicity for the book anyway, so the publishers probably don’t want such reviews floating around… I don’t know.

    1. Yeah, I’m in the same boat. If it were a book from my own collection then I probably wouldn’t write a review for it, but since I got this as an ARC – and I requested it – I do feel like I need to write a review. My hope is that publicists realize that books don’t work for everyone…and maybe they’ll never see this review haha. I also feel somewhat obligated to tell my friends how little I enjoyed this one, especially since I made it almost halfway through.

  2. This cements my decision to not read this one. I thought about it last month until I read The description closer and some reviews about what it’s based on and I knew it wasn’t going to be my kind of book because of the themes of rape and abuse you mentioned coupled with the instant love.

    1. Good call! Honestly this was an impulse request and I should’ve looked more closely before asking for it. I was blinded by the call of the ARC hahaha. Usually I don’t request many (or any really!) but I went on a requesting spree a few months ago and now I’m still catching up…sigh.

  3. Rape & insta-love. That’s unfortunate. I wonder how many people think survivors react like this (or if any actually do? Not a psychologist & couldn’t say for sure, but I doubt it..).

    I usually don’t write bad reviews unless I think the book was offensive rather than just bad. But it’s useful seeing them about. When I get a book from Netgalley that I dislike (I’ve gotten a few) I just email them, explain why & leave it at that.

    1. Isn’t it though? I just couldn’t believe that some editor didn’t see that and raise an eyebrow. I couldn’t say either, tbh. But something tells me very few survivors react by crushing on some guy they saw one time to the point of being in love with him…

      Hmmm, that’s a good point! Thankfully it’s been a while since I’ve read something that I thought was offensive. Your emailing option sounds like a really good idea…I might have to steal that! 😉

  4. “My emotions are like pounds of overcooked rice noodles.”

    What does that even mean? LOL. And that’s too bad. I just–like an hour ago–added this to my wishlist, b/c I read a stellar review for it. But the reason I held off putting it on my wishlist to begin with, was b/c of all the terrible reviews ALL THAT GLOWS got, and for, what sounds like, similar reasons. Better luck next time, dollface 😉

    1. RIGHT? I remain flabbergasted by that particular word choice.

      I hope it plays better for you than it did for me, Jessica! Who knows, maybe it gets really good after the 40% mark and I’m missing out…although I secretly doubt it. 😉 I’ll be interested to hear your take on things!

    • Anya E. J.

    • 8 years ago

    Oh man wtf??? I thought this was a dystopian too, so it’s good to know I was wrong on that front! I seem to recall Ryan Graudin’s other series to have equally horrid writing according to reviews I saw for it. Sigh, there can’t always be good books right?

    1. RIGHT? Sooo many people on Goodreads have it marked as a dystopian that I thought for sure it would be more up my alley, but apparently not. Seeing this kind of writing makes me really sad for the people trying to get published who are actually really talented but not writing trendy or commercially viable things…

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