Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling searches for her missing sister, Mei Yee, who was sold into the brothels of the Walled City. It's a cut-throat world of gangs, drug-dealers and warlords and every day is a struggle to survive. Jin Ling 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?
Indigo published The Walled City in the UK a couple of weeks ago, and I'm very happy to be part of their celebratory blog tour. Regular readers of this blog will know that I love book covers and their stories, so I was beyond thrilled with this blog post from Ryan. I think it's fascinating to see the evolution of a cover, especially the changes and tweaks it goes through before the design is finished. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did, and thanks to Ryan for writing it for me!
The Walled City Cover Storyby Ryan Graudin
As many people on the Internet have discovered, THE WALLED CITY underwent a cover change a few months before publication. I once heard a very well-established YA author say that, “Nothing is final until it’s on the bookshelf.” It turns out, this is true! I’d had over half a year to get used to THE WALLED CITY’s original cover, which looked something like this:
I loved this cover for so many reasons. THE WALLED CITY has a very unique atmosphere and I think the first cover caught the tone of the novel perfectly. The Hak Nam Walled City is a very dark, maze-like place, and the bottom of this cover caught that perfectly. The girl’s face in the middle captures the loneliness and longing of all three main characters. And the red dragon looming at the top is the perfect symbol of the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon, the ruthless gang that controls the city. (I love the dragon. He’s my favorite.)
But it was decided that this cover, while capturing the lyrical, atmospheric side of the novel, did not do justice to the story’s high-octane action. There were also those who were concerned that the first cover would not grab the attention of teenage boys.
So back to the drawing board the cover designers went. There were many different redesigns, but in the end they came up with this cover:
While this is very different from its predecessor, I think it does an amazing job of capturing the action of the book. The tagline “Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.” immediately lays out the high stakes of surviving in the Hak Nam Walled City. I love the colors, especially the choice of red, since it’s a very significant shade in both Chinese culture and the book. I love how well the map outline of the book shows up against the black. And I love that the title is modeled specifically after Chinese calligraphy. All of these things really make it pop when you see it on the bookshelf!
In the end, the original cover didn’t die completely. (A bookstore chain in Canada picked it up in a special edition.) I get to have the best of both worlds!
What do you guys think? Do you have a favorite of the two covers?