The City We Became

(Great Cities #1)

Hardcover, 437 pages

English language

Published April 9, 2020 by Orbit.


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4 stars (14 reviews)

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She's got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

4 editions

And What a City It Is!

5 stars

“The City We Became,” by N.K. Jemisin, reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s works. Not necessarily in prose, but certainly in worldbuilding. The concept of Avatars of cities, the power of stories and belief, and using old myths to spin modern fantasies, all certainly do.

The characters are all very well done, with each having a very distinct personality and perspective, and by extension give an interesting view of New York according to the author - a place I have admittedly never been (drive-through doesn’t count, I think). They also bounce off each other in interesting, dramatic, sometimes charming and sometimes tragic ways. I find the dynamics fascinating when the Characters ARE the setting.

That was aided in how I read this book - the audiobook version - which was an absolutely fantastic experience. The reader was able to give each character a very distinct voice, mannerism, and accent, …

The City We Became by N.K. Jemison

4 stars

Content warning Spoilers

Wild ride

4 stars

This story will make such a great movie one day. Clearly cinematographic writing takes the reader through a fast-paced urban adventure. The main characters, city avatars, have been transformed into boroughs of New York. In other words, the City comes alive through the lives and bodies of Manny (Manhattan), Bronca (The Bronx), Brooklyn (Brooklyn), Padmini (Queens) and the primary avatar. They have to work together to defend the city against the invasion of a foreign being aiming to halt the growth and spirit of the city, and consequently cause conflict, pain and suffering. Aislyn (Staten Island), will find herself at a crossroads and have to choose which side she's on.

New York is the main character of this book, which is a complete whilrwind tour of a city under attack, but fighting back. Special appearances by avatars Sao Paulo and Hong Kong bring even more diversity to this urban mix …

My review of 'The City We Became'

5 stars

Oh my. This book is so good! It's such a phenomenal subversion of Lovecraft's notion of horror while also being an excellent piece of Cosmic Horror that people have come to thoughouly associate with Lovecraft. The characters are vibrant and compelling, and so delightfully diverse! They are all very different people and it matters in the story, their diversity is a reflection of the diversity that is essential to the plot. This might be a go to example for me to point people to what meaningful diversity in characters looks like.

And the worldbuilding! I love it so much! What an incredibly cool and thought provoking was to construct a fictional reality. And I'm not entirely sure that it's all that fictional. The worldbuilding is born directly out of real problems and real struggles of communities. The birth of a city both invokes and evokes ideas that I'll be contemplating …

Putting "urban" in "urban fantasy"

4 stars

The City We Became is urban fantasy, in that it features a bunch of magical stuff happening in a modern day city. It's also urban fantasy in that it is about cities. People are cities and cities are people, and not in a metaphorical way, but in a more supernatural and literal way.

N. K. Jemisin manages to channel the spirit of New York City (where the novel's action focuses) through the novel's characters, without resorting to tired and popular stereotypes of the city and its people. While in a way the book is an ode to New York, it also doesn't shy away from some of its more dark and shameful aspects. All of this is wrapped up in writing that manages to be evocative and sufficiency casual to flow well. The book paints an engaging picture of both the real New York, and its fictional, supernatural, embodied New …

The City We Became

4 stars

This book was unlike anything I've read before (which is totes what I say every time I read one of Jemisin's books, but yanno). I loved how far out this one is, and how vividly I could see all of this coming together in my head even when the prose didn't... super make sense. There was some scifi/fantasy plodding at moments, and some of the characters didn't get as much airtime/development as others, but by and large this was a wild ride, exceedingly creative, and highly recommended. PS: I <3 Bronca and I hope she's in the next one!

Review of 'The City We Became' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Read it twice now. I am amazed by N.K. Jemisin. She is so creative.

This series is filled with brilliant characters and a plot that is dramatic and a lot of fun. It is, however, a character driven story. Read once, then listened to the audiobook. I rarely say the audiobook is a must... but this time it's UNMISSABLE. Robin MIles has better voices even than what is in my head. So fun...

Review of 'The City We Became' on 'LibraryThing'

4 stars

There's a lot in this book. A love letter mainly to NYC but also to cities in general. And at the same time a really powerful allegory about whiteness and the terrible work it does - one which has only felt more timely in the few weeks since I read it. But I also found it kind of a frustrating read, because Jemisin repeatedly interrupts a good, clear story to somewhat condescendingly say "look reader, this bit's about whiteness", when the plot and characters were doing the work and really didn't need that help.[return][return]I do want to read the next in the series, but I hope that in book 2 she's more content to let the storytelling work.

Review of 'The City We Became' on 'Unknown'

5 stars

If I only knew how to write a fitting review.

The timing of this book's publication is as perfect as the story itself. This is a beautiful book despite dealing with a prime selection of the most horrible things life can throw at us: hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, intersectionality, gentrification and even a very little dash of MRM.

Now, we just need to wait for the rest of the trilogy.

Review of 'The City We Became' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This was an excellent book. Jemisin manages to take an already well-established setting, the "mythological" New York, and take it to new heights with surrealist magic and eldritch horrors. A diverse set of characters lead the story as the avatars of the five boroughs of New York and it's really neat to see them embracing who they are and interacting with each other. Thanks to a fast paced plot, I finished this fairly quickly and kept wanting for more as there are some tantalizing mysteries left out in the open. I was presently surprised to hear in the acknowledgements (yes, I read those too) that this is the first of a trilogy. Looking forward to more books in this strange new universe!

For a full review, check out my blog:

Review of 'The City We Became' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

The bad news first: it's not quite up to the standards set with the Broken Earth Trilogy. Followed by the good news: this is still an excellent start to Jemisin's new trilogy about living cities and I liked it a lot.

The prologue is the short story I already read in How Long Til Black Future Month, in which a young homeless man becomes the city of New York with the help of the embodiment of Sao Paulo, and defeats a threat. But the threat weakens New York, and so he needs the help of the five boroughs Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to help him battle the Lovecraftian nemesis that is trying to take over New York. The embodied boroughs have to find each other and join up to find New York, and that's not as easy as it seems, as their foe does everything to stop …

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  • Fantasy
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Magic
  • Fiction
  • New York City
  • Multiverse