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Review: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Hey all, Dani here.

Continuing my focus this month on books for GLBT Book Month, as well as focusing on books by black authors, I’m excited to be bringing you a book review for a book that fits in both categories. Yay.

So, I’ve read a few books by N.K. Jemisin now, including The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Killing Moonand this one–and I’m currently reading The Fifth Season, and honestly I can say that they have all been so different and yet so vividly realized and deeply written. I need to re-read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms so I can complete the trilogy and write up reviews.

Basically, what I’m saying is that N.K. Jemisin is a fantastic fantasy writer, and I’m so happy to be reading more of her books.

All right, let’s jump into the review.


Book Details

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 437

Publisher: Orbit Books

Publication Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 0356512665 (ISBN13: 9780356512662)


Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

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.

My Thoughts

Rating: 4.5 stars

I’m just going to start off by saying that I’m not a fan of Lovecraft. It has nothing to do with who he was as a person or even his writing style–because I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think I’ve actually read any Lovecraftian horror. Honestly all the tentacle monsters rank up there with zombies in terms of creatures that give me the creeps. I don’t actively seek out books with zombies or Cthulhu like creatures.

I have read up some about Lovecraft and the creepy elder gods of his stories, plus, many of them do show up as gods/monsters in D&D as well. So I at least have an understanding of those elements of story.

N.K. Jemisin is a master storycrafter and storyteller. Seriously, this book brings together so many different elements and so many different character types and fantasy/sci-fi sub-genres, and somehow it all works brilliantly. I was immersed in this story pretty quickly, intrigued by these sub-Avatars of New York as they started putting the pieces together and figuring out what they needed to do to find the prime Avatar of New York and wake them up so the city could survive the birthing process.

Just the fact that when cities develop so much in terms of culture and stories and presence then the city selects a person to be the manifestation of the city in human form, and the city goes through a process of being born and having its essence imbued into a person. Most cities simply have one manifestation, one Avatar. But some cities have a little more size and a little more personality differences, so sub-Avatars also happen. That is the case with New York, so there are representatives of each of the boroughs of New York.

Getting to know each of these boroughs was really cool, because they were all so different, and fascinating, and diverse. I will say that a majority of the boroughs are female, which was cool. But some are cocky, some are tough, some are resilient, some are terrified. In this cast of characters we have many people of color and several characters who identify as part of the LGBTQIAP+ community. And it is all just so effortless.

Then there’s the villain of the story, a being that all the characters pretty much end up calling The Woman in White, and I’ve seen other readers describe her as a souped-up Karen, which is pretty accurate, honestly. She comes to New York City from another world that wants to take over here, and she pretty much starts accomplishing that by infecting places and people with these white tentacles that seem to bring out the worst traits of racism, sexism, and more, out of the populace. These tentacles are your clue that this whole story sort of utilizes some Lovecraftian horror elements.

But that’s about as far as I’m going to take you in this story. It is fascinating, full of twists and turns, revelations, action, and so much more. The book summary above, as well as the different book summary on the dust jacket flap, don’t give you much more, and I don’t want to spoil any of the reading experience for anyone.

All I can say is that this is an impressive read, and I hope that what I’ve said has intrigued you enough that you want to pick it up and read it yourself. As for me, I’m going to keep reading more books by N.K. Jemisin, and hope that the wait until this book’s sequel isn’t too long.

Where to Get a Copy

You can pick up your own copy of this book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or from your local indie bookstore through IndieBound.

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