Reviews for The City We Became

by NK Jemisin

Publishers Weekly
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The staggering contemporary fantasy that launches three-time Hugo Award-winner Jemisin’s new trilogy (following the Broken Earth series) leads readers into the beating heart of New York City for a stunning tale of a world out of balance. After hundreds of years of gestation, New York City is awakening to sentience, but “postpartum complications” threaten to destroy it. An alien, amorphous force, personified by the Woman in White, launches an attack on New York. Five people—one for each of the city’s five boroughs—are called to become avatars dedicated to protecting the city. If they can combine their powers, they’ll be able to awaken the avatar of the city as a whole and defeat the Woman in White, but first they’ll have to find each other. While the Woman in White works to undermine them, the five avatars, whose personalities delightfully mirror the character of their respective boroughs (the Bronx is “creative with an attitude,” Manhattan is “smart, charming, well-dressed, and cold enough to strangle you in an alley if we still had alleys”), learn the extent of their new powers. Jemisin’s earthy, vibrant New York is mirrored in her dynamic, multicultural cast. Blending the concept of the multiverse with New York City arcana, this novel works as both a wry adventure and an incisive look at a changing city. Readers will be thrilled. Agent: Lucienne Diver, the Knight Agency. (Mar.)


Library Journal
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Every city has a soul, and in this new work, poundingly exciting New York City has six, as suggested by the six newborn avatars about to come to its rescue. An ancient evil is rising up, ready to level the city. The start of a new series from the New York Times best-selling author and winner of multiple awards, including three consecutive Hugos.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

People feel the moods of the cities they live in. Sometimes the cities themselves become living things, connected to all the lives within their limits. New York City has been born, but there is an otherworldly and dark force determined to destroy those connections and overlay itself. It will take the soul of the city to deal with the enemy. Of course it isn't so simple: New York is six souls: the five boroughs and the whole, and getting them to work together will be challenging. The pains of gentrification, bias, and hatred for anyone "other" is starting to take root, spread by the power that wants to take over. Can these distinct souls find a way to come together before the enemy takes hold, or will the city bend to a power literally out of this world? VERDICT Jemisin (The Broken Earth) writes a harsh love story to one of America's most famous places. As raw and vibrant as the city itself, the prose pushes the boundaries of fantasy and brings home what residents already know—their city is alive. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/19.]—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author's home of New York, expands her story "The City, Born Great" (from How Long 'Til Black Future Month, 2018).When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City's time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star-turned-lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city's tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don't need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.Fierce, poetic, uncompromising. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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