The City We Became lines up with The Starless Sea for my top book of 2020 (with a third hot on their heels, but I’ll get to that in a later review). It’s so mind bogglingly bananas good I have no idea how I’m going to put it to words, but I’m going to try.
Late last year I finally read N. K. Jemisin’s short story collection, How Long Till Black Future Month, and of course it was amazing and I loved seeing the genesis of so many of her series. I’d finished all 3 before getting to the short stories, so The City We Became was my first time encountering these in the reverse – reading the short form, and then watching it unfold into a novel. And just aaahhhh it’s SO GOOD.
Cities! We talk about them so often as their own entities, almost as living things, but what if they could be. What if, at the precipice of enough history and culture and meaning, a city could be born, coming to life in the form of a single avatar? Not all cities succeed and a failed awakening – New Orleans, Port au Price – means devastation, but now it’s New York’s turn. The complex creature that she is, New York’s avatar is supported by avatars from each of her boroughs and it will take all six standing together to defeat the force that would see them fail.
This book is also a love letter to New York. Only someone who knows this city and wants to know it more could write this book. Jemisin is once again just astonishing, fully established as one of the greatest writers and creators of this generation. I was absolutely blown away and so fully in love with this book I don’t even have the words for it. Another that I need to buy and keep on my shelves so I can lend it out at my leisure.