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The City We Became

(Great Cities #1)

by
3.91  ·  Rating details ·  54,219 ratings  ·  9,452 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 an
...more
Hardcover, 437 pages
Published March 24th 2020 by Orbit
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  54,219 ratings  ·  9,452 reviews


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Victoria Schwab
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit, this book was so weird, and so good.
Regan
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
literally amazing
chai ♡
find this review & others on my blog

New York might be born in the world only to be shown right out of it.

Early in “The City We Became”, New York’s human avatar, a young queer Black man living in the streets, tries to salvage the City, to hold the breaking jar, keep his fingers over the cracks, but a battle with the Enemy—who sent forth the police as its harbingers—had worn him to little more than edges. He is weak and unsteady as moonlight on water, and the City was a candle that might b
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Nataliya
2021 (written after the shine wore off): It’s disappointing when on the second read the shine wears off. Leave your darlings alone, I guess?

I love Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy with fiery passion that held up on rereads. But this one should have remained a single frenetic read last year (when grappling with pneumonia and burning with fever) because a slower, more focused revisit was a different experience.
“Well, now we know what her super-special power is, I guess: magic xenophobia.”

What Je
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carol.
Surprisingly underwhelming for me. Admittedly, I'm not a huge new-adult fan, and this has 'coming-of-age' plot line all over. I was also surprised that there was a strong Lovecraftian vibe going on here--add this to the growing body of work subverting Lovecraft's (white) universe. So perhaps there were a couple flavors that were not intriguing to my reading preferences. On the other side, I like N.K. Jemisin, and one of her books is in my top twenty list. I'm also fond of NYC in its many varieti ...more
Nilufer Ozmekik
Oh no! I think this review will earn me so much glances, hater looks, curses and a unique place in the minority because when you get one of your favorite authors’ book into your hands, you get excited, hardly slow down your heart rate and want to devour it at few bites! You truly expect more and deserve more because you know what the author is capable of and how unique talent she is. So this is first for me giving three stars to one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Stop booing me or thr ...more
Alix Harrow
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want you to understand that you're not ready for this book. Even if you've read Jemisin's other work, even if you've read The City Born Great, which is the starting place for this book (https://www.tor.com/2016/09/28/the-ci...).

You're not ready for the fun and pop of it, the rhythm and beat. You're not ready for the wit and weight of it, the subversions that are both subtext and said out-loud. You're not ready for the cleanness and cleverness of the prose, the daring of it, the way the whole t
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S.A. Chakraborty
Without a doubt, one of the most brilliant books I have ever had the honor of reading. A brilliant homage to New York City, packed with all its love and harshness, and so incredibly inventive that I felt my own imagination and the boundaries of what fantasy can be expand.
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Nope. On to the next. Don’t ask me! Sometimes I love her books and sometimes I don’t 🤔🤨



Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
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Rebecca Roanhorse
A wonderfully inventive love letter to New York City that spans the multiverse. A big middle finger to Lovercraft with a lot of heart, creativity, smarts and humor. A timely and audacious allegorical tale for our times. This book is all these things and more.

The story started a bit slow as our team assembles, but once our heroes are together (or as together as they're gonna be), it was a blast - sharp and insightful but also just fun. There are definitely some creepy and disturbing moments, and
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Tatiana
Tragically, not one thing about this novel is holding my attention. You also have to be very open to social justice issues (the issues I whole heartedly support in real life) being bluntly jack hammered into the narrative, something that was never present in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, where the author’s political and social commentary was woven into a tremendously interesting fantasy story with nuance and measure. Jemisin’s ability to show rather than tell disappeared somewhere in the proce ...more
Claudia ✨
“Come, then, City That Never Sleeps. Let me show you what lurks in the empty spaces where nightmares dare not tread.”

When I first read The Fifth Season, it was like taking a cold shower - almost like waking up, since I had no idea that you could actually write like that. But N.K. Jemisin doesn't play by the rules; instead she creates her own, stomping all over both genres and everything binary to create something amazing that is purely hers. I love it, and I love her. That's why it broke my hea
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Phrynne
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never been to New York (although it is definitely on my bucket list), but after reading this book I feel as though I know the city well. Jemisin has a wonderful way with words and she makes you feel the energy and excitement of the place, as well as providing vivid descriptions of the settings.

I loved her characters too. Each one represents a part of the city and has characteristics in keeping with their chosen home – and - I can’t think what to write next without going into Spoilerland.

I
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Anne Bogel
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily one of my favorite books of the year, and I'm grateful this is the first installment of a planned trilogy. How soon till I can read book 2?

Every city has a soul, and the great cities of civilization—like Rome, Athens, São Paolo—finally reach a point when they come to life. Now it’s New York’s time to be born, but the city itself is too weakened by a gruesome attack to complete the process. If New York is to live, five people—or, more precisely,
five avatars, one for each of the city’s bor
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mwana
Many things die so that something else can live. Since we’re the ones who get to live, we should offer thanks to those worlds for contributing themselves to our survival—and we owe it to them, as well as our own world’s people, to struggle as hard as we can.
This has been referred to before as an homage to New York and a call to arms. It is a genre bending amalgamation of storytelling. Part Lovecraftian horror, part speculative fiction, part inter-dimensional superhero sci-fi, part fa
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Mariah
This book is a love letter to New York in the absolute worst way possible.

(This is about to get long because I've been making notes for a week as I read it)

If you don't know anything about the city I'd say don't even bother. It's just endless inside jokes and cultural idiosyncrasies. I immediately felt like an outsider and while it seems at its face that the author is trying to invite you into this secret club - teach you about the real New York - it falls flat because of the sheer amount of con
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Robin Brown
The positives:-

Says some interesting things about race and inclusivity both in general life and within the Sci-Fi genre. There is a fair amount of intertextuality with the work of H.P Lovecraft, as well as repeated criticisms of his world view. Lovecraft is a pillar of the genre, despite his now widely publicised racism, anti-semitism and homophobia. He remains hugely popular so it’s good to see a big name name in contemporary sci-fi confront him like this.

The negatives:-

The writing is patchy; v
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Plamen Nenchev
Apr 05, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy
If you picked this up because you liked Inheritance and The Broken Earth, check your expectations at the door: The City We Became is nothing like them. And while saying that this book has rubbed me the wrong way is an understatement, this is hardly motivated by subjective reasons alone:

IDEA: Call me simple, but I like my stories human, my characters relatable, my conflict engaging. Cities that are ‘midwifed’ through song and afterwards battle Lovecraftian monsters through human avatars? How can
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Anthony
This is a wild ride, and reading it I felt the exhilaration of watching the incredibly talented N.K. Jemisin riff on many tropes of popular speculative entertainment in increasingly fun ways. Tropes surrounding the superhero origin story, the diverse fellowship of strangers joining together to defeat an Enemy story, the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft, and stereotypes of what New Yorkers are like; Jemisin filters them all through her abundantly humane, fiercely progressive, and joyfully propulsive p ...more
Bradley
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming back to Jemisin, my expectations are extraordinarily high. After reading the short fiction that this novel was based on, it made me wonder and scheme and imagine where it would go.

I mean, hey! This is all about human avatars being created out of a City, FOR the City's own protection and soul! It's like crossing American Gods with a NY monster movie with the SOUL of xenophobia (or any other kind of prejudice).

Coming into this, however, I should recommend that you manage your expectations.
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P. Clark
Nov 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Listen, I'm always here for some N.K. Jemisin. Been down like that since Inheritance Trilogy. But I didn't know what to expect from a story like this--set in our real world. Would it be as imaginative? As immersive? Filled with characters I could sink my teeth into? Yes, Yes, and Hell Yes! This book is Lovecraftian cosmic horror brought (quite literally) into our world, using NYC as a backdrop. As a one-time NY'er born in Queens raised partly in Staten Island as a kid, and later re-transplated t ...more
Dima
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I want to start by saying that I've read all of Jemisin's novels to date, and have enjoyed all of them thoroughly! They are vibrant, dynamic, fascinating and fresh. This applies to The Killing Moon duology, as much as it does to The Broken Earth Trilogy: The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky. I've been a huge fan for years, and I think the author is truly one of the most innovative voices in the new generation of fantasy fiction.
Unfortunately, I can't say much of this applies to this
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Meagan
Sep 05, 2018 marked it as dnf-try-again-later  ·  review of another edition
3/27/20 I am reading 3 other books right now and I tried desperately to finish at least one before starting this, BUT FUCK IT. I am starting this tonight! :)
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3/24/20 did I say I didn't like this cover?? Because now that I have it in my hands, I fucking love it! It's giving me all the 90's vibes! Ah I can't wait to start! I can't believe release day is finally here!
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2/15/20 so close to the release date now! Can't wait!!!! 🥰🥰
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Philip
4ish stars.

The creativity and world-building are as impressive as any of Jemisin's high fantasy series, and her prose keeps her unique stamp. But whereas her Broken Earth series is fearless and furious and powerful, her work here feels cautious and correct and utterly un-New York-ish. The wokeness is almost self-aware, bordering on parody. It disconnected me from the narrative at times.

Spoiler section:

It was a little on the nose that the only white character (besides the obvious symbolic evil
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Kon R.
Jan 17, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author paints a painfully underwhelming world filled with New York City stereotypes and lots of liberal dribble. Honestly, she takes a lot of liberties when dealing with race. At one point of the story a family gets evicted and instead of simply saying that they had back taxes due, the person had to clarify that this had nothing to do race. If you keep bringing race into the conversation claiming that you're not one, you're either a racist, liberal, or both.

"She shifts to her white voice be
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Allison Hurd
Don't read if you are preparing to read for SFFBC and want to go in without outside opinions!

(view spoiler)
...more
Zitong Ren
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The City We Became is N.K Jemisin’s newest book and it is the first novel in the Great Cities series and overall, it’s a pretty solid start. I had a good time reading it, and while I didn’t love it, it’s pretty solid fantasy, with an almost creepy and mysterious vibe to that was cool. There are a lot of primary characters and for a book that’s four hundred pages(which is not very for fantasy), it tried to accomplish a lot all while introducing the reader to a pretty interesting concept.

All of t
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Noria
Words! I don't know her! I can't describe her! All I know is that my hands are still shaking even though it's been almost two weeks since I finished this book. My body still feels jittery. My skin still feels tingly. This book reached out from within its bindings and dipped into my soul, clutching its fists around my heart. It hasn't let go since. I am in awe. I am amazed. I am shaken! How on earth is this the first N.K. Jemisin book I'm reading?!!! What on earth happened to me that I went this ...more
Jess Owens
Wow. I just did not care. It is aptly described as a love letter to New York.

New York is cool and all but I don’t care much about it. Didn’t care about these people as avatars of the Burroughs. Didn’t care about the messages. So much of it was so on the nose, I just couldn’t. And the story kept going and kept caring LESS. Won’t be continuing with this series. Still going to read her backlist.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this because it was included in the Tournament of Books' Camp ToB 2020 (you can see the final discussion on their website.) I like N.K. Jemisin but I don't always read past the first book of her series, and I think a closer examination of my feelings of this book help explain why.

In the book, people are transformed into different boroughs of New York City (one person per borough,) because the city is under attack. Some stereotypes are at play in those sections but it's fun as each person
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N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

Other books in the series

Great Cities (2 books)
  • The World We Make (Great Cities, #2)

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