The latest from N.K. Jemisin is both an epic fantasy adventure and an ode to New York City in all its imperfect glory.
Good to know
First in series
Why I love it
Author, These Violent Delights
I grew up in awe of New York City, dreaming of the day when I could see the hustle and bustle for myself. It’s the city that everyone writes songs and poems about, the epicenter of so much art and magic. When I heard about the premise of The City We Became, my first thought was, “New York coming alive? That makes more sense than anything else, that’s for sure.”
Just as five boroughs make up New York, five “avatars” of each borough construct the main cast of this book, each with their flaws and strengths. When an otherworldly threat rises in the city, fueling bigotry and destruction, Manny and Brooklyn come together to search for the avatar of Queens, otherwise known as Padmini “Math Queen” Prakash. Elsewhere, Bronca must protect The Bronx until the other avatars reach her, while Aislyn on Staten Island is lured in by The Enemy, the antagonistic cosmic entity intent on laying waste to New York.
There are some books with a setting so fully-realized that the city is a character itself, and The City We Became fulfills this in both the literal and metaphorical sense. New York is a throbbing, frantic force, one that desperately wants to survive. It is complicated, as are the avatars who represent every facet of it. And in this emerges the most fulfilling story of strength, integrity, and resistance—of laying claim to a city that will live until the very end, human enemies or cosmic eldritch forces be damned.
In Manhattan, a young grad student gets off the train and realizes he doesn't remember who he is, where he's from, or even his own name. But he can sense the beating heart of the city, see its history, and feel its power.
In the Bronx, a Lenape gallery director discovers strange graffiti scattered throughout the city, so beautiful and powerful it's as if the paint is literally calling to her.
In Brooklyn, a politician and mother finds she can hear the songs of her city, pulsing to the beat of her Louboutin heels.
And they're not the only ones.
Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She's got six.