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The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became

by N.K. Jemisin

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Quick take

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

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Series

    First in series

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical



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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The City We Became.
The City We Became


See, What Had Happened Was

I sing the city.

Fucking city. I stand on the rooftop of a building I don’t live in and spread my arms and tighten my middle and yell nonsense ululations at the construction site that blocks my view. I’m really singing to the cityscape beyond. The city’ll figure it out.

It’s dawn. The damp of it makes my jeans feel slimy, or maybe that’s ’cause they haven’t been washed in weeks. Got change for a wash-and-dry, just not another pair of pants to wear till they’re done. Maybe I’ll spend it on more pants at the Goodwill down the street instead... but not yet. Not till I’ve finished going AAAAaaaaAAAAaaaa (breath) aaaaAAAAaaaaaaa and listening to the syllable echo back at me from every nearby building face. In my head, there’s an orchestra playing “Ode to Joy” with a Busta Rhymes backbeat. My voice is just tying it all together.

Shut your fucking mouth! someone yells, so I take a bow and exit the stage.

But with my hand on the knob of the rooftop door, I stop and turn back and frown and listen, ’cause for a moment I hear something both distant and intimate singing back at me, basso-deep. Sort of coy.

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (3,326)

  • Alaia S.

    Frisco, TX

    Jemisin’s writing isn’t for those looking for a quick read, but if you enjoy books that boggle your mind and make you think more deeply about yourself and the world, her writing is the one to do that.

  • Sarah L.

    New York, NY

    Funny, weird, and original! Amazingly fleshed out characters that I love deeply. My favorite book in a long time, in no small part due to my own love for NYC which is mirrored in the author’s writing.

  • Piper M.

    Denver, CO

    Super intriguing; I will definitely continue the series. Jemisin’s love of playing with language is on full display here, and her commentary on culture is, as always, insightful and thought-provoking.

  • Alan H.

    Burlington, NC

    Definitely the first book in a series, but the world built is unique and captivating. Jemisin gives a biting critique of gentrification, and effortlessly weaves it into this science fiction adventure.

  • Joanna L.

    Baldwin Park, CA

    This book really got me sucked in once I found my pace. The author definitely had quite the tribute to NYC and getting to see this iconic city through the sci-fi narrative was a journey. Fun read 8/10

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