The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin | Fantasy Book Review

I feel compelled to speak honestly about the bad things that happen in that world. … If I’m going to go there, then I’m going to go there in a realistic way.

NK Jemisin in an interview on “Nerdette”

To call The City We Became — the latest fantasy book by the glorious worldbuilder who is NK Jemisin — escapist in these trying times is not quite right. Sure, her New York, with its otherworldly-yet-human embodiments of the 5 boroughs and the malicious enemies leaching the city of its character, isn’t real life. But two sides of that coin are so close together. There’s something so ~true~ about this story.

Jemisin has crafted a world that is both so familiar and so inventive at the same time. When you hear Manny, or Bronca or Aislyn speak, I can’t help but feel like no other characters could so perfectly incapsulate the boroughs they fight for: the good sides and the bad.

And she crafted an enemy that so masterfully captures the insidiousness of that evil: both subverting the Lovecraftian origins of such a being (the otherworldly villain) and overtly talking about racism, xenophobia, gentrification etc (the real-life villain). This is a world I want to know everything about: what happened to other cities, what magic/powers would New Orleans have versus Beijing. Thankfully there are two more books on the way to fully immerse myself in!

In times like these, looking for an escape in books is not always the right answer. There are real problems we need to pull up and face. It’s not an easy fight. But maybe, when your heart needs a rest, you can turn here: where the evil is tangible white tendrils creeping along on the sides of your vision — evil that can easily be defeated with the right help.

P.S. I’d be remiss as an audiobook account to not mention the FANTASTIC production from Hachette Audio with the always fabulous narrator Robin Miles. She personified this world and these characters like you wouldn’t believe. HIGHLY recommend listening to this one.

P.P.S. The proof of concept for this novel, short story “The City Born Great,” can be found for free on, if you wanted a taste of the story before diving in.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The City We Became (Great Cities #1) by NK Jemisin
Read on audio, with narrator Robin Miles

Have you read this one yet? Which city would you be most intrigued to hear come alive like this?

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