Review: The City We Became

Three-time Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author N.K. Jemisin crafts her most incredible novel yet, a “glorious” story of culture, identity, magic, and myths in contemporary New York City.

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.


This is my book review for The City We Became by NK Jemisin

I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.

TLDR: I LOVED this book.

Ok. Just a heads up. I love speculative fiction and this book is speculative fiction. Technically, one could call this book horror because some scary stuff happens, but *I* wasn’t scared even if the main characters were so I am not calling it horror.


It is present-day… sort of. No pandemic (obviously?) but still contemporary. But also… this world has some new mythos, some new rules, and some fantastical elements. I totally dig it.

One thing: it was pretty clear from the get-go that the city of New York was going to be a major player. And I mean both the geography and the culture and all the rest of what makes New York, New York. 

Now, I am not from New York and I have never been to New York. My understanding of New York is pretty limited to Law and Order reruns and usually choosing to not read books that feature some white woman “living in New York who seems to have it all….” So, I was a little worried that I was going to feel lost or have to keep flipping back to the very helpful map at the start of the book. (I did flip back on the regular, but it wasn’t as necessary as I thought it would be.) Thankfully Jemisin seems to understand that she is writing for non-New Yorkers and handles this potential issue really well. See my note on Characters. 

Style / Plot

I like Jemisin’s style. There are elements that I don’t understand at first but she writes with such confidences that I trust that I will be told what I need to know when I need to know it. My trust is well-founded and then rewarded. 

The plot moves along at a quick pace… until the end where I felt it was a little rushed… and a few things weren’t wrapped up… because this is part of a trilogy, a fact I didn’t realize until I had finished. Bummer. I didn’t want to get sucked into a series. But. Apparently, I have because I cannot wait for the next book.


I liked all the characters. I rooted for all the characters. They were diverse enough to be interesting and they worked together well to really cement the idea of New York. One character, in particular, was (thankfully) a bit of an audience identification stand-in as he is “new” and has to have things (like geography and reputations) explained to him. I was very grateful for this.

It would be irresponsible to talk about this book without discussing race. New York is the city of immigrants and it is one of the most racially diverse cities. So the fact that most of the main characters are not white makes sense. I say most… it is actually all but one. There is one white main character… and while she is sympathetic, she is also deeply, deeply, flawed. 

I can’t say too much without spoiling major plot points, but I will say that I really appreciate that when any character makes a boneheaded (bigoted) decision, Jemisin gives us enough cultural context to understand the “why” even as she makes no apologies or justifications for the bad actions. 


Yes. Highly entertaining. It felt shorter than it was.It was compelling and full of tension. Even though the ending put us pretty much where one hoped, there were enough twists along the way that I was engaged the whole time. 

Why THIS book?

When I read Parable of the Sower, NK Jemisin had written the forward. That name tickled my brain and I remembered that back in my FogCon days, her name was everywhere. BUT she seemed to write mostly series books, and I don’t have the time (nor inclination) to get enthralled with a series… le sigh. I didn’t realize this book was book 1 in a trilogy… and now I am sucked in.

Would I recommend it?

Hells yes. I don’t usually like series books, but I cannot wait to read the next book in this series. I am also going to be spending some serious money on other NK Jemisin projects. This book is why I love speculative fiction so much. I might even start reading series books again (gulp). This book is a shining example of a genre-bending fun fun FUN book!

*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)

A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.

S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?

P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?

E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?

C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?

T This? Why did I read *This* book?

Thank you for your support!

Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments or send me an email.

Published by kayliametcalfe

Queer,loudmouth,skeptical-agnostic-pagan,book addict,coffee lover,wine drinker, SAHM,writer,editor,producer,podcaster. -She/her

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