The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a fantasy that uses the city of New York fantastically. In many ways, the city is a character along with the five main characters. Each city in this reality has a human avatar; when the avatar dies, the city they are associated with begins to chaos. New York’s city essence is split between five people residing in each borough of New York; the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.
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Each avatar comes from different backgrounds and walks of life that bring a broad culture rare in fantasy books, at least from what I have read. If anything, Jemisin writes these characters very distinctly from one another, bringing many ideas and knowledge to the forefront. There is a love for New York that Jemisin clearly carries with her, along with some loathing of traits New York has. (I’ve never been, so I am assuming the author knows way more than I do)
With the different personalities of the characters come much dialogue, which I usually love in books. However, the dialogue, as great and witty as is it much of the time, tended to bog down the story. There is nothing wrong with it per se, but in a fantasy novel such as this, I just expected more of the fantasy to flow through.
If the Neil Gaiman praise on the top of the hardcover makes you want to read this book, then you are in luck because this story is something that he could have come up with. If I read this book without know who the author was, Gaiman would have been my first guess. There is a very American Gods-like approach to this novel that fans will enjoy or dislike because of how similar it comes across.
When the book arrives to climax, the end comes around a bit abruptly. All the tense build-up around the final showdown, sort to speak, just seems to happen and how it is resolved came across as extremely convenient.
I do recommend The City We Became. Even with the extensive amount of dialogue that brings the progression at a snail’s pace at times and the sudden ending, I can’t deny the imagination and talent that went behind writing it. I read that this was the first part of an overarching story, but I’m not sure I will personally be invested in continuing.
3 and a half out of 5…or 4 on Goodreads.