The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin | Book Review
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Imagine a world where great cities lay slumbering, waiting for the time they become something else, something sentient. New York City is waking, and it’s chosen six avatars to bring about its rise. But another being is trying to take over the city for its own gains. Planting seeds of distrust among the people and bringing their darker intentions to the surface. The avatars will find citizens of their boroughs turning against them as their adversary moves between bodies, searching for a proper foothold in their world to destroy them.
N.K. Jemisin has embodied New York City in a creative and startling way. The avatars are walking and talking human representatives of their borough. Even though they are all from the city, each of the avatars is surprisingly different. The attitudes and cultures of those within the boroughs influence how the avatars react to different situations. Readers are also given background information on each borough and how the people within them have grown to be so different from each other. I loved the drops of history and world-building woven into the story to create a complete picture of each borough. The amount of detail and attention that is given to each borough’s perspective fascinated me.
I also enjoyed the vague and mysterious antagonist. Leaving the reader in the dark about the extent of its power and abilities gave an added layer of complexity. As the boroughs struggled to learn their new responsibilities they were also forced to defend themselves. And the battle wasn’t just on a metaphysical front. The antagonist infected people with racist and bigoted views. It sent these people to spew their hatred through various public displays and acts of violence. But the avatars went toe to toe with them and used public support to fight back as well as their latent powers given to them by the boroughs.
The characterization of the boroughs was stunning. Each avatar’s personality matched their borough’s people and the way they interacted with one another. Their separate histories were laced with emotion and explained the biases they carried. As some came to realize their biases, they inwardly began to work on re-evaluating how they viewed one another, but not everyone was able to do so. From their dialogue to their mannerism, and even how they presented themselves, everything came together to showcase New York City’s diverse culture. And I loved every minute of it.
The City We Became is an amazing deep dive into modern society and all its complexity and nuances. The depth of imagination in this book and the brilliant way N.K. Jemisin portrayed prejudice is astounding. If you have the chance, listen to this one as an audiobook. The narration was fantastic. Being able to hear the different dialects used in New York City will add to your experience. Not to mention the wonderful audio effects added when characters were hearing audio cues differently. I highly recommend this to fans of complex world-building.
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