After making history as the first writer to win the Hugo Award for best novel three years in a row for her Broken Earth trilogy, N.K. Jemisin kicks off another ambitious trilogy with The City We Became, an urban fantasy that transforms New York City into a multiversal battleground. The author--a 2020 MacArthur Fellow--has written a paean to a much-celebrated metropolis, though it is far from an uncomplicated portrait. The supernatural threats facing her protagonists often piggyback on some of the very real challenges facing the city, from racist policing to gentrification. The City We Became is about New York fighting for its life in more ways than one.
In Jemisin's novel, "great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn." The City We Became is about New York City giving birth to itself, becoming a "living, thinking entity shaped like a big-ass city." The city is vulnerable in the process, necessitating the help of human avatars it imbues with the power of each of the five boroughs. When something goes wrong with the city's birth, the avatars--Jemisin's protagonists--must learn to wield the city's strength against an otherworldly entity bent on its destruction.
The novel's imaginatively realized battles against Lovecraftian evil exist alongside Jemisin's interpretation of New York City, which is bound to both raise hackles and inspire recognition among New Yorkers. A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2020, The City We Became is a fierce, opinionated vision of a storied metropolis facing down existential threats. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine