ARC Review: THE CITY WE BECAME by N. K. Jemison

I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in yellow on grey city scape
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: yes - first book in trilogy


Book cover for THE CITY WE BECAME: title in yellow on a greyscale New York skyline

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


My rule of thumb is to give an author two books before I set them aside as not for me. THE CITY WE BECAME is that second book, and it also completely failed to engage me. (At least I didn’t doze off during this one!)

It’s simply way too bizarre for me – I completely understand why people kept asking the characters if they were high, because that’s what the book felt like. I had no idea what was happening at all at the start. These weird worm-tentacle things were there, then there was several POV changes with more of these weird events (that did feel like, in another book or genre, they’d be explained as hallucinations from drugs.) It took ages to work out what was happening, by which time I was not engaged at all because I’d spent too long being confused about what was happening and what anyone’s goals were.

I never felt like these characters’ goals were particularly laid bare in a way that I could understand the characters and connect to them. I could not really explain why they all decided to save the city despite their lives being on the line – or why they all just believed they were turning into embodiments of the city. Combine not understanding why the characters were following the plot with not understanding what the plot itself was doing, and it was a hard book to get through.

There are what felt to be a lot of references for people used to the city – and not just on the Easter Egg “oh, that’s fun” level. The basic idea of these people’s characteristics seemed defined by a borough’s characteristics – and they weren’t always clearly stated. As someone who’s only ever seen NY in movies, that all skipped me by.

Also, the book seems to be a reaction/critique of Lovecraft. I have never read any of his stuff (I’m assuming he’s a writer from the book’s references?) and based on the hints about him from this have no interest in ever reading him. So I probably missed a lot of meaning there.

Read my reviews of other books by N. K. Jemison:

The Broken Earth:

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