Review: The City We Became by N.K Jemisin

‘Every battle is a dance. She was always a good dancer at the pow wows, and these days? The steel toed boots dwell permanently in her soul.’

In the year of our lord, 2020, N.K Jemisin has declared ware on H.P Lovecraft and my word it’s about time someone did at last. Over the past few years I have seen some wonderful groups that would have been otherwise targeted by the stories of Lovecraft and re imagine his stories for a world that includes them. They shove themselves into these worlds reminding this dude everyone loves that they exist too in all worlds. Then N.K Jemisin showed up to the party and smashed his knee in.

Every great 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 six. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all

This is book has been one of the most anticipated SFF titles of the year and I was lucky enough to receive this for review and oh my word did it deliver. Jemisin will definitely be an author you would have heard of it you are any way in touch with SFF books, the Hugo’s or just any form of online book spaces for fantasy readers. This is a bit of a step back for Jemisin since this is a book set in our world. Her previous works have been set in far more distant worlds and this one is truly a shining star.

The beginning of a new trilogy, this journey actually began with her Tor.com short story, The City Born Great. I have never been to New York myself but I felt every single twist and turn of the city as it moved off the page. Each and every street and person felt as real and genuine as the book itself. Its hard to write imaginary worlds like the Dreaming, Discworld and Hogwarts but its hard to make a real place live on a page. The impact of the otherworldly dangers felt even more surreal as a result.

Where the book really shines here is through each and every character. Like with many of the author’s books, most characters are PoC along with not being any shape or form of hetero normative. The majority of the book is focused on the characters since they are the city itself and does as a result take a bit longer to assemble them all for the final act but I really liked that part of it. This felt very true to the struggle of meeting people that are supposed to be ‘on your side’ but when you finally meet them they are just a regular idiot like you.

The play off of certain boroughs of New York against was very entertaining but was woven within one of the main themes of the plot. That of course being breaking the mold society has made for you and throwing the plaster dust back in their faces. Noone does confronting bias and bigotry like Jemisin but something I really loved was that despite 90% of the characters being not white, each has to confront some form of bias they have or even in cases, a type of privilege.

I mentioned this already but I challenge anyone to find fault with the writing. This book did take me a bit longer than I thought it would to finish but every time I picked this up I was hooked on every sentence, every word and the flow of the plot is so seamless that I never even realised the end was coming. Jemisin jumps between 3 different persons, from first right up to third , and it is done so well that it will not break the engagement of the story. Every city has a soul and N.K Jemisin has captured it here as a testament to everyone who grew up in one both loving and hating it at the same time.

I want to thank Nazia from Orbit so much for sending me a finished copy of this book to review. This will not disappoint and is definitely one of my favourite books of the year. Thank you for reading this and do tell me if you are going to read this! Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Sunday Shorts: 3 Mini Reviews (08.12.19)

Good evening all and welcome back to Sunday Shorts! I’ve decided to try and run this section of the blog bi weekly and see how I get on. This week I have another novella, short story and a graphic novel for you all. And before you ask, yes. Neil Gaiman is in this one too.

In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.
Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.
Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.
The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.
Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.
  • Title: Blanky
  • Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
  • Genre: Contemporary horror

    After reading Sour Candy for the last round of Sunday Shorts I thought this would be the best follow up to reading Kealan Patrick Burke. Unfortunately this was a bit meh for me and it was a slog to finish. One aspect of the book is the discussion of grief and particularly the death of an infant. I do think that was handled very well but the story itself was not as good as I expected and the plot lacked in places. I still intend to read more of Burke’s work but this one was not for me.

★★★/5

In this standalone short story by N. K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Season, the winner of this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel, New York City is about to go through a few changes. Like all great metropolises before it, when a city gets big enough, old enough, it must be born; but there are ancient enemies who cannot tolerate new life. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts of a reluctant midwife…and how well he can learn to sing the city’s mighty song
  • Title: The City Born Great
  • Author: N.K Jemisin
  • Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

    This was a nice story and a bit of a different work than what I’m used to from Jemisin. This is set in a modern day as opposed to a further future that we saw in her Broken Earth trilogy for example and it is wonderful. For such a short work there is a great discussion of homelessness ,racism and police brutality towards black men. This is the shorter work that has beget Jemisin’s new novel due out in 2020, The City We Became and I can’t wait to see how she continues it.

★★★★/5

THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS is a comics adaptation of Gaiman’s original prose novella by the same name illustrated by Yoshitako Amano. This graphic novel was illustrated by the legendary P. Craig Russell. A humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons and a Japanese emperor to steal the monk’s life. With the aid of Morpheus, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves.
  • Title: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
  • Authors: Neil Gaiman, P.Craig Russell
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror

    This is an obvious fact by now that The Sandman is my favourite series of all times in terms of comics and this one is the latest I have read in order to have the entire universe read and covered this year. This story, will hurt you. I cried like I did when I read The Kindly Ones and this story isn’t even about Dream. This story focuses on the characters that Morpheus just happens to find in his realm and as usual, what his duties really entail which we all know is making tough decisions.

★★★★★/5

That’s it this week for Sunday Shorts! Maybe next time I may have a few more works since I plan on introducing single issue comics to this too and I have a MASSIVE comics TBR at the moment. Tell me some of the shorter things you have read recently! I’d love to hear what I could read next.