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  • The City We Became

  • Written by: N. K. Jemisin
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 16 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (126 ratings)

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The City We Became

Written by: N. K. Jemisin
Narrated by: Robin Miles
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Publisher's Summary

Three-time Hugo Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author N.K. Jemisin crafts her most incredible novel yet, a "glorious" story of culture, identity, magic, and myths in contemporary New York City.

In Manhattan, a young grad student gets off the train and realizes he doesn't remember who he is, where he's from, or even his own name. But he can sense the beating heart of the city, see its history, and feel its power.

In the Bronx, a Lenape gallery director discovers strange graffiti scattered throughout the city, so beautiful and powerful it's as if the paint is literally calling to her.

In Brooklyn, a politician and mother finds she can hear the songs of her city, pulsing to the beat of her Louboutin heels.

And they're not the only ones.

Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She's got six.

For more from N. K. Jemisin, check out:

The Inheritance Trilogy

  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
  • The Broken Kingdoms
  • The Kingdom of God
  • The Inheritance Trilogy (omnibus edition)

"Shades in Shadow: An Inheritance Triptych" (e-only short fiction)

The Awakened Kingdom (e-only novella)

Dreamblood Duology

  • The Killing Moon
  • The Shadowed Sun
  • The Dreamblood Duology (omnibus)

The Broken Earth

The Fifth Season

The Obelisk Gate

The Stone Sky

How Long 'til Black Future Month? (short story collection)

"A glorious fantasy." (Neil Gaiman)

©2020 N. K. Jemisin (P)2020 Orbit

What the critics say

"A love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author's home of New York... Fierce, poetic, uncompromising." (Kirkus, starred review)

"The City We Became is a wonderfully inventive love letter to New York City that spans the multiverse. A big middle finger to Lovecraft with a lot of heart, creativity, smarts and humor. A timely and audacious allegorical tale for our times. This book is all these things and more." (Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning)

"It's a glorious fantasy, set in that most imaginary of cities, New York. It's inclusive in all the best ways, and manages to contain both Borges and Lovecraft in its fabric, but the unique voice and viewpoint are Jemisin's alone." (Neil Gaiman)

"Some of the most exciting and powerful fantasy writing of today... Jemisin's latest will attract...even those who don't typically read genre fiction." (Booklist, starred review)

What listeners say about The City We Became

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  • Sam
  • 2021-10-06

Should have listened to the other critical reviews…

I ignored all the critical reviews I read before buying this book since the concept is just so good! It’s unique and fresh, and I was willing to try it out despite the comments about the plot and character development... and gosh were they right. So many characters blend together I still don’t know who is who. They are just angry, cussing and confused folks, and it’s repetitive like this for chapters on end. But I pushed through that to try and give it a chance because the performance is done quite well. It’s the best one I’ve heard to date. Is that worth dragging yourself through the monotonous middle? *shrug* up to you. I won’t be continuing this series.

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THIS IS SO GOOD

One of the best audio books I ever listened to. Totally unique story, and an absolutely amazing performance by Robin Miles.

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Mind stretching and creative!

can’t express how much I love the imagination of of NK Jemisin, and she doesn’t disappoint as she turns her creativity to the magical realism of cities. The narration is excellent, the diversity in characters and fantastical ties with real life events is an immense joy. Highly recommend this duology.

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Can't Wait for the Sequel!

TLDR Review: This was an extremely well-produced audiobook and I highly recommend listening to it if you can! I thought that the beginning was really interesting and had a lot of really great elements too it, but the middle got a little too big to handle. It has really intricate characters and fantastic worldbuilding, but something was lost in the middle. But the 70% onward mark brought it all back together and the ending was fantastic! I can't wait to see where this story goes into the next book in the series.

This was a really interesting story and an even more interesting concept. I loved the idea of people being the embodiment of a city, or in this case that five people came together to be a full city with each representing a specific area. I have been to NYC and seen a bunch of the boroughs, so it was so interesting to see them come to life in a person, but not just in a token or stereotypical way. I enjoyed how we met each of the avatars, which is what these characters are called, and how they decided to work together. I loved the "found family" aspect to it and how they figured out how to best work together.

I loved the overlapping themes of social justice and how it is to be Black in America, especially as a woman. I also appreciated the youth perspective as well as feeling isolated or alienated because of a Zip Code. I think that this was a good story and one that was needed for the time. Do I think that some people will be turned off because of the way that Jemisin writes about being Black? Yes. Are they wrong? Also yes.

But the writing style in general isn't for everyone. Something I also struggled with when I read Jemisin's THE FIFTH SEASON was the writing style and getting into the character's mindset. With five perspectives, this was even more difficult for me. Everyone was unique and felt different - I didn't have an issue figuring out who was who - but I definitely didn't get into everyone's heads the same way. I felt that this lost it's way in the middle because of that but it did pick up again around 70% with the climax of this book.

I appreciated that instead of using the "city" as a character, the city was divided into characters. That made for such an interesting worldbuilding and made me appreciate the surrounding and setting that much more. Knowing that the city was the main catalyst for this, made it a really interesting way of viewing how the characters grew and developed. But I still wanted more - I think often using the backdrop of New York was an easy way of getting out of having some more difficult conversations or growth for the characters.

I am definitely excited to see where this goes next, how the characters become a full team, and what that means for their individuality since they need to be together to "be" New York. But this is definitely worth the read, especially if you love Jemisin's other works!

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Robin Miles Brings New York Alive

January 2022 | 4/5
I started my year with the short story that inspired this work, and to be honest, it was just OK. So I thought I knew what I was getting with the novel, this time I choose the audiobook with Robin Miles, and Holy fucking shit, what a different experience.

The book starts with a retelling of the short story, and I understood the text was not to be read with my innervoice - I don't have the skills. Robin Miles brought this book to life. The different accents and inflections of the five boroughs of New York needed a voice actor (or a full cast) to make it work.

So the book is about the great city of New York coming to life - but there's a problem - New York has so many personalities it's kinda stuck in limbo. Will it join the other great cities or fail like the lost city of Atlantis?

I'm excited to see where Jemisin takes this series in future releases.

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An instant favorite

First off: the voices are incredible. Distinctive, realistic, and so true to the characters. Definitely one of the best audiobook performances I've had the pleasure of listening to.

The story itself is also excellent. Loved the twists and turns, the world the author has crafted, and the characters she chose to portray. This was my first book by NK Jemisin, and it definitely won't be the last!

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brilliant!!

this books is plain brilliance. I really loved the story and characters. Robin Miles is a fantastic narrator and did an amazing job bringing it all to life.

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Captivating story, fun magic, great characters

(no spoilers)

The audio and voice acting is some of the best I have heard. Each character has a distinct voice and all the portrayed emotion and speaking quirks transported me into the story. I will definitely be following this narrator's other projects!

I was initially intrigued by the concept of cities being protagonists and it did lead to an interesting magic system where the means by which the characters solve problems is fun, unpredictable and surprising. some hard fantasy fans might be frustrated that the magic isn't as properly defined as other fantasy novels but I think it suits this story very well.

I have read Jemisin's other novels so I knew the character's would not disappoint. what I enjoyed the most was how contemporary and relatable the characters were. I feel like I got to witness how people experience the world differently due to their race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and each of their perspectives played a critical role in the story.

Highly recommend, especially if you enjoy all things New York but I don't think it's a necessity to appreciate this story.

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  • TC
  • 2021-02-06

The narrator knocked it out of the park!

I’m not a sci-fi person. I tried this book after numerous people recommended it, including as a gateway to sci-fi. I still don’t like sci-fi, but the character development was incredible and the plot was gripping. It was the narrator, though, who blew this out of the water. The music and sound effects of course take it that step further, but even without those few little flourishes, the narration was the best I’ve heard. Distinctive voices, perfect accents, vocalizations and laughs and sighs that brought the book to life.

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Incredible

Absolutely awesome. The story is great and the narration is just incredible and elevated the already great work.

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  • Joe
  • 2020-04-13

I don't understand the hype

Stereotypical characters, cringeworthy dialogue, boring plot. Essentially an expanded wikipedia entry about NYC, not a good thing. Like a marvel movie, no real stakes, just wait until another superhero arrives with greater powers. No matter how many fantastical things happen, characters are somehow surprised each time.

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  • dk
  • 2020-04-13

Fresh, Unique, So Good.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but rarely write reviews. After listening to this book though, I just had to. Everything about this listen was fantastic. I've read other Jemisin works, and liked them all, but this is by far my favorite. I love scifi and fantasy, but sometimes it's hard to find truly new and unique stories and characters. This book though, is like nothing else I've read. Just so great and original, with diverse and interesting characters that felt like real people/cities. ;)

Also, the audio production was one of the best I've ever heard - maybe even better than Dune! Robin Miles was a phenomenal narrator. I can hardly believe she voiced all those characters! To be able to do all those NY accents so well, AND a fairly decent British accent? Crazy. The suble audio effects were just perfect, and icing on the cake.

Just buy this book now. Seriously.

75 people found this helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 2020-06-10

Interesting worldbuilding but so what?

I like N.K. Jemisin but I don't always read past the first book of her series, and I think a closer examination of my feelings of this book help explain why.

In the book, people are transformed into different boroughs of New York City (one person per borough,) because the city is under attack. Some stereotypes are at play in those sections but it's fun as each person is "discovered." They each seem to have other characteristics in addition to their city presences that make them an asset to the team. Originally, while enjoying this part of the book, I was also partially annoyed because here I am with one more book that is completely focused on New York as if its the only place in the world. A very diverse view of the city, of course, but still it's just the city. I will agree to suspend my judgment on this feeling that so many New Yorkers seem to have because I've never been. But as a non New-Yorker, I must admit to a bit of prejudice against another NY novel.

Anyway, along with this transformation comes the ability to see a layer of the city that is hidden to others - warping and relocating of borders, wormlike invasions that reminded me of all the demon-possession novels I read in my fundamentalist childhood (ha!), and a woman in white who seems able to fill the tiniest or endless space. There are hints of multiple dimensions and she also seems to be a master of spaceTIME as well, knowing what will happen, and what would happen in alternate dimensions. (I was interested in her world but we only see tiny glimpses.) Some of the boroughs join up and fight evil until they find the last borough, and hijinks ensue.

But ... I mean, that's kind of it. I enjoyed the worldbuilding to a certain extent, but then felt like - so what? Why did I sit through all those hours of audio? I thought I missed something so I've listened to the end three times and I'm like okay... that's it? I don't even know what is going to matter enough to consume books 2 and 3.

I get that there is an underlying metaphor going on of the danger to New York being racism. Good, timely. But what's the story moving forward?

That's all I'm left feeling really. I'm not sure I'm left with anything to fight for or care about.

I listened to the audio and Robin Miles is excellent as always; I felt the times the production people decided to use effects were ... the wrong choice. Characters who are thinking to themselves suddenly having reverb, some sentences stalling like on a bad internet connection, some unnecessary screeching - it wasn't all the time, thank goodness, but the times it happened felt too often.

61 people found this helpful

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  • ByEqualMeasure - julie
  • 2020-09-04

Good Potential

I can not recommend this book.

The story was very well produced. Excellent narration.

However the ending was abrupt. After it was over I was left wholly dissatisfied. The author does not flesh out the antagonist. A lot of clues are given to the fact perhaps the cities are wronging and killing -however, inadvertently trillions across the multiverse. Then it is over with all the questions still in place. For that reason I can't recommend this as an enjoyable read. To say that you are right just because an alien looks different or is baised on different physical laws with different angles doesn't work for me.

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  • C
  • 2020-04-20

Amazing accents

As someone who has chosen to be a New Yorker, I appreciate this love letter to the city. I liked the author's insights into each borough's personality. Also, as my title stated, I loved the narrator's different accents. She has so much soul and sass. This is the first time I enjoyed listening to the disclaimer at the end of the audiobook, so I hope whoever reads this listens until the end of the recording.

30 people found this helpful

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  • TX lilbit
  • 2020-04-17

Absolutely amazing - cathartic love letter to NYC

Wow - I’m not usually a sci-fi fan. New York and all of its wonderful millions has been in my thoughts with the current corona virus crisis so I gave this a shot, and it may be my favorite audiobook in a dozen years of heavy audiobook consumption. This author has poured their love of the city into this super entertaining pro-diversity/interconnectedness/liberal democracy allegory. And the narrator! Robin Miles deserves a Tony for her incredible diverse yet accurate characters and the heart she puts into each one.Those whose politics and values give them trouble with it - well, as the author points out, they still have Lovecraft :-).

26 people found this helpful

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  • Jonathanji
  • 2020-05-06

Absolutely phenomenal!

Listening to an N.K. Jemisin story read by Robin Miles is like witnessing Serena Williams dominate while Beyoncé performs the soundtrack. This story is incredible. Robin Miles is peerless in her performance. I hope there are more stories to follow.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-04-18

Brilliant and Expertly Produced

This is the best From this author which is saying a lot. It is supremely gratifying to have it so well performed and produced. I am in Harlem during coronavirus nyc so this is especially poignant. Thank you Ms. Jemisin, Ms Miles and all those behind this stunning experience.

I do wish I had been a copy editor. New York has no payday loan shops. They are illegal. New Jersey Transit? I have never seen a dining car. I appreciate the author occasionally adopting founder over flounder. Nonetheless this IS, make no mistake, a masterpiece. The rhythms of the soliloquy, the voices of the characters-- astonishing.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Amir Yakatally
  • 2020-08-28

Stereotypes and a bit corny

Big fan of broken earth series. However, this story never grabbed me. The characters did not seem real to me and I’m a lifelong New Yorker exposed to people from every part of the city. The fantasy is imaginative and vivid though seems pointless. The parts that aren’t fantasy paint an unrealistic and divisive world based on assumptions very biased world view.

15 people found this helpful

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  • nightowl
  • 2020-03-28

NKJ has done it again

Amazing new work from NKJ, accompanied by a stunning audio production! Gripping, funny, engaging, visceral, absolutely worth your time.

13 people found this helpful