The City We Became...is, in a way, a metaphor for Jemisin's success, through her incredible body of work, at redefining the science fiction and fantasy genre—a genre that has long been defined by the tastes and stories of mostly white men. The monstrous forces that threaten the living New York City parallel the forces authors like Jemisin and her contemporaries have fought against for years ... My only real issue with the book is that it comes to a relatively abrupt end. I want to binge on the entire series right now, which is the ultimate magic and allure of Jemisin's work. She pulls you into her world and makes you want more; she makes you want to stay there forever ... [the book] is...a celebration and an expression of hope and belief that a city and its people can and will stand up to darkness, will stand up to fear, and will, when called to, stand up for each other.
Part of Jemisin’s genius is rooted in her ability to come up with fantastically inventive premises that, while unthinkable before her writing, feel intuitive once read, to the point that one is baffled that nobody came up with them before ... After introducing us to each character in engrossing and vivid set pieces, the bulk of the novel is dedicated to the team tackling parallel crises ... filled to the brim of fantastically clever details that infuse focused political points with wild imagination ... At times, though, it’s exactly the neatness and wit of the premise that trip up the book ... The novel is at its best when the conflicts facing each borough’s avatar feel as human as they do symbolic ... While the larger metaphors...are clear, the narrative is gripping, not just because of the systemic catastrophes the “Alt Artistes” of Jemisin’s fantasy (because of course they call themselves the Alt Artistes) represent, but also because of the specificity with which Jemisin literalizes that system ... Jemisin’s brilliant allegorical premise lands with an uncanny prescience.
... remarkable and cleverly subversive ... What makes it all work, amid the spectacular surrealistic imagery, rollercoaster plotting, and comic-book effects, is Jemisin’s insightful concern for and understanding of her diverse cast of central characters. This is all the more remarkable because these characters are called upon to serve triple duty: as symbolic avatars, as credible New Yorkers, and as members of an emerging fellowship which must work cooperatively to save the city from those Lovecraftian horrors ... offers only a degree of closure in a rather abrupt ending, as Jemisin sets the stage for the epic struggles we can expect in subsequent volumes. As the inaugural volume of what promises to be a wildly original fantasy trilogy, quite unlike anything else Jemisin has written, it completely takes command of the very notion of urban fantasy, and it leaves us exactly where we need to be – wanting the next volume now.