The World We Make (Great Cities #2) by N. K. Jemisin
Published by Orbit Books
Adult, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction
Release Date : November 1st 2022
All is not well in the city that never sleeps. Even though the avatars of New York City have temporarily managed to stop the Woman in White from invading—and destroying the entire universe in the process—the mysterious capital “E” Enemy has more subtle powers at her disposal. A new candidate for mayor wielding the populist rhetoric of gentrification, xenophobia, and “law and order” may have what it takes to change the very nature of New York itself and take it down from the inside.
In order to defeat him, and the Enemy who holds his purse strings, the avatars will have to join together with the other Great Cities of the world in order to bring her down for good and protect their world from complete destruction.
N.K. Jemisin’s Great Cities Duology, which began with The City We Became and concludes with The World We Make, is a masterpiece of speculative fiction from one of the most important writers of her generation.
“We are New York. And we are the ones who get to decide what that means.”
The World We Make is the epic cinematic conclusion to a modern urban fantasy—a celebration of identity, culture, and life in the city.
Stepping into December I made big plans to end the year and that plan includes reading The World We Make by N. K. Jemisin. The City We Became is a strong first book to a series that made its imprint in presenting a fantastical love-craftian urban adventure set in New York City. It is a multi POV story that highlights the diversity of New York denizens with all their quirks and characteristics representing the five boroughs of the city. Diving into the sequel, The World We Make, I didn’t know that this series was supposed to be a trilogy sadly shortened to become a duology instead due to circumstances shared by Jemisin in the author’s note.
The World We Make is the epic conclusion to Jemisin’s urban fantasy The City We Became that exploded back in 2020. The story immediately picks up after the incidents that occurred in the previous book as the avatars of New York City faces down R’lyeh, the eldritch abomination dead set to destroy New York, that have brought their home to New York after it latched itself to Staten Island. Aislyn’s betrayal was a big loss for Neek, the primary of New York City, and that loss is weakening the power of the city as R’lyeh relentlessly attacks the city through nasty schemes.
Cities know their own, even before they are cities.
In The City We Became the main POVs that frequently appeared are from Manny a.k.a Manhattan, Bronca a.k.a The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Aislyn a.k.a Staten Island. The boroughs that didn’t get a share of the spotlight are Padmini a.k.a Queens and the sixth unofficial borough, Veneza a.k.a Jersey City. In this story Jemisin gives these two characters the spotlight that they deserve. Personally, I wanted to get to know these two characters that are brimming with personality. Though the other characters still make an appearance every so often, these characters presented a wonderful growth that is more significant than the others.
Another character that showed their presence in this sequel is Neek or the primary avatar of New York City. In the first book Neek only made a short appearance in the prologue and a tiny cameo during the end of the book. Neek is mysterious and holds the other avatar at arm’s length, not showing much trust and affection to any of them. Though the strongest relationship Neek established is with Manny. It seems Manny developed a special affection for Neek that was instantaneous in the first book that readers will get to see develop in The World We Make.
A major development readers will get to see is from Aislyn. Before I lead you astray with your expectations, it is not a full on redemption arc. It is not as sweet and nicely tied as readers will expect it to be. For me, it is a conclusion that makes sense to Aislyn’s character as it meets in the middle between compromise and slight development in tolerance. Though there are still things that readers can admire in Aislyn such as her steadfast loyalty towards R’lyeh and bravery to finally realise the wrongs and embracing her identity fully without denial.
So New York takes off its spiritual earrings, turns its extradimensional rings around, and surges forth into battle.
Compared to the first book this sequel is less fast paced plot wise as the characters incubate as avatars handling things one incident at a time. Reading from start to end it is clear that the story in The World We Make focuses more on the character relationship and identity as a few avatars go through trials that threaten their existence. Speaking in metaphors, it is as though these characters lost their rhythm for a small window of time which led the city to revive them through jump starting the heart.
Jemisin weaves real life incidents that are relevant to the current political environment of America into the story for example the surge of antisemitic groups in rural areas of America and a certain movement created by a former “orange” president of America (I don’t need to mention who, because I think readers of this review will know who). To be frank, the only time I would want to see an interpretation of these radical racist movements in books would be the Great Cities duology. It is relevant and portrays these radical acts by weaving love craftian elements, which is quite fitting because H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most racist authors out there, in forms of eldritch abominations that aim to erase and reject change.
“Real family’s the people who are there when you need ’em.”
Jemisin’s brilliance in writing multiple POVs and making each character have a distinct voice. I will say it again, the strength of the Great Cities duology are the characters and their relationship with each other. Their individuality are their weapons to fight and defend New York. The battle scenes though aren’t as many as The City We Became, they were still some of the most heart pumping moments in the story that are equal to watching a Marvel x Pacific Rim movie. Another thing that I want to applaud Jemisin for is the cameos of the other cities of the world that came together at the very end to create that cinematic moment for readers.
Even though there are many great things in The World We Make, it is still a star less than my rating of The City We Became. This book is shorter than its predecessor, at first I had an inkling on why this was, after finishing and reading the author’s note it became clear that there are a lot of things Jemisin went through writing this sequel. It is also evident on how everything went down in this series’ closure. There are rushed moments that are apparent in progressing the story further for the sake of ending things. It is clear that the story can be so much more expansive and can be stretched out longer. To answer if The World We Make is a satisfying conclusion to this series, in my opinion, it is still a great ending because of how Jemisin wrapped things up and brought all the loose ends together. But as a reader I can’t give it the full five stars as it was clearly rushed but it is a well rushed effort.
We are the city. Fucking city. And . . . pretty sure we gon’ be okay now.
Final thoughts, The World We Make is a series conclusion—satisfyingly done with epic construct battles, a diverse party of characters, incredible modern interpretations of eldritch monsters, and meaningful character relationships. Though Jemisin had a lot of bumps in writing the story, The World We Make still delivered in meeting the expectations I had on how the story would conclude. The characters all developed beautifully and grew to be amazing characters in the end. Personally, I am hoping Jemisin would pick up this series in the future and decide to continue it. If Jemisin doesn’t that is totally fine with me because the story will forever be memorable to me.
For those who have never read a book by N. K. Jemisin I highly recommend picking up a book by her. Jemisin is one of the best fantasy writers out there. This series I think is a good way to read Jemisin’s books as it is my first ever Jemisin series. Also if you love New York City and want to see a very well done interpretation of the Big Apple in a fantasy setting, this series is a perfect example.
About the Author
N(ora). K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels, who lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and is a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
Her short fiction has been published in pro markets such as Clarkesworld, Tor.com, WIRED, and Popular Science; semipro markets such as Ideomancer and Abyss & Apex; and podcast markets and print anthologies. Her novels, a novella, and two short story collections are out now from Orbit Books. Her novels are represented by Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency.
She is an emeritus member of the Altered Fluid writing group. In addition to writing, she has been a counseling psychologist and educator, a hiker and biker, and a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger. Although she no longer pens the New York Times Book Review science fiction and fantasy column called “Otherworldly” (which she covered for 3 years), her reviews can still be found online.