Star rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: via Goodreads–
Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
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.
General information: This book was published in 2020 by Orbit Books.
This book was amazing! It was a love letter to the city of New York, and cities in general. Warning, this review may get long- I had a lot to say upon finishing this book!
What I loved: the characterization was amazing. All of the characters felt so alive, especially the boroughs. I have to admit, my favorite was probably Aislyn (or Staten Island)- she was just so complex and troubled in a way that felt very real. The cast of characters was also super diverse, much like the city itself. I also like all of the different POV’s, they each felt unique and important. All the different POV’s may be a detractor for some, but I enjoyed it.
The worldbuilding was also amazing- it felt Lovecraftian but in a less xenophobic and racist way. (Look it up if you don’t believe me, Lovecraft was kind of an a-hole). It was reminiscent of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, in some ways. Fans of Gaiman would probably enjoy this book. He even gave a blurb for the cover, so you know it’s Gaiman-approved.
This book also had some great commentary on current social issues such a gentrification, the Proud Boys, etc. It never felt too heavy-handed or browbeaten, I felt like it was worked into the story very well.
What I didn’t love: no spoilers, but the final battle scene fell flat for me a little bit. It felt very quick- there was a lot of buildup, and then boom, it was done. There wasn’t enough payoff to match the buildup, in my opinion.
Other than that, my only gripe is the repeated mentions of New Orleans. New Orleans is depicted as a failed city birth, which I take a little bit of umbrage with. Not that it’s wrong at all, in fact she’s probably right, I just really love New Orleans. It feels very alive to me, personally.
Overall, I really recommend this book! It simultaneously makes me want to visit New York and feel guilty for being a tourist (in the best possible way). This is a must-read for fans of contemporary/urban fantasy!