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Posts Tagged ‘The City We Became’

It’s that time of year, when Best-Of lists, awards, and other retrospectives are released into the world. This made me think about the books I’ve personally enjoyed during calendar year 2021. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 27 books (three short of my reading challenge) but of them all, two really stand out.

The first was The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin, which technically was released in 2020. The initial release was in hardback, and I waited for the trade paperback. The book won a number of awards, which it deserved. I enjoyed how it played with stereotypes enough that I already wrote a whole blog post about it. You can revisit that here, if you wish.

The other was The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik. This is the second book in her series The Scholomance, which is being categorized as contemporary fantasy but really I think is the spiritual successor to Harry Potter. Just think if dear old Hogwarts was an evil entity intent on devouring the students? That’s the Scholomance. Then add in a supremely powerful and snarky POV character, trying to organize her hostile and traumatized fellow students, so that they don’t all fall victim to the Scholomance’s malign tendencies.

Novik is an author who continues to grow and gain mastery with time. She’s also won a number of awards, although not for The Last Graduate. Her early series struck me as fairly ordinary, but she’s really hit her stride with her YA books, Uprooted and Spun in Silver. That’s not to say The Last Graduate is without flaws. El is the sole POV character, and she has a tendency to stop in the middle of the action to explain about things — some of which I already knew. This is one of my own flaws, which is perhaps why it sticks out to me. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the book or thinking about it for days afterward.

So, those are my two most memorable books from 2021. How about you? I’d love to hear your one or two most memorable books from this year.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Today I’m following up on my previous post about the contrast of characters who are Innocent or Not Innocent. For most writers, I think we understand that stereotypes do not result in very good writing. No one likes them. In fact, I’ve noticed that a lot of writers want to conceal the nature of stereotypes by calling them something else. “Tropes,” for instance.

You say to-ma-to, I say to-mah-to.

However, a clever writer can have fun with stereotypes, flipping them and such. I’ve done that myself, and I find it a really effective way to get readers to question some assumptions they might not even have known they had.

One book I read recently does a really good job with this. That’s The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin. Jemisin is a multi-award-winning author, and that’s for good reason. She uses stereotypes liberally throughout the book. In fact, every one of her principal characters is a stereotype. Before you complain about spoilers, I just want to point out that the cover copy on the book says this exact thing.

I’m speaking here of the stereotype as a character which embodies and personifies a set of ideas and actions that are closely associated. In this book, the main characters embody and personify the five boroughs of New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island, with Jersey City playing a strong supporting role. Jemisin explores what it means to exist as a stereotype while also being an individual.

She brings in a whole lot of other stuff, too. There are queers, racism, sexual harassment, artistic fraud. There’s a strong vein of homage to a certain vintage horror author. There are a whole bunch of observations that might have made more sense if I had ever lived in New York City. The thing is, none of it felt forced or packed in for the sake of woke-ness. The book is big because New York is big.

I especially enjoyed this book because it expands the definition of what Urban Fantasy can be. Not that there’s anything wrong with vampires, werewolves, love triangles, et all. Those concepts were very successful, but they’ve all been done. Many times. The genre was overdue for a shake-up.

As writers, if we want to avoid using stereotypes, one thing we can do is to be aware of what’s current for our genre. You recognize stereotypes once you start seeing them repeated. For that reason alone, I urge you to read The City We Became. Personally, I can’t wait for the next book.



Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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