N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became is an expansion of her excellent short story, “The City Born Great.” The question that always arises when a great story is expanded into a full novel trilogy is, did it need to be? Was there really enough there to justify a full series, or did someone just want to cash in on the success of something that was perfect at its original length?
At first, I was leaning toward the latter take. The prologue of this book is a less-complete version of the standalone story, and then the first chapter of the book sort of feels like a drawn-out repeat of the short story’s climax, so it really did feel like this was just an unnecessarily padded retelling.
But as the book goes on, it changes up more, and starts adding more layers and complexity to the story, and by the end… yeah, okay, this novel justifies its existence, and it points the way to a trilogy that fully justifies its existence. It’s Jemisin, and she knows what she’s doing. The original short story probably packs more punch per-word, but even if you’ve read it, the novel is well worth reading, too