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City of Strife

(City of Spires #1)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  367 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Isandor, City of Spires.

A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.

Arathiel hides in the Lower
Paperback, 458 pages
Published February 22nd 2017 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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RoAnna Sylver
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, gems
"How long had Arathiel hung to the side, a spectre watching events unfold, uncertain he deserved to participate? Not anymore."

* * *

This is another book where I'm not even certain how to begin. There is so much good, so much importance.

This is not a ghost story. But this is a story about what it is to be a ghost. To live on the fringes (of society, disenfranchised and ignored), of human interaction (keeping to the sidelines, the shadows, keeping silent, watching as others live their lives but ne
Ceillie Simkiss
I did an early character interview with Larryn, and I loved this book exactly as much as I expected to. Y'all gotta read this. Read my full review here! ...more
Kara Babcock
Magical cities are one of my favourite tropes in fantasy novels. I think I could read nothing but magical city fiction for a while and take a long time to feel sated or bored; there is so much room for variation. Camorr from The Lies of Locke Lamora is an example that readily springs to mind, but this is a very old trope. As its title implies, City of Strife is very much a story about such a city, Isandor, essentially in the path of the ambitious and violent Myrian Empire. Claudie Arseneault ...more
City of Strife, the first instalment in a new fantasy series, masterfully combines a tale of city life with its politics, merchants, and assassins with the danger of an evil outer force. The story is told through different point of views from a huge cast of characters, thus giving insight into the world of both the nobles and the poor and homeless people within the city as well as the ongoings in the hostile enclave of a foreign empire that has settled outside the city Isandor.

The cast of multip
I really wanted to like this but the writing, mostly, wasn't for me.

Aside from the style my main gripe was around the beginning. the bad guy is basically threatening to rape a girl and there, the POV character thinks that because that girl is a lesbian, it would be even worse for her.
"the very thought of avenazar touching her apprentice - or any young girl, especially one who disliked men - made her stomach churn."
Eeeh so rape is worst for lesbians than straight girls? I don't see how as R
Mar 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: qr
I have to admit I am sorely disappointed by this book, given the glowing praises I've read. The author certainly has good intentions, but I found the story and characters trite in their self-convinced originality, the writing lacking in general, and especially for such a sprawling, ambitious setting and story, the characters not developed enough, and the commentary on racism, sexism, and queerphobia more than a little unsubtle, while still showing unchallenged overarching undercurrents of racism ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
[Actual rating : 4,5/5]

I decided to buy and read this book after finding out it was from the person who had created the Aromantic or Asexual Speculative Fiction Database. I always feel more inclined to read a book when I have followed an author on social medias for a while and seen what a nice person they are (nobody wants to support bigots right?)
So I was super excited to get this book and I ended up reading it in a week! It could have been less but unfortunately I had some exams. To be more pr
Trigger warning: abuse

I picked up City of Strife because I heard it was a second world fantasy that had a lot of aro and ace characters. Turns out the entire main cast is queer!

In the city of Isandor, merchant families vie for power. But a new threat looms… The Myrian Empire aims to expand, and the first step is to conquer the city-state of Isandor. Yet the merchant families will not recognize the threat the Myrian enclave poses. The only one willing to fight the Myrians are the House Dathirii,
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aspec, lgbtqiap
I had the opportunity to read the two first books in the Isandor / City of Spires series by Claudie Arsenault. I will mostly mix my opinions of both the books, since they were both quite similar in build-up and characters and things like that. So this is a double-review! There will be no spoilers!


It took me a while to really get into the first book. This book features a lot of perspectives and for me, that was quite hard. In the first part of the book you get constantly introduced to new people
Elle Maruska
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book!

It has all the elements I love in second-world fantasy: a city with various political & economic elements, all at each others' throats; a wide-ranging cast of characters; an interesting premise and not too many infodumps; and creative systems of magic.

The characters are well-drawn and distinct for the most part. Whether you love them or hate them, you definitely understand why they're acting the way they act and how they think they're doing what's best. My only except
Chasia Lloyd
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lush worldbuilding and a wide variety of characters, this book has it all. If queer political fantasy is your jam, you need this.

I struggled a lot with the opening because of the enormous cast of characters being introduced in a hurry, but I cared for everyone almost instantly and wanted to push through. I got through the last 2/3 of the book swiftly though!

*** also this is VERY aro and ace friendly !! ***
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy_2020
3.75 stars
A book about some good characters sacrificing for mediocre characters. I don’t want to give a star rating because mi BFF loves it a lot and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but there were just two good things that I liked in this book. The first one being the diverse representation and the second the presence of Branwen, Cal and Varden.

The plot is non-existent at times and a mess at others. Absolutely nothing happens until maybe the 60% of the book. I supposed this was because the author wante
Hélène Louise
This book was a very nice read, fluid and interesting (note : the presentation of the book is quite obscure and unappetizing; you may ignore it). I was a bit afraid by the numerous characters in the beginning of the book, but the writing makes the story very clear, nearly effortless. I had just sometimes a tiny problem in one paragraphe or another knowing whom the pronom was referring to. A trifle.

The characters are engaging, it was comfortable to have so many good people to follow. The villain
Queer elves, queer elves, queer elves, queer elves!!!!

Hey, I take my joy where I can find it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And this wonderful fantasy lifted me out of a reading slump with its magic, heartbreakingly lovely characters, intrigue, really good caper, multiple story lines centered around friendships, and delightful LGBTA rep.
Bryn Hammond
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
I was uncertain for the first third, convinced for the second, and way into it for the third. Far too often novels happen to me the other way around.

Populated by interesting ppl, and with a shelter for the homeless at the heart of the story.

I got this off a Twitter list of SFF-with-maginalized (not YA). I went and bought half the list. Off to a fine start.
Nicole Field
I don’t often start fantasy trilogies when there’s such a break between the second book and the last one, but then quarantine happened and here we are. And boy am I glad for that! This book was so good I'd be worried about a book slump if I didn't have the sequel to immediately after dive into.

For me, this novel had the best parts of world building from Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice and the queer fantasy cast out of such books as My Heart Will Grow by Chace Verity. That said, it was comp
The Bad:

I had problems with this book on a few subjects. First, as much as I loved a total of 3 characters, that also ends up backfiring when this book has a numerous array of characters to read through- I am tempted to skip through the other characters just to read about the characters I enjoyed. This is also in part due to points of view that seemed pointless; not only did I not like Isra or Jilssan, they're points of view were hardly worth anything to the story and were frustrating to read. I
LG (A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions)
City of Strife is set in the bustling city of Isandor and stars a huge cast of characters, each with intersecting storylines, histories, and paths. A few examples:

- Arathiel, a human whose ill-fated journey to find a cure for his sick sister transformed him, dulling all his senses and giving him a much longer lifespan. It’s been over 130 years since he last set foot in Isandor, and he now feels like an unwelcome stranger there. The one place he feels comfortable: the Shelter, which provides food

This is a feature book for LGBTQ+ History Month.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book in exchange for an open and honest review.

I received an electronic copy of City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault from the author after inquiring about the book through Twitter. From the description, this book is the first in a political fantasy trilogy featuring an entire cast LGBTQIAP+ characters. Most of the fantasy I have read is not political fantasy, but more of an adventure fantasy. This entire book ta
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Y'all. This book is exactly what we need, and not a moment too soon.

We in the LGBTQ+ community often get told we can't be represented in fantasy because it's not "realistic." Let's break down why this is. Classic fantasy is often based off of Medieval Europe, and there were practically no out and proud gays in Medieval Europe. (We were too busy being burned at the stake.) So those who write fantasy have adopted this mentality that it's not "realistic" to have gay people in fantasy stories, as if
4.5 Stars.

This book is one that I would call almost perfect. Everything about the world is masterfully crafted, and the characters are to die for. I love all of the main characters, though Larryn and Nevian aggravated me a lot. I have a particular soft spot for Diel and Jaeger, and Varden, who are beautiful and pure and must be protected at all costs. I also love the attention paid to crafting great family dynamics, and mentor-student dynamics, and I'm here for whatever is brewing between Arathi
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, my-e-things, sff, lgbtq
I don't have especially strong feelings about this book. It's engaging and has some interesting characters and plot lines, but it feels long and has a million (probably) characters that are somewhat lacking in development and many, many, many plot lines. I paused halfway to read other things because I wasn't super excited about it. I kind of think there's too much going on in this book and the writing isn't strong enough to pull it off. I'm interested in finding out what happens in the next book ...more
Oh goodness this was such fun. (Also wild to realize there are so many plots interweaving and literally none of them are romance-related? And it seems so natural! Everyone is just driven by bonds of friendship or duty or family or work.) I was just going to read a few chapters last night and instead I was hunched over in bed till after midnight, punching the air at a climactic scene in a park.

Note that one or two big plots are drawn to a point of closure in this one, but it very much is a book
Ian  Cann
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic romp, top political scheming and urban life unfolds in a well realaised fantasy setting. Everything works perhaps a bit too neatly into priming for tbook two of the series, but otherwise a splendid read - also the representation, *wibble*, gay, lesbian, trans, bi, enby, aro and ace are all here so gold stars all round.
Jess Crafts
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ace-or-aro-rep
This isn't the first book I've read by this author, in fact Baker Thief is on my list of best books of the year, and while this didn't quite reach those heights for me it is still a brilliant book full of amazing characters. It's set in an old city on the edge of an empire where old families rule from their towers and a sect of magic users are infiltrating and disrupting the peace. There are elves mixed in with the humans, and as most of Arseneaults books do, it focuses on family and friendship ...more
neni the alien
The cast was good, plot was good for a while but then turned a little bit meh and it dragged in some parts. I'll give a more thorough review later.

Follow my blog for update:
Abi Walton
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. A good fantasy read with a wonderfully diverse character base and I cant wait to read book two.
leo | 飛べ
It’s been almost two months and I don’t remember a thing about this book ._.
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Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, came out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Colle ...more

Other books in the series

City of Spires (2 books)
  • City of Betrayal (City of Spires, #2)

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