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City of Strife

(City of Spires #1)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  166 ratings  ·  71 reviews
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 City, piecing together
Kindle Edition, 460 pages
Published February 22nd 2017 by The Kraken Collective
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RoAnna Sylver
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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!
Ben 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 s ...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
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 ex
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.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
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,
Chasia Lloyd
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 !! ***

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 takes
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[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
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.
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
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Maraia by: Lucille
4.5 stars
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
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
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
Deni Neni
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:
Mar 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
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
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cuando estás súper motivada leyendo y de repente pasas la página y: Acknowledgements. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS MY ASS NECESITO OTRAS QUINIENTAS PÁGINAS Y LAS NECESITO YA
Abi Walton
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. A good fantasy read with a wonderfully diverse character base and I cant wait to read book two.
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who knows how to read!!! that could be you!!!
This is the best book I've read in a while. (As an Advanced Reader Copy, so now I get to wait even longer than other readers to read the sequel! Unless I also read it as an ARC...)
I liked everything. The characters were so believable, the world was intriguing and interesting (from a political and historical point-of-view, as well as the usage of healing, the city's architecture, etc.) and the plot is great.
I got really attached to the characters and only wanted them to have good things happen in
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ownvoices, a-spec, lgbtqia
This is the great start of what I fear will be an extremely nerve-wrecking and exciting series. City of Strife is full of political intrigue and a big cast of diverse characters, each of them with their own elaborate backstory, secrets, motives and agenda.

I'm a reader who wants all of the characters to be happy, so it was a bit stressful for me to see all of them crossing paths, work together and against each other and the side characters. All those convoluted connections were already leaving me
Sep 05, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
I'm not noping out of this book, but I'm definitely taking a short break to consider whether I want to go on with it. It has multiple aro ace characters* (multiple!), but it also has SO MANY MEN, and I need to think about whether the trade-off is worth it. (I would mind less if it was a small cast that was mostly men, but it's a pretty big cast that's almost all men so far.)

*or so I am given to understand, this hasn't actually been established yet, but I'm sure it will be

ETA it's been months, ti
Adam Kneeland
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-f
I just finished my second read-through of City of Strife, one that I meant to be more deliberate, geared toward a review. My bookmark was a page of notes; I was ready to analyze. It's a testament to the story that I kept forgetting to be analytical and detached and instead continually allowed myself to be immersed in the narrative.
The book's greatest strength is its cast. The narrative is distributed across multiple PoVs, and almost every one feels like a protagonist. Everyone has a "thing"--
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Original post on my blog:

The minute I started reading this book, I was immediately happy. I’ll admit, I started reading this book for the sole reason that my friend told me there were asexual spectrum characters in it. I wasn’t expecting anything more or less, and I would’ve been happy with only that. However I was presented so much more than a few asexual/aromantic characters, I saw so many different characters that reminded me of so many different people, and I loved it. Not only was the repr
This book has more LGBTQ+ characters than you can shake a stick at, all set in a classic medieval fantasy world complete with elves, halflings, and other D&D-style characters. Epic fantasy on a small scale, taking place in a single city metro, focusing on the connections between friends and family as opposed to massive Save the World goals. And I realize this is kind of a lame word, but this book is nice. It's got best friends having card games, an old woman offering tea and cookies, charact ...more
This review also appears on my blog alexreadsboooks

When Diel Daithirii, an idealistic Elven lord, challenges the leader of the Myrian Empire’s outpost, Isandor, the city of spires, is thrown into turmoil. The power struggles of their merchant families are usually regulated by unspoken rules, but the Myrian Empire are outsiders and no one knows how far they are willing to go.

Meanwhile in the lower city among the commoners, a man who should be dead appears at the Shelter, a shelter for
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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)