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Book Review: City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault


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 place in the city of Isandor, which is a complex society ruled by different powerful families who sit on a council. Each chapter follows a different character with their own story line in different parts of the city. Once in a while these story lines intersect, providing more context to the world and interesting plot twists.

I first need to applaud the fantastic representation through all of the characters in this book. The description of the book advertises a cast featuring all LGBTQIAP+ characters. However, you should also know there is a variety of other forms of diversity represented in the book. The cast was racially diverse and led to the a solid and very integrated dialogue on racial (skin color) relation among the different folks in Isandor ON TOP OF the relation of different [types?] of people – elves, humans, wizards. What I really appreciated was the fact that elf or wizard or other magical type of person was not considered a race, but there was racial diversity within each of these groups. I also found representation of difference in ability and socioeconomic status. All of these divergent identities were presented and vital to each character’s identity; however, their identity did not define them. A good example of this is how sexual orientation was presented. The author talks about the different romantic and platonic relationships (or lack of relationship) between different characters naturally in the writing. When it was appropriate to mention and added to the depth of a character or commentary about social justice within the world, identities were mentioned and discussed. In a fictional fantasy world, this is how I want diversity to be represented. In addition to representation of identity, this book also addresses systemic issues such as The book tackled issues like gender dynamics within “traditional” male/female gender roles, the rampant homophobia in Myrian society, racism and colorism, and the different parts of the city based on socioeconomic status.


Reading at the gym.

City of Strife is book one in a trilogy. Consequently, there were a lot of chapters of meeting characters, learning about their back stories, and building the world around the city of Isandor. Authors undergo a huge challenge when building a new high fantasy world and must consider possibly hundreds of years of history, a myriad of family lines, and relationships between not only major characters but minor characters as well. And, the author must do this in a way that feels unobtrusive, slowly integrating this history and information within the flow of the story. Claudie Arseneault has the talent to do this very well, keeping the reader engaged with the active story line.

One aspect of the novel I found myself struggling with was a few pieces of the dialogue between characters. In certain instances, lines sounded out of place or unnatural when taken into context of the situation happening and the characters involved. Most of the time, these instances were due to the specific phrasing of the dialogue that seemed off to me. I am finding it hard to articulate; however, I found myself rereading passages to make sure I read the dialogue correctly. This unfortunately took me out of the the story at some points as I was trying to immerse myself in the world of Isandor. Ultimately, I found these situations to be minor in my overall experience with the book.

Overall, I am really excited for the rest of this trilogy. Author Claudie Arseneault has created a compelling world with political intrigue and deep characters. This is a book that gave me the same feeling that I get when I read huge high fantasy series. There is so much potential for every character, each with separate motivations and long term goals. At the end of the book, I finished feeling excited! There were many story lines that still needed more exploration, which made me want the second book right away! I am interested to see what happens in Isandor AND I also want to know more about different parts of the world – like where was Arathiel the whole time before this book takes place and more information about the Myriad empire. I commend Claudie Arseneault for a fantastic book one to her political fantasy trilogy. Look out for City of Strife, set to be published in early 2017!

Final Rating: 4.7/5

City of Strife (City of Spires #1)

About the Author

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual author from Quebec City, a biochemistry nerd, lover of squids and balloons, and relentless gamer. Her first novel, Viral Airwaves, was published in February 2015. Since then, Claudie has edited Wings of Renewal, a solarpunk dragon anthology, and published several short stories. You can find out more on her website, .


16 thoughts on “Book Review: City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

  1. Thank you for this fantastic review! I’ve been on the hunt lately for books with good LGTBQ+ representation, and after reading this, it’s going on my list! 🙂 I haven’t read a high-fantasy book with decent and consistent political intrigue in a long time, so that’s also super exciting to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by biblionyan | October 29, 2016, 4:04 AM
  2. This sounds absolutely fantastic! I can’t wait to read a high fantasy book with actual representation across the board!

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Ceillie Simkiss | October 29, 2016, 3:59 PM
  3. Great review! I am glad you loved the read. When a book has good world building and character sketches, it surely is a plus point

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel | October 30, 2016, 11:17 PM
  4. Excellent review! I love the sound of this, world building and characters sound fantastic. Are there aro characters?😐 (This is my hopeful face)

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Bina | November 1, 2016, 2:55 PM
    • Yes. Not specifically called out as in “This character is aro or ace” but this is not a story where romance and sex is the pivotal thing in relationships. There are romantic relationships, but they are minor. Friendship and partnership are highlighted, especially with particular characters. The author has said in the past this book has aro/ace representation and intentionally minimizes the role of romance and sex between characters.


      Posted by Brendon | November 1, 2016, 5:50 PM
  5. Brendon, this book sounds soo coool!
    I have never read a book with a whole cast of LGBTQ+ cast. That, plus the political fantasy setting make this book a must-read! Thanks so much for introducing me to it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Read Diverse Books | November 2, 2016, 2:57 AM
  6. Racial diversity within a “race” of beings in fantasy?! Be still my beating heart! I have been waiting for this FOREVER. I never understood why all the Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, etc. always looked similar in my fantasy literature. What, they don’t have ethnicities or races? Illogical. I’ll certainly have to pick this book up in the future. Thanks for the great review, Brendon!

    P.S. You gym is strangely purple/pink.


    Posted by Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku | November 3, 2016, 11:57 AM
  7. Woo hoo – sounds like I might be getting back into fantasy, after all! (Because LGBT+ political fantasy? YES PLS.)


    Posted by whatthelog | November 4, 2016, 5:28 PM
  8. Ah. Now, you’ve got me excited about this one. I may or may not be sobbing over the idea of there being diversity in the separate fantasy “races.” This is the kind of high fantasy novel I need in my life. Excellent review as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Morgan @ Backlist Babe | February 18, 2017, 10:59 PM


  1. Pingback: Top 10 Books Read in 2016 | Reading and Gaming for Justice - December 26, 2016

  2. Pingback: A Q&A with Claudie Arseneault, author of City of Strife | Reading and Gaming for Justice - February 13, 2017

  3. Pingback: Giveaway – City Of Strife by Claudie Arseneault | Read Diverse Books - February 18, 2017

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