A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city, the City of Strife. 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 a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.
Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.
In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably.
City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all LGBTQIAP+ cast. Fans of complex storylines criss-crossing one another, elves and magic, and strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.
Welcome to another character interview, folks! Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of Claudie Arsenault’s characters from her recently published book, City of Strife! This character is known by his author as the “Grey-A Rage baby”
Larryn is a grey-ace angry cook in City of Strife who owns a shelter for the homeless at the bottom of Isandor. Everyone is welcome in, free of charge… unless you’re a noble. He clearly has an history with the upper classes, along with justified anger at the poverty they enforce on everyone, and little self-control over said rage.
Q: If you had a free day with nothing to do, what would you do?
Work more. Why would I stop? There are always more people to feed, more homeless folks in need of help. If someone offered to take care of the Shelter for a day, I’d find another kitchen in desperate need of help and lend a hand. Only rich assholes get real free days.
Q: If you could spend a day with someone you admire (alive, dead or fictional) who would it be?
Jim. I wish I could show him what I did with his Shelter and how much he meant to me. He would love to spend a day in it, listening to his folk play music and chat and eat, knowing tonight they could sleep somewhere warm and protected, with their bellies full. That’s all he ever wanted.
Q: What’s the most important trait to you in a friend or romantic partner?
Dedication, I think. Or resilience. I don’t do anything halfway, and I get along well with people who give it their all, too. Especially when life has repeatedly tried bring them down. A lot of the people who come to the Shelter are survivors. We either spend all our energy to just keep going, or give it all to help others do that. Cal’s a good example of the latter. Little bastard is the luckiest person I’ve ever met, but he’s always giving away what he has—time, energy, money, all of it. He’ll be there for you.
Q: What is your favorite emoji?
It’s me, faced with the continuous bullshit I hear from nobles every damn day.
Q: What do you like best about yourself?
I don’t have any patience. I can’t deal with people’s bullshit and have no time to waste on pretty words. Too many others to help and feed. I don’t play games; I get things done.
Q: What do you like the least about yourself?
I… don’t have any patience, and little self-control. I make a lot of mistakes when I’m angry and I have good friends who bear the brunt of that and it’s not fair to them. But don’t tell them I admitted that!
Q: When do you consider it an appropriate time to lie?
Anytime it protects one of my people. Guards come down here all the time asking questions about where was this person or that other, waiting for us to turn on each other and let them pin whatever crimes they want on our backs. I lie to their faces every week. I’ve seen what happens when they snatch one of us. I’ve been there.
Q: Who do you find the most attractive?
That one demigirl I saw when I was fourteen—big dark eyes, a large nose, a smile to die for. She got my blood boiling really fast, but I stank from carrying buckets of refuse to the shitslides all day. Never in my life had I wanted an instant bath so much. I wonder if it’ll ever happen again, that kind of attraction. Mostly, I don’t wait for it to engage people I’m interested in or I wouldn’t get anywhere.
Q: What is the happiest day of your life?
One day I’ll have kids, and that’ll be it. I mean, I already care for Efua, but that’s more a big brother thing. I want a family—a large one! And I don’t necessarily mean biological kids. Bloodlines mean nothing to me.
Q: How do you measure success?
By the smiles on the homeless folk in my Shelter, and by their delighted exclamations when they eat. I know the food’s delicious—they know it too, and yet every time, it’s like a surprise to them! Success is feeding as many of them as I can, and giving them the sense of home and safety the rest of Isandor is hell-bent on taking away.
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
The entire Shelter. Is that getting repetitive? What can I say, I’d live and die for this place.
Q: What do you find offensive?
The continuous existence of the entire Dathirii Household. These damn elves pretend they love the poor and want to change the city and make it better, but they don’t care that one of theirs knocked up a cook then threw her out when she got pregnant. They’re all talk and no action. There’s only two sayings that hold true in Isandor: family sticks together, and gold goes up, shit flows down. At least the other noble houses are honest about being assholes.
Claudie asked me to note that there is a need for some trigger warnings – abuse (physical, emotional, mind control — seriously, if depictions of abuse trigger you, please be very careful when approaching this novel/avoid it), torture, homelessness, child abandonment, police brutality, racism, family death, memory loss, death by fire (mention) and hanging. If you’re wanting to know about specific triggers, Claudie is absolutely willing to talk to you!
If City of Strife sounds interesting, and I know it does for me, you’re in luck because it’s already in the world! You can pick up your copy on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and iBooks! In the meantime, you can add it to your TBR on Goodreads here !
Update: If you want to get to know Isra from City of Strife, check out Sinead’s interview on Diverse Book Huntress!
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, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more onher website!
Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.