Review: City of Strife & City of Betrayal: diverse fantasy about politics and friendship

I had the opportunity to read the two first books in the Isandor / City of Spires series by Claudie Arsenault (you might remember her from her guest post a while ago). As I am completely into diverse fantasy right now (and probably until the end of the world tbh), I was really glad to have gotten the opportunity!

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!

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30977572A 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 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.

(this is the synopsis of the first book, not the second)
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.

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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 and keeping up with everything was a bit of a struggle. Sadly, that also slowed down the story overall. However, after the beginning, it did pick up and a lot of things started happening. To my tastes, it could have been a little more fast-paced but that’s just a personal preference. In the second book, I did not have that problem, because I already knew all the characters, so therefore I enjoyed the second book more from the start.

“He found reasons to grin even when there were none, in defiance of the never-ending hardships and the world beating down on him. Maybe if he smiled enough, the happiness he projected would stop being a lie and coalesce into the truth.” – City of Strife

The story is about a city (duh) and the city is lead by a group of noble families. Some of the characters are part of this family and some aren’t and you can get to see the situation from many eyes. There is danger and intrigue, but this story is mainly about family and friendship. The characters form strong bonds and care so much about each other. I loved seeing them come together and especially in the second book, where almost all the characters get to know each other. In those final hundred pages of the second book, I have laughed with them and cried with them. They were amazing.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and I could write pages and pages about all of them, so I will only focus on my favourites. My favourites are definitely Cal and Arathiel. Cal is aromantic and he is just very sweet and kind and caring. He loves his friends and would do anything for them. Arathiel is the outsider in the story. He is strange, mysterious, quiet but also very caring. Besides these characters there were plenty more amazing ones. Hasryan and Vellien would get a shared third place on my favourites ranking, because they deserve to be mentioned. I could relate to so many of the characters in very different ways and I loved that they were all so different from each other.

“Arathiel is a warm blanket: simple, reliable, soft. He’s the friend you kind of forget, but when it really matters he’s there. Leaping of bridges to save your neck from the noose, even though you expect nothing of him.” – City of Betrayal

I cannot end this review before discussing the amazing diverse representation in these books. There were characters of almost every sexual orientation you can imagine and there were characters of different descents and different skin colors. I loved in particularly, Cal’s aromanticism because usually aro characters are described as unfeeling or cold and Cal was the absolute opposite. I also really enjoyed the non-binary/enby representation (because whenever I read about one of those characters I just can’t help but love them).

“You can’t always choose your fights. Some battles need to be fought, whether you want to or not — whether they can be won or not.” – City of Betrayal

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For the first book, my rating is 3,5 stars. But after writing this review, I am really tempted to move up my rating for the second book from 3,5 to 4 stars but I think I’m going to just leave it in the middle: 3,75 stars! What I loved most about these two books was the representation of diverse characters and the characters in general. The only thing that could have been improved, to my opinion, was the pacing of the first book. It took me a long time to get into the story (mainly because I struggled with the many perspectives), but after that it was great. I would definitely recommend these books if you like political fantasy, I don’t know if that is a genre but oh well

Discussion: Reasons to write: Fantasy vs. Contemporary

So far I have attempted to write a contemporary novel and I am currently working on a fantasy novel. It is very different from my contemporary story and so far I am loving it. For this discussion, I wanted to discuss some of the differences and pros and cons of writing these two genres and compare them.

Continue reading “Discussion: Reasons to write: Fantasy vs. Contemporary”

The Thieves of Nottica: Lovely Diverse Fantasy & A GIVEAWAY (whoohoo)

When I was contacted by the author to review this book I was immediately intrigued, it is namely not only a fantasy book, but it is also very diverse. Diverse fantasy is very rare and I love it. I’m really into diverse fantasy lately, I love it that often, compared to diverse contemporary books, it is not really about the things that makes it diverse, while it is often the main focus in contemporary (there’s nothing wrong with that, I love those books too).

The Thieves of Nottica by Ash Gray34092357

In a world where humans are evil, invading aliens, Rigg is the youngest member of the Keymasters, a band of professional thieves who use their skills to defy an overbearing government known as the Hand. It is a world full of pollution, intrusive surveillance cameras, and injustice, where any who “give the finger to the Hand” are punished with death. The Keymasters are hired to steal a highly sought after treasure, but when one of their number is lost during the job, they find themselves the tools in a power play for said treasure — a mysterious lockbox that no one can open. To ultimately survive in the end, the Keymasters must battle their way through mechanical monsters, airships, and politics, literally going through shit (they travel through a sewage pipe) to make it out alive.

The book is about a group of thieves called the Keymasters, they are three women who are demons. They are not exactly demons, but that is what they were called by the humans. The story takes place in a futuristic but steampunk-ish world where the demons are oppressed by the humans that one took over their world. There are also automatons/humanoids and cyborgs, which is pretty cool. I really liked the worldbuilding in this book, there is this whole background about the world and the characters, which was very cleverly made. 

The characters themselves were great. I loved especially Hari and Rigg a lot, and Lisa was just so sweet and naive, I adored them. Morganith is a badass woman who really speaks her opinion and I can always appreciate a character like that in a book. The relationships between the characters felt really mature, they had a long background together and you could really see that in the way they acted around each other. Lisa is the new addition to their crew but I loved how, once she gained her trust, she was completely accepted as one of theirs. I also loved the love story which was not a large part of the book, but added a lot to the story.

“I solemnly swear that every word I utter is a lie,” whispered Rigg unhappily.
Lisa tilted her head. “What was that?”
Hari glanced at Lisa with hesitation. “It’s the Keymaster oath,” she said with a sad smile. “Nell, Arda and me made it up when we first formed the group. See, the Keymasters aren’t just a bunch of wild bandits. We’ve got rules.”

What made this book stand out, for me, was the huge representation of diversity. All of the characters are in a way diverse. All of them had to deal with oppression, due to their physical attributions (being a demon and all :P), but they were also black, had varied sexual orientations and Morganith is disabled. There was representation of lesbian, asexual, intersexual and bisexual characters. This was actually the very first time I read about an asexual character in a book so I was super excited! (I identify as aromantic-asexual so YAYY)

“No matter how much you loved and respected me, it wouldn’t change society. You cannot change the world for me, Rigg.”
“I can sure as hell try.”

I am giving this book 4.25 stars (I’m breaking my own rules here, I only give half stars but oh well) because it was a lot of fun to read. One minor point was that due to the large amount of information you got in the beginning of the book it was a little hard to come into but once I did, I loved it. The characters and world were great and I loved the diversity!

The Giveaway

The writer was so kind as to allow me to have a giveaway for this book. It’ll be an ebook, which I will send to you. It is a MOBI file which you can open on your Kindle but also on the free Kindle app, which means you can also read it on your phone or laptop or pretty much any device. If you’re interested in the book, enter below!

Enter the giveaway here!

The giveaway will end on Monday July 3rd (and is obviously international :P)

Would you be interested in this book? Have you entered the giveaway?

Review Rabiah: The Gift: A surprisingly great romance fantasy with a badass protagonist

I was contacted by the author Lisa Lagaly to review her first book in the series about Rabiah. Rabiah: The Gift is a fantasy story about (obviously) Rabiah, she’s the daughter of the head of her clan, she’s a fighter and is the best at what she does. Tristan is the son of the king of her enemy, the heir to the throne. Then the two of them find themselves in battle, this is where the story begins.

Rabiah: The Gift by Lisa Lagaly34237683

Rabiah is a simple Clan girl. Giftless, friendless, but talented with weapons. She fights and dresses like a boy. Defeated in battle, she prepares herself for death. It doesn’t come. Instead, she finds herself in a position she never imagined tied heart and soul to the enemy. It is not easy being a Princess in a country where Clanspeople are slaves, you’ve suddenly developed strange powers, and someone will do anything to put his own daughter on the throne, even make deals with demons.

First of, obviously this book is a romance novel. I don’t usually read romance novels, but because it wasn’t very clear from the synopsis that it was, I did give it a try. And actually, I’m really glad that I did! I don’t usually enjoy romance but this one was somehow different, it was incredibly fun and enjoyable to read. I found myself reading with a big smile on my face almost the entire time. 

The relationship in this book starts off very strangely, and it completely threw me off and from the first page I got drawn into the story and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next. I guess I could tell you the start because it’s only the first few pages, but I’d like to keep it a mystery, because I’d hope you’d feel the same way as I did.

The characters charmed me from the second I met them and during the book that love only grew. Rabiah is an incredibly strong female character, she has this calmness to her, I can’t really explain. She definitely stands apart as a character, she looks different and has a different background than the other characters, but she stays true to herself, and I can only admire that. In the beginning, I thought Tristan was an idiot (and to be honest, he is a little), but he is a caring and honest person, who is willing to do anything for the ones he loves and for the kingdom.

Beside the main characters, who were obviously awesome, the side characters were even better. Especially Owen, Owen is just the best. Owen is Tristan’s friend and he’s funny and kind and above all not afraid to tell Tristan he’s an idiot. While writing this I just couldn’t help but smile, and that says a lot.

The story takes place in a world where the clans are fighting the kingdom (which’s name I forgot), there’s a war going on, which was really interesting to see. The world has magical aspects, which were really cool. There were healers and magical bonds and demons.

As much as I loved this book, there were some minor points I didn’t like. The most important one being the insta-love. As much as I hate it normally, this time it wasn’t that annoying, I actually kind of liked it?? Strange… but still I would have loved to see more development of the relationship. The second thing was the build-up of tension, during the first third, I got really into the story and there was a lot happening, during the second part, that action/tension suddenly went down a lot. There was a lot of meeting people and things like that, but it felt like it wasn’t working towards anything anymore. During the last part, luckily, they returned to that build-up of tension that I loved so much during the first part.

Overall, I’m giving this book 4 stars, which is because it was such an enjoy to read. It made me feel all happy and gushy, and though there were things that were less amazing, those were only minor things for me. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves this type of fantasy. It reminded me a little of The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson, because of the strong main character, the magic system and the world it was set in. It has a similar vibe to The Remnant Chronicles, so if you liked those books I would recommend you’d check this one out!

**I received this book in exchange for a review from the author (so thank you!), this did not influence my opinions in any way**

Discussion: My “fear” of fantasy (& talking about magical creatures & maps)

Ever since I was little I’ve had a weird relationship with fantasy books. When I was young I never read fantasy. I thought wizards were boring and unrealistic (yeah seriously, who could say that about Harry Potter??), and magical creatures were just… idk, made up? I guess. (Like all those contemporaries weren’t???).

So one day my friend borrowed me a few books, they were her a few of her favourites, so of course, I think I might as well try them. The first book I tried was a fantasy book, but I gave it a chance, because that’s what you do when your best friend tells you that it’s their favourite book. I have to tell you, it was very boring. Exactly the way I expected it to be. I don’t even remember what the book was or what it was about, I just know it was about a man and a dragon, and they were friends? (No it was not Eragon).

I believe that after that I just quit reading fantasy altogether. I had this picture in my head that fantasy was long, dull, and complicated, and the only experience I had with this genre completely fitted with that picture. When I was about 15, I learned of YA, this genre I had never heard of and exactly fitted my needs, I still read a lot of contemporary, but dystopia and fantasy made its way in my bookish obsession. Still, I was, and still am, very hesitant when I pick up any fantasy.

I think you can clearly see this in my dislike for maps (shocking I know), I really don’t like maps in books. It makes me feel dread. For me, the only reason why you would put a map in a book, is when it is actually necessary and you wouldn’t be able to follow the story without it. So seeing a map in a book feels like a warning: this is going to get complex!

I have absolutely nothing with magical creatures; elves, fae, dragons (yes even unicorns). Now I feel bad because I once recommended a book highly because of the dragons and I usually don’t even like them. I have nothing with mythical creatures, and basically myths altogether. And witches: no thanks. Demons, maybe? Talking animals, great! But people with magical abilities, hell yeah, give them all! (that’s quite strange, I don’t like witches but I love magic, I’m a very contradictory person it seems)

The strange thing is, while I have a dislike for many of these things, I really do enjoy reading some books with these aspects. If you look at the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, which is one of my favourite series of all time, but at the same time, it has angels, demon-like creatures (aka chimaera), flying creatures that remind me a little of dragons, magical powers and much more. So where is the border between things I like and things I dislike? I really don’t know.

I really don’t know if my opinions are just based on some fantasy books I didn’t enjoy, or because I just don’t like these aspects. I feel like I haven’t read enough fantasy to make this decision, but I’ve been putting off reading a lot of fantasy for these reasons.

Overall I have grown to like fantasy to a certain level, I like light fantasy (contemporary, urban, etc), but the heavy kind… It’s really just a grey area for me, some stories I highly enjoy and some not at all, and I just don’t know why. Books like Lord of the Rings, I think are boring (sorry, I just don’t like it. At all.), while I loved The Wrath and The Dawn and An Ember in the Ashes (and some more). Made up languages and fantastical creatures just don’t really add anything to the story for me.

A factor is, that sometimes I have a hard time picturing things in my head while I’m reading, especially fight scenes, and because often fantasy books are action packed, this can cause some confusion and often leads to distraction. Now that I think some more of it, I think that maybe, just maybe, that in fantasy books the story is often built upon this world, and not on the characters. While I think if done well, worldbuilding can be done amazingly, I still think that characters need to lead the story. For me, that is very important. While I will always read my fair share of fantasy books, I don’t think this genre will ever become my favourite, there is just too much grey between the black and white.

I am not saying that fantasy is bad in any way or that whoever reads fantasy and loves it is a bad person, I’m just saying that it’s not my favourite thing.

What is your relationship with fantasy? Do you love it? Hate it? Or is your relationship just as complex as mine?


If you have any suggestions to topics you’d like to see discussed, please let me know! I have a long list of topics I’d like to talk about but some fresh input is appreciated!

Serpent | Review

General rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Diversity rating: ★☆ (1.5 stars; POC, semi non-western world, this book is really hard to rate)

When I get a request to review from an author, I am always very hesitant because sometimes you get really strange review requests in your inbox. However, with this book, I just had to say yes because it sounded great!

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It has been seventeen years since the Asterian Revolution, and all eyes are on Princess Aria and the long expected royal wedding. Having grown up in a world of royalty and wealth, Aria has been unable to imagine anything less than perfect for her life. But when an indiscretion threatens to ruin her reputation, the princess finds herself cast into a world of scandal.

As rumors and heartbreak threaten to destroy her, Aria journeys to a distant seaport and sets sail on a merchant ship, hoping the voyage will give her the freedom she craves. Though the ocean holds promises of adventure and intrigue, the world may be too small for a royal to truly disappear. With her family desperately searching the kingdoms for her, Aria finds herself surrounded by strangers and realizes that her brashness may have been a deadly mistake…

First of all, you do not need to read the first book in order to read this book! The first book follows the story of Aria’s parents, and takes place years and years earlier.

The story follows Aria, princess of Asteria and after a horrible event (I’m not going to tell you what 😛 ) she runs off to another Kingdom. She wants to escape the rumours and judging eyes of the people of her kingdom. She takes a different name and fleds. During her journey she gets into danger, meets new people and above all grows up. I thought the character development of Aria was very well done. In the beginning, I thought her to be a little selfish and spoiled, but she changed a lot during the book and in the end, I thought she was a strong and independent woman. This is one of my favourite things in books!

There are two points of view, Aria’s and her father James’. Although I thought James’s point of view did bring something extra into the book, it was slightly annoying sometimes. Sometimes something really excited happens and then they switch to James’ point of view, while all I wanted to know was what would happen with Aria! I completely understood why it was there but it did break the story somewhat.

The story started off a little slow, but once I got halfway I got so much into it, I just wanted to continue reading the entire time! It also started off with a lot of characters and names and I always struggle keeping up if there are that much.

I loved the world it was set in, even though there is no magic in it, as often is the case with fantasy, I loved the royal intrigue and the politics between the different kingdoms.

It was a little predictable sometimes but *screams in frustration* THAT ENDING! When I finished the book I was quite tempted to blackmail the writer to write me a sequel or at least an epilogue! (Please, Sarah help me out here)

I am giving this book ★★★★ (4/5 stars) because I highly enjoyed it and it was just really good! I would definitely recommend this if you like stories of princesses in ball gowns who run off and great worldbuilding and just fantasy in general.

This book will come out May 6th.

** I have received this book from the Author in exchange for a review, this did not affect my opinions whatsoever**

How Fate’s Fables disappointed me | Review

inted Action-packed, fairy tales and a bad-ass redhead. Sounds like a great book to read, right?

Fate’s Fables: One Girl’s Journey Through 8 Unfortunate Fairy Tales (#1; special edition) by T. Rae Mitchell

This beautifully intricate YA fantasy, with its feisty heroine, breath-taking action and heart-wrenching romance, will delight fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses.33630925

Reality sucks. Make-believe rocks. That’s been Fate Floyd’s motto for as long as she’s been a fantasy geek. But now she can hardly tell what’s real and what’s not. She’s been spelled and mysteriously trapped within a deadly fairy tale world bound by the Book of Fables. Her only way home is to travel through the book’s 8 unfortunate fairy tales and change them into happily-ever-afters. And if dealing with scheming sorceresses, greedy goblins and heartless faeries isn’t enough to test her sanity, there’s Finn. The Scottish boy who looks like he stepped straight out of her dreams. As it turns out, make-believe isn’t as fun as Fate thought it would be. The reality is, her road to freedom isn’t straight, and danger lurks around every bend.

Well… I didn’t really enjoy it. Maybe it had something to do with my mindset but I just couldn’t enjoy it. (I only just noticed that the blurb says it’s for the fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I didn’t really enjoy that book so maybe that’s the problem?)

But let’s first start at the beginning.

The premise is great, a girl stuck in a book filled with fables, making her way through 8 different tales in order to get out. Fate, which is kind of a weird name to be honest, is a writer and has a large imagination. The story starts off as she enters the book store her grandmother owned, but Fate now inherited. There’s a guy there, and his name is Finn. For some reason he is burning books, and Fate is okay with that?? It was a little vague why she trusted him in the first place. Anyway, a witch shows up when they open a gigantic book, they’re thrown in the first fable, and Fate seems to be able to write things down that then “appear” or happen.

There are eight tales (or fables) in the book, fables of spooky spirits, evil queens, kings and deadly monsters. In each tale, they need to change the usually very tragic ending, to a happy one, in order to move on to the next. The fables were written beautifully and especially the illustrations were very pretty. This was not the part that made me like it less, this was one of the better parts.

“Avoidance of pain does not always ensure a happy ending, and it’s up to you to bring good fortune to this story and every other” – Page 216

I really liked Fate in the beginning, even though I thought it was weird for her trusting Finn. However, somewhere halfway through the book, I started enjoying reading it less and less. The story was still action-packed and there was a lot going on, but I just couldn’t connect to the characters anymore. I couldn’t care less about what would happen to them. And then there was the case of amnesia, which resulted in a very strange change of character. It had a reason, namely the poison that caused the amnesia, but that doesn’t mean I liked it. This change of character made the book so much darker. Sithias (or something like that) spoke very annoyingly, because he was a snake or partly a snake and talked like this: The sssnow isss very cold. And of course it makes sense because he’s a snake, but reading sentences like that gets quite annoying after a while.

About halfway in I started skimming parts and in the end I read almost only the conversations that the characters had. I realized why it was that I disliked it, the story just keeps repeating itself. The characters go to a new fairy tale, discover a new situation with new people, they meet a villain or a problem, one of the characters gets in trouble (either Fate or Finn usually) and then the other ones save them. The only thing that seems to be changing is that it gets darker with every tale and there’s more pain, suffering, and death.

Of course, this book wasn’t all bad, it had its good points and I found it funny at some points. The book is very heavy on the descriptions, so if you like that, you might like this book a lot more than I did. I am giving this book 2.5 stars. The majority of the reviews I have seen of this book are very positive, so maybe I’m the odd one out. I really don’t know whether I should recommend this book or not, but I guess if you still think it’s interesting after I said all this, go try it!

I received this book to review by the Publisher and NetGalley, my review is honest.