Book review · novel

Book review: City of Betrayal

City of Betrayal (City of Spires #2), by Claudie Arseneault

Please note that this is a sequel and you might get spoiled if you keep reading further and haven’t read the first book yet.

City-of-betrayal-jpeg-finalDescription: (from the author’s website)

The whole city is searching for Hasryan.

Lord Allastam wants to take bloody, ruthless revenge for the murder of his wife. Inspector Sora Sharpe wants to bring him to justice for his crimes against the city. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.

While the city’s eyes are turned to these two, no one is willing to help Lord Diel Dathirii free Isandor from the influence of the Myrian Enclave and their vengeful leader, Avenazar. High Priest Varden Daramond could help Diel, except Varden has been imprisoned. Lord Dathirii’s only hope of rescuing Varden is Arathiel. An alliance with him, however, would invoke the wrath of the Golden Table… and Lord Allastam himself.

With enemies gathering around him, Diel is left without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres and must place his fate in Lower City residents. But little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

Expected publication: October 22nd 2017. 
A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the author. Some things might change in the final copy.

Reminder that my review for the first book in the City of Spires series is here.

I was SO excited about this novel that I signed up to review an advance copy AND I also made this post focusing on the characters, with bits from the first and second novel: City of Strife and City of Betrayal’s characters aesthetic.

I really loved City of Strife, on a 4,5/5 scale. City of Betrayal was even better and I had zero hesitation when I went to rate it on goodreads and gave it 5/5.

City of Strife focused on a lot of characters but the most prominent ones take a bit of a step back here so we can get to know a bit more some others who were only introduced in CoS and some who didn’t get a lot of spotlight while also being important. There are so many characters, all so interesting, that I was happy that different ones got to have more point of views. It’s one of these books where it’s so difficult to pick favourites (but I do think I would pick Hasryan for this book because I loved to learn more about him the most) because everyone has amazing character development, agency and great lines. Everyone in here feels like a real person and it’s the kind of book you want to craddle and get on the shelf dedicated to favourites. There also are more spotlight on female characters than in the first book!

The novel spans on a short period of time, which is unusual for a 400+ pages fantasy novel. It was still very gripping and always moving toward a point. It moved from person to person, to give a sight of what was happening from a good number of points of view which gives a wide look at the story and political intrigue. It’s one of my favourite thing! Claudie Arseneault managed to make me care a lot for characters that I haven’t spend that much time with and that is a very nice tour de force.

“I have the best friends,” he whispered.

This book also deals with so many heavy subjects such as oppression, social class, abuse and consent… It’s just so good, and everything wrapped in a good found family trope (sprinkled by actual family members who care for each others) which I love more than any other trope ❤ The characters are very supportive of each others, and some of them screw up and some of them apologise for their mistake, people are struggling but trying to do the right things and it’s such a good thing to read about, in my opinion. I have so many feelings because to me this book is so pure and full of all the things I want to find in books and I feel so lucky for having found them ❤

This book made me want to scream at times, in both good situations and bad ones, it filled me with a lot of feelings and I want to urge every fantasy fan to read this series. The ensemble cast – full of queer, disabled, non-white characters – is getting bigger and better and I want them all to be happy please and thank you. I also love that it has several aromantic and asexual characters (this is #ownvoices representation here), some are even questionning their identity, and on-page representation (which means the actual words are used and not just some coding or word-of-god.)

“Do you use neutral pronouns, then?”
“Yes!” Excitement coursed through them briefly. They didn’t often get asked for their pronouns, even though many non-binary folks walked Isandor’s bridges or lived in their legends.

Maybe a slight negative (or that I’m confused on what to think of) thing I should mention is the reveal of one of the character’s racial identity. While it is revealed early on the book so as not to be used as a plot device of final twist (which is a good thing), the way the character is perceived as white during the first book and is revealed to not be white and hidding their skin colour and facial features because of oppression felt a bit?? weird to me. I am not the right person to comment on that, but I wanted to make sure to at leat talk about it. I feel the author is trying to do it all with a gentle hand but it might hurt some readers? While on the subject, another non-white character is subjected to torture due to their race. It’s of course seen as bad and most characters are trying to save this character but still, I’ll just leave this here.
I know I have said that this book is very good and nice, but it is not a fluffy book either, it has some difficult things to read about and is not 100% a “light” read, it’s high fantasy at its core. It is not young adult, while it can be read by teens, it is an adult fantasy novel. While I loooove this book, I’m trying to have a critical eye anyway and this is the only thing that I can think of that could make people uneasy (understandably.)

There is so much hinted at, from the past or for what’s going to happen, and I can’t wait for new content on this beautiful series. I have FIFTEEN pages of highlights and bookmark for this book on my ereader so: I basically reread half of this novel when doing this review, and I want to say so much more but also I don’t want to spoil anything!!

No middle-book syndrome here since City of Betrayal managed to raise the stakes, to make me want more and entertained me while also giving space to the story and characters to breath and grow through some slower scenes, nice breaks on the political intrigue. This made this sequel a new favourite for me, one that I will definitely reread once I get my physical copy when it is available.

There will also be a bonus short story called “The Trial of Coals” on the PDF and physical copies of the book, I’m looking forward to be able to read it.

You can read an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM CITY OF BETRAYAL, contains a really nice domestic scene between Diel and Jaeger, plus a convo on polyamory!

Here’s to my favourite quote of the book, referencing events from book1:

“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 off bridges to save your neck from the noose, even though you expected nothing of him.”

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