Guest Post: Claudie Arseneault talks Narrators and the Heart of a Story

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Narrators and the Heart of a Story

One of Isandor’s most important and, as a writer, challenging characteristic is the way I’ve built point of views in it. My narrators are all over the place… by which I mean literally all over the city in which the story happens, from the highest tower to the poorest neighbourhood.

One of the consequences of this is that my narrating characters hail from a large variety of backgrounds. And I say ‘consequence’, but in truth that was a very intentional choice, and the result of a long thought process. When Mel reviewed City of Strife, she pointed out how many narrators were not, in fact, nobles or otherwise placed in positions of power. It’s very common for fantasy to focus on lords and influential people, or to take farmers and send them on adventures that have nothing to do with their previous lives, and that’s a route I didn’t want to follow.

Several elements went into my choice of narrators. First, I wanted to write about the city as a whole. A city is not its leaders. It’s the people inhabiting it, and that means showing a little of everyone. I still have to build a coherent story, of course, but a mosaic of point of views allow me to cover more ground and, importantly, to show the impact events have on more than a single caste.

Second, I don’t believe nobles or privileged are the true source of change. They can support it—give it more weight—but the shifts are more grassroot. They come from lower (literally, in Isandor’s case). The nobles are there to show the system they fight against, not to act as saviour for those below (though some do perceive themselves that way). I decided to put my focus on the powerless, those who get crushed and abused and resist nonetheless. A lot of the City of Spires trilogy is about how the poor and marginalized are the heart of a city, and needed for any real change to occur. These themes are deeply interlocked with my choices of narrators.

When building the series, I also chose to silence the evil and powerful, and instead gave that “page time” to the marginalized characters. This serves to balance out whose story is  told—who gets to be a full-fledged human being, and who has its humanity left unexplicit (I wrote more about villains and humanizing backstories here if you want).

Focusing exclusively on nobles would have gone against what I’m trying to say with this trilogy. I tend to put a lot of thoughts on how structure and form support my message, and featuring several characters from poor or marginalized backgrounds certainly goes a long way in that regards. After all, if they are the heart of the city, they need to be the heart of the novel, too.

Starting today and until the end of the month, all of Claudie’s books are on sale!

Whether you’re more into political high fantasy, Bilbo-like protagonists overthrowing corrupt governments, or want to discover fabulous stories of solarpunk dragons, now is really the time!


city of strife claudie arsenaultCity of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all QUILTBAG 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.

Isandor, City of Spires.

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 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.


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 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 on her website!

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