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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mongrain

In the Watchful City

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐

"The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora's citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.

All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?"


In the Watchful City is an upcoming standalone sci-fi novella by S. Qiouyi Lu that is coming out on August 31st.

First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Tor for providing me with a copy for review. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that was I received was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the final release.

While I didn't think that was a bad book, this had no impact on me whatsoever. I will say though that it could be entirely my fault as I was having technical issues with the ebook, and I may have lost my motivation and focus along the way.

My computer simply wasn't able to handle the file for some reason and the program kept crashing. I was also not able to zoom in to make the font a more comfortable size for my eyes, and thus I had a hard time getting my eyes to focus on the words because they were so small. When I tried reading it on my phone I kept getting an error message saying that the book already exists and wouldn't download... These are just technical issues though and I am sure your experience won't be the same as mine.


As a starting note, something I greatly appreciate is the fact the author put trigger warnings at the beginning and indicated which stories, in particular, could be triggering.

The writing was easy enough to follow and there were some minor grammatical issues such as added spaces between words and missing letters. This is an ARC though so it is expected that there might be some grammatical errors that will be fixed. What threw me off though, was the use of the pronouns ae/aer and se/ser.

I have never heard of these pronouns before and when I tried to look them up, I didn't get a concrete answer. I either got a list of pronouns with no explanation as to which scenario they would be used in, or that they were a neopronoun that was first invented in reference to an alien race. I just couldn't wrap my head around it and it kind of threw me out of the story.

Plot and World-Building

Two plotlines are told in this story. One half follows our protagonist Anima who patrols the city, and the other half follows stories told between Anima and another character, Vessel. I think that some interesting elements were at play here but, as I said earlier, I just didn't feel any connection to the stories and felt rather detached while reading this. Things would be happening and I would just keep on going without much emotion or reaction.

This is a novella so there is only so much room for world-building. I thought that what elements that were included in this were fleshed out enough to establish the world.

Concluding Thoughts

Don't let yourself get deterred from reading this based on my experience as I don't think I gave this as much attention as I could have. If you are looking for a story along the lines of The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell, then maybe this will work for you as well. As I said in the writing section though, please note that there are trigger warnings, so read the foreword notes before you dive in.

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