Tag Archives: Segei Lukyanenko

Review of The Night Watch – Book 1 of The Night Watch trilogy by Segei Lukyanenko

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Enjoy reading fantasy with a distinctly different feel? What about a world that raises issues that keep tickling the edges of your brain long after you’ve put the book down? If so, then reach for The Night Watch – you’re in for a treat.

thenightwatchWalking the streets of Moscow, indistinguishable from the rest of its population, are the Others. Possessors of supernatural powers and capable of entering the Twilight, a shadowy world that exists in parallel to our own, each Other owes allegiance either to the Dark or the Light.

This story follows Anton, a young Other of the Light. As a Night Watch agent he must patrol the streets and metro of the city, protecting ordinary people from the vampires and magicians of the Dark. When he comes across Svetlana, a young woman under a powerful curse, and saves an unfledged Other, Egor, from vampires, he becomes involved in events that threaten the uneasy truce, and the whole city… And – yes – I’ve mentioned the V-word. However, if you’re not a Sookie Stackhouse or Twilight fan, please don’t roll your eyes and mentally dismiss this book. It isn’t concerned with the trials and tribulations of sucking blood, suffering extreme sunburn – or anything else about the vampire sub-culture.

Lukyanenko offers us a far more original take on supernatural politics. The leaders of the Dark and Light have organised a Treaty that has to be followed to the last letter. So the front line – the Night and Day Watches – are not only engaged in protecting/exploiting humans, they are also obliged to keep the Peace. At all costs. Leading to a situation not so much black and white, as a grubby grey when we discover some of the deals involving the Light are dubious, to say the least. While a number of Dark agents seem to have been guilty of little more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time…

The book is divided into three discrete stories – which doesn’t really affect the overall narrative arc, as each one follows the other in strict chronological order. Lukyanenko’s descriptions of the Moscow cityscape offer an interesting backdrop to the action and his nuanced, slightly world-weary approach is a fascinating contrast to much of the snappy, glossier North American fantasy I’m used to reading. Not necessarily better – just different. A treat in itself. His characters, in particular, Anton, are slightly opaque. But this only mirrors the tangled politics in a world where no one lets down their guard unless they’ve drunk far too much vodka…

Any quibbles? The pace at the start of the last story did flag, holding up the whole narrative in an annoying way. But the final climax to the book is sufficiently action-packed and quirky to bring the book to a satisfying conclusion – and a resolve on my part to get the next two books in the series. Urgently…
9/10