Publisher: Arrow

The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Posted April 13, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

The Night Watch by Sergei LukyanenkoTitle: The Night Watch (Goodreads)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Translator: Andrew Bromfield
Series: Watch #1
Published: Arrow, 1998
Pages: 576
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Walking the streets of Moscow with the rest of the population are the Others, possessors of supernatural powers capable of entering the Twilight, a shadowy parallel that few know exists. Each Other owes allegiance to the Light or Dark side, The Night Watch follows Anton, a young Other of the Light, who must patrol the streets protecting ordinary people from the vampires and magicians of the Dark.

I’ve been trying more and more fantasy (in my quest to be a literary explorer) and with the success of some recent urban fantasy and The Lions of Al-Rassan, I thought I might try some Russian fantasy. This novel revolves around a confrontation between two opposing supernatural groups; the Night Watch, an organisation that polices the actions of the Dark Others, and the Day Watch, who police the Light Others. Now to help wrap your head around the novel, I first must explain just what are the Others; these are humans that while they live into the real world they can step into the Twilight (the supernatural world). Why do the Watch need to help police these two sides? The balance between Light and Dark must be kept at all times.

I thought my love of Russian literature would help me through this novel but in the end there was no saving this one. While the premise was excellent and the whole battle between good and evil in a police procedural type urban fantasy novel can really work (see The Dirty Streets of Heaven) but not in this book. Straight off the bat the whole book took a very long time to build momentum, I think I was a quarter of the way through the book when I started to enjoy it then Bam! a completely new story. Turns out these are three completely independent stories and each one of them was a very slow burn that ended too quickly. My major problem with the entire book that I had to spend so much time building the story then finally getting sucked into the plot only to have it end too soon.

There were so many interesting elements worth exploring, I would have liked to see more of the Post-Soviet Russia that this book (like most modern Russian literature) hints at but regrettably never really explored. Russia has this amazingly rich history that has sparked so many great novels and authors and I truly think Sergei Lukyanenko could be one of them with some work. Like Dostoyevsky, Lukyanenko tries to inject the novel with philosophical ideas on morality and this could have really worked in his favour had he stuck with one story right through to the end.

Personally I think Sergei Lukyanenko did not do himself any favours by dividing this book into three short tales; none of them really stood out and I really think the first of the three had the most potential if he explored it in greater detail and developed a more complex plot. The tension between Anton and Kostya Saushkin could have made for some really interesting philosophical discussion on morality, evil and the effects it has on the world around you. Plus the sexual tension between the two didn’t hurt either but that is when this short story ended abruptly. I felt disappointed at the miss opportunity.

The Night Watch really didn’t work for me; there was so much it could have done but I feel it shot itself in the foot when anything complex started to surface. On the front of the cover was a blurb that said “J.K. Rowling Russian style” which feels like a marketing ploy that I doubt it did itself any favours; it does not make me want to read the Harry Potter series. The second book in the pentalogy of Watches is called Day Watch which intrigues me but because it is broken into little stories as well, I think I will give it a miss. The Night Watch has left me with the need to explore some more of Sergei Lukyanenko’s novels but this is his most recent series, which makes me worry that he has not perfected his craft.