Having heard so many good things about Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch series last year, my curiosity was piqued in such a way that I couldn't not buy the first two volumes. And although my expectations were high for this book, I was truly impressed by The Night Watch. It's no wonder this urban fantasy trilogy made Lukyanenko the bestselling speculative fiction author in Russia. Hopefully reviews like these will help generate interest for this imaginative series.
Set in contemporary Moscow, The Night Watch introduces us to the eternal struggle between two factions of the Others, an ancient race of human beings possessing supernatural powers. All Others must swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. Agents of the Light -- the Night Watch -- and agents of the Dark -- the Day Watch -- oppose one another, yet they must maintain a precarious balance between Good and Evil due to the Treaty which is enforced by the mysterious Inquisition. When Anton, a seemingly unimportant member of the Night Watch, stumbles upon a cursed young woman named Svetlana on the train, events are set in motion that could have dire consequences. A battle between the Dark and the Light could lay waste to the entire world, unless Anton can find a way to prevent that catastrophe.
The simple fact that Russia and the former Soviet Union serve as a backdrop for this novel makes for a fascinating setting. It's different -- a veritable breath of fresh air in a genre that stagnates all too often.
The Night Watch is comprised of three different parts. Although they're related, the three parts read like distinct novellas, each with its own storylines. And yet, each part is a thread in a vaster tale.
Sergei Lukyanenko's writing style could be qualified as "minimalist." Nothing is overwritten, no words or sentences are wasted -- you won't find flowery prose in this book. The author's concise style makes for a brisk pace, and the novella-type format turns this novel into a real page-turner.
There is a good balance between first and third person narratives. The sections which showcase Anton are written in the first person, which allows the reader to appreciate how genuine and complex this character is. First person narratives can be tricky, but Lukyanenko does it well, and the transition between the various narratives is smooth throughout the novel.
Had I read this book last year as I intended, The Night Watch would certainly have ended up in my Top 10 of 2006. I can't wait to read both sequels, The Day Watch and The Twilight Watch.
Highly recommended. . . Sergei Lukyanenko is an author worth discovering!:-) And with the book out in paperback, anyone can afford it!
The final verdict: 8/10