nick730 (nick730) wrote,

Book review: The Night Watch

I watched the Russian film Night Watch a while back and really enjoyed it, so wanted to check out the original novel by Sergei Lukyanenko. It's the first book in a fantasy trilogy set in Moscow, in which the centuries-old struggle between Light and Dark ended in stalemate. The two sides now observe an uneasy truce, in which if the Light does a good deed the Dark is allowed an equivalent bad one, and vice versa. Policing the truce are the Watches, and this first novel follows Anton, who works for the Night Watch - the agents of Light who patrol the night to make sure their enemies don't break any rules. It's part of the book's nicely twisted morality that as part of the deal the Light Ones have agreed to a similar arrangement in the day, punishing them if they do good.

The book is split into three stories, in which Anton gets caught up in trying to protect a young woman and a boy, either or both of whom may have extraordinary magical powers. In the process he finds out more than he'd like to about the lines his bosses are willing to cross in order to do what they see as ultimate good. It's a well-realised universe, with clear rules set up only for them to be broken soon enough. Despite being told from the perspective of the "good guys," there's more than a little suggestion that the straightforward self-interest of the Dark Ones may be more honourable than the underhandedness and manipulation used by the Light Ones.

The first two stories are well-paced and gripping; the third one is slower, being more of a buildup to the rest of the trilogy, but it does work towards a pretty exciting conclusion. Recommended, and I'm looking forward to reading the next two books.
Tags: books, night watch

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