In a world that appears ordinary to the average human’s eye, there are beings known as Others that roam the earth. They watch over us, sometimes helping humans, sometimes causing harm, and they are divided by two groups; Dark Ones and Light Ones. Anton Gorodetsky, a Light One, is an agent of the Night Watch, the group that oversees the Dark Ones’ activities in Moscow. But soon he is dragged into a plot that effects much more than the city of Moscow; a plot that has been planned for many years without his knowledge. But Anton isn’t ready to simply stand by and let it happen…
Night Watch holds a special place in my heart – long before I learned there was a book, I watched the movie years ago, and it’s always stuck with me, even though it never got very popular here in America (with both the movie and book being of Russian origin). So weeks ago, when I saw that there was an entire series of novels, I couldn’t resist picking up the first one. And let me say right now – I was not disappointed.
Going into Night Watch, I immediately picked up on the dark atmosphere of the book, something that was very appealing. Not only was it dark, but it was written with an incredible amount of… style. I can’t really describe it in any other way. Almost all of the novel is done from Anton Gorodetsky’s point of view, which also happens to be from the 1st person – which means that if reading from the 1st person POV bugs you, avoiding Night Watch is probably a good idea, because it’s plentiful in this book. However, I personally am a fan of it, so that heightened the reading experience for me.
The novel is split into three parts – Destiny, Among His Own Kind, and All For My Own Kind. I didn’t realize when I started the novel that each of these parts would be a different story (albeit with the same characters), so when I finished the first segment, Destiny, and went onto Among His Own Kind, it was very jarring – definitely a, “WTF just happened?!?!” moment for me. It was also very surprising because the ending to Destiny was kind of abrupt, and to me that story just didn’t feel completely finished. Going into the third segment of Night Watch was a bit better, because I was expecting the change in story, but I think the transitions could’ve flowed better overall.
However, that doesn’t mean the three segments of the book aren’t connected in some way; they all have the same characters, and there’s an overarching story that isn’t really hinted at until about halfway through the second arc. Of course, it isn’t revealed in a simple way; there are many twists and turns in the story, and we don’t really know the whole story until literally the last page of the book.
This all ties in with the biggest complaint I have about the book; it’s seriously confusing sometimes. There were many instances where I was left staring at the page, a blank look on my face as I read about how one certain event was connected with another. Was I supposed to understand it? Or was it purposefully confusing so that it could be answered later in the book? Looking on it now, I’m almost positive the latter isn’t the case, so it was either the fault of the author for not being clear enough or my own failing to pay attention properly in a couple of cases. I actually think it might’ve been a slight combination of both, so maybe this is a book you need to re-read just so you can completely “get” some parts.
One instance of this confusion was when in the first segment of the book, Egor, a boy (also an Other) who was attacked by vampires, is built up so much as an incredibly powerful magician with unfounded potential and an open destiny, but then at the end of the first story, the head of the Moscow Night Watch reveals that he is in fact a very weak magician. It was later said very plainly that the boy’s power had been built up for other reasons as a ploy, but still, this was slightly confusing before I read the later statement on it.
Throughout the whole book you see his destiny being referenced as well; half the time it’s said that his aura is still neutral, not leaning one way or another towards Light or Dark, but it’s assumed by *everyone* that he will be a Dark Magician in the future. I think I can actually understand this – that even though he’s technically still neutral, ultimately he will likely join the Dark Ones because of certain experiences he’s had, but still, if this is the case, why didn’t his aura change in the slightest to reflect this?
Needless to say, this all calls for a certain song to be played.
Still though, despite the occasional confusion, I couldn’t get enough of the story and concept of Night Watch. I love anything with a philosophical twist to it and that was definitely present in the novel – with some of the main, or at least recurring, questions in the book being, “What good does the Night Watch do, fighting against the darkness, if humans won’t help themselves and change their own chaotic ways?”, “How could we possibly strike a truce with the darkness?”, etc. Those may seem simple but they really have quite a bit of depth to them in the book when characters are discussing it, or dealing with their own inner conflict about the answers.
The characters are also fantastic, offering a variety of colorful beings to read about – they can sometimes be annoying, sympathetic, funny, etc. but no matter the situation they’re placed in they always feel very real. The only character I didn’t like sometimes was Svetlana, only due to the fact that she could get really whiny, but even that didn’t make me absolutely hate reading her scenes.
While we’re on the subject of characters – the Others are magicians, vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, healers, etc. and such a wide variety of beings manage not to feel crammed or forced at all. Not only that, but they are all supremely BADASS.
But I know what you’re thinking. “Vampires and werewolves, together in a book? OH NOES! MY MIND GOES TO TWILIGHT! THE HORROR!” What makes that funnier is that the alternate dimension the Others are able to travel to is called “Twilight”. Yeah. But this book was written at a time when the word was still awesome, and not tainted by sparkly vampires and wussy werewolves. So your fears stemming from Twilight can be put to rest, because Night Watch is a novel with vampires and werewolves done right (even if werewolves don‘t really feature in it, I just seem to distinctly remember them being in it regardless)! This is how you’re supposed to write them! So kudos, Sergei Lukyanenko!
To wrap it up, as I’m sure you can tell, I loved Night Watch; the mood and setting of the book was excellent, the characters were appealing, and the story was great. The whole concept of good and evil striking a truce, living in balance, may not be the most original concept, but it was done magnificently regardless. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a nice thriller or fantasy read – and I cannot wait to dig into the rest of the series.