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Дозоры #1

Night Watch

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Others. They walk among us. Observing.

Set in contemporary Moscow, where shape shifters, vampires, and street-sorcerers linger in the shadows, Night Watch is the first book of the hyper-imaginative fantasy pentalogy from best-selling Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko.

This epic saga chronicles the eternal war of the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who must swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. The agents of the Dark – the Night Watch – oversee nocturnal activity, while the agents of the Light keep watch over the day. For a thousand years both sides have maintained a precarious balance of power, but an ancient prophecy has decreed that a supreme Other will one day emerge, threatening to tip the scales. Now, that day has arrived. When a mid-level Night Watch agent named Anton stumbles upon a cursed young woman – an uninitiated Other with magnificent potential – both sides prepare for a battle that could lay waste to the entire city, possible the world. With language that throbs like darkly humorous hard-rock lyrics about blood and power, freedom and responsibility, Night Watch is a chilling, cutting-edge thriller, a pulse-pounding ride of fusion fiction that will leave you breathless for the next instalment.

455 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1998

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About the author

Sergei Lukyanenko

208 books2,455 followers
Сергей Лукьяненко (Russian)
Szergej Lukjanyenko (Hungarian)
Sergejs Lukjaņenko (Latvian)
Sergey Lukyanenko
Sergej Luk'janenko (Italian)
Сергей Лукяненко (Bulgarian)
Sergej Lukianenko (German)
Siergiej Łukjanienko (Polish)
Sergej Lukjaněnko (Czech)

Sergei Lukyanenko (as his name appears on books and films in U.S. markets) is a science-fiction and fantasy author, writing in Russian, and is arguably the most popular contemporary Russian sci-fi writer. His works often feature intense action-packed plots, interwoven with the moral dilemma of keeping one's humanity while being strong.

Lukyanenko is a prolific writer, releasing usually 1-2 books per year, as well as a number of a critical articles and short stories. Recently his works have been adapted into film productions, for which he wrote the screenplays. He lives in Moscow with his wife Sonia and two sons, Artemiy and Danil, keeps mice as pets and enjoys cooking.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,342 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
727 reviews11.6k followers
March 18, 2022
2022: Yeah, naive me in 2014 thought there was no need to change my rating of this book. But that was then and this is now, and Lukyanenko is allowed to have his opinions (http://file770.com/sergei-lukianenko-...) and I am allowed to have mine. And mine is — the thoughts of the books by this author make bile rise in my throat and a wave of nausea to start. Because his books no longer stand separate from his politics as those politics put all those little snippets of intolerance throughout them into a sharper, clearer relief, really changing how I see them now.

1 star.

2014: *** Here are the reasons why I will never read another one of Lukyanenko's books. ***

The conflict in Ukraine has been all over the news. Regardless of which side you take, or whether you even care about anything that goes on in that part of the world, the disgusting remarks by Mr. Lukyanenko are impossible to ignore as they are filled with such vitriol, contempt and hate that it's hard to believe anyone would spout something like this in public, gleefully demeaning an entire ethnicity:

Taken (and translated) from Lukyanenko's blog and his comments (http://dr-piliulkin.livejournal.com/5...

"As for a Ukraine... Yes. Alas. Treachery is one of the qualities of the Maloross character ['maloross' coming from Malorussia , literally 'little Russia'- the old imperial Russian name for the southeastern part of Ukraine that used to be a part if 'greater' Russia]. Simply for the reason that the Malorosses are a peasant branch of the a Russian people. And peasants are always traitors by nature. That's life."

В Европе вообще понятие "предательство" мало понятно. :) Ибо там целесообразность.
А на Украине... да. Увы. Предательство - это одна из черт малороссийского характера. Просто по той причине, что малоросы - сельская ветвь русского народа. А селянин всегда по натуре предатель. Жизнь такая.

"There's not such a country as Ukraine. There's only an obmylok [used-up remnant of a bar of soap] with inflated ego and a bare ass. It's time for this soap remnant to realize its place in the world."

Нет такой страны, Украины. Есть обмылок с раздутым эго и голой жопой.
Что ж, пора этому обмылку понять свое место в мире.

There are plenty of other writers who (a) write better than Lukyanenko, and (b) are not douchebags. Therefore I'm not wasting any more of my time reading his works.

2012: This is coming from much more innocent times. I don’t agree with my viewpoint from back then any longer.


By the way, my review of the sequel, The Day Watch, is here - for your reading pleasure.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
769 reviews3,500 followers
December 26, 2021
Imagine the mindset of your disillusionized, sarcastic, badass favorite thriller investigator made the phenotype of a whole fantasy series.

Contrast to happy go lucky unicorn rainbow marshmallow icecream mainstream
One can best understand the dark magic and charm of this series by contrasting it with stereotypical friendly, happy, and sympathetic or antihero with a grain of humanity, Western fantasy ideals. Everything and everyone is differently penetrated up in this series, there is no real good and evil, there are just vast color palettes of grey. No shades, please.

What´s right, wrong, and who decides about that?
Morality and ethics get a completely new touch when seen from and under this perspective, when the seemingly good ones have to make compromises with the dark side, when the motives and ideals of each fraction can be understood and suddenly the antagonists aren´t that evil anymore, it´s just their nature, how the rule, who has the legitimation to accuse. The same concept of cracking the old code of fantasy conduct has also produced loads of groundbreaking fantasy works in the West, would take to name them all, close to each second new bestseller did something in this direction, but it was never so bleak and disturbing as in this one.

Special Nordic bittersweet desperation
I don´t know what it is, I avoid deploying stereotypes on nations except for Austria and Germany because I have N word privileges
, but each Eastern European and Russian authors, also the Scandinavian authors with their thriller genres, have a special taste of desperation and hopelessness that permeates each dialogue, introspection and especially the worldbuilding and tone. Is it the long, dark winters, an epigenetic factor, doesn´t happy go lucky sell great in these melancholic book markets?

Especially recommendable for everyone who wants something different
However, if you want something completely different that doesn´t care about genre conventions and plotting towards perfect readers´ satisfaction, this might be the new revelation for you. Includes a nice dark, light magic system with a meta real world fantasy world dimension background too. I am thinking about rereading it together with Butcher´s Dresden files to see how the contrast of the same crime investigator magical detective can be executed by just using a different tone, but close to the same setting.

(Re)read or not to (re)read, that´s the question
I´m not sure if I should reread the series, it´s really quite a downer and the hopeless, dirty, and gritty world isn´t getting any better or more optimistic, it´s just as if reality had some black and grey magic with tiny spots of white that are slowly fading away. I´ll see, but positive, cheerful readers might get less out of it than the ones that, just like me, are already cursed with the darkness inside and whispering demons haunting ones depraved, tortured soul and mind.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for carol..
1,517 reviews7,721 followers
February 17, 2020
I can’t get over the suspicion I’m reading this in the wrong language.

Simple, really. I am—I’m reading it in English.

The philosophy of language makes me dizzy; the chicken-egg relationship between cognition and verbal expression means that something is likely lost in translation the more sophisticated or fantastical a thought becomes. Even simple phrases have deeper meaning. Take the concept “I have to walk the dog.” Not too hard, is it? Except in translating, do you use the pronoun “I” or is it implied in the verb? If you leave the ‘I’ out, are you implying something about importance of self? What about ‘walk’ and ‘dog?’ In English, ‘walk’ tends to imply a more leisurely pace. In America, there is often an implication of economics and social status. You have a dog. You have free time to walk it. Money to feed it. You have a safe place to walk. What’s the equivalent expression of leisure and obligation? Is the ‘have to’ an ethical obligation or a social one? Declaring or implying? Something more is contained in every word chosen–a hint of characterization, a whiff of judgement, an implication.

As I said, dizzy.

I liked The Night Watch. And yet I felt I missed some of the details, the emotional impact of the whole. The concepts are deceptively simple. Balance. Sacrifice of the few for the many. Sacrifice of the personal for the larger goal. The bureaucrat forced into action. Love.

Told in a triptych structure, it follows the story of Anton, agent of the Night Watch in the war between the Light Ones and the Dark Ones. Discovering one’s potential to walk in the Twilight, the unseen world around us, obligates a person to choose a side. With choosing and training comes other magical skills. Dark Ones explore freedom at the expense of others. Light Ones work for others.

‘Story One: Destiny.’ Anton, former computer jockey, is tasked with tracking vampires who are poaching in Moscow without a license. The Night Watch, the police force of the Light, is monitoring and enforcing the treaty of neutrality between the Light and the Dark. As Anton rides the trains listening to music, he runs into a young woman with a powerful curse hanging over her head. He uses his magic amulet, but it is unable to disperse it more than a minute or two. Unfortunately, he notes the vampire luring in a young boy nearby, so he has to disengage from saving the woman to complete his mission. Anton is a little unsuited to his task; his main role has been as programmer, not field agent. In fact, he lives next to a family of (legal) vampires, and is prone to drawing comparisons between his friends and the vampire he is supposed to kill.

The language of the translation is deceptively straightforward, except for the mind-stutter of the ‘Night Watch’ being the arm of Light, and the ‘Day Watch’ being the arm of Dark. It was almost as if those terms were too simple for their use. Occasionally, I’d hit a lovely little turn of phrase:

“That’s how myths are born. Out of our carelessness, out of our tattered nerves, out of jokes that go wrong and flashy gestures.”

“Generally speaking, we can and should say everything. We just have to choose the right time, otherwise the truth can be worse than a lie.”

For an everyman mythos, characterization is well done. There’s an interruption in the narrative when the young teen Egor is given a viewpoint, and Lukyanenko manages to capture young, confused and defiant in a nice mix. I found the scene were the narrator approaches Egor to be equally well done–American urban fantasy especially wants to believe in the romance, when in fact, fright, doubt and suspicion are equally likely responses. I loved the idea that words/intentions/feelings could result in curses, which could attach to a person and cause temporary bad luck.

There were, perhaps, particularly Russian moments and conceptions:

“They showed me out in total silence, without any unnecessary words, without any shoulder-slapping or helpful advice. After all, what I was doing wasn’t such a big deal. I was only on my way to die.”

That one struck me, the resignation, the acceptance, the futility and the neutral reaction of his team. ‘Yes,’ they seem to say. ‘We all do. This is only your turn.’

‘Story Two: Among His Own Kind’ is a more challenging piece. An unknown magician is killing low-level agents of the Dark Ones without a trace, with only a rip in the clothes for evidence. Is it a rogue Light Agent? Both sides are interested in finding the killer, either to recruit or to retaliate. Anton is suspected, and he and Olga switch bodies as a way of hiding Anton from the Dark. Anton finds his commitment to the Light tested.

‘Story Three: All for My Own Kind’ starts more hopefully with the Night Watch heading on a three day vacation. I liked the view of leisure it presented, a small glimpse into Russian culture with resources to vacation in the country. Characterization here is particularly well done, with a nice air of both comedy and melancholy. Anton is roused for defense and embarks on his most complicated journey yet. It ends satisfactorily.

“Maybe it’s because we’ve lost something, Anton… The ability not just to defend people, but to bring them joy? What good are secure walls, if they’re the walls of a prison? Humans have forgotten about genuine magic, they don’t believe in the Dark, but they don’t believe in the Light either!”

Another Russian moment:

“‘It’s okay to get drunk, Anton. If you really need to. Only you have to get drunk on vodka. Cognac and wine–that’s all for the heart.’

‘So what’s vodka for?’

‘For the soul. If it’s hurting real bad.'”

It all feels very metaphorical, all very Cold-War-esque, Russian stoicism, philosophical debate of freedom. Still, it’s couched in a good story. The second time through, I had greater understanding of the mechanics of the complicated plots. I have the feeling that if I knew more about Russian culture, or was reading it in Russian, that I’d have a greater appreciation for its intricate plot and philosophical underpinnings.

“‘Why am I still asking these questions?’

‘You’ll never stop asking them. Out loud at first, and later on just to yourself. It will never stop, never. If you wanted to be free of painful questions, you chose the wrong side.’

‘I chose the one I wanted’

‘I know. So now put up with it.’

‘All my life?’

‘Yes. It will be a long one, but you’ll never get over this. You’ll never stop asking yourself if every step you make is the right one.'”
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews523 followers
March 1, 2017
So I was strolling through a thrift shop one day a few weeks ago and came across this book on a sale table.  I had never heard of it before but was intrigued by a blurb on the cover that said ‘Brace yourself for Harry Potter in Gorky Park”

The Night Watch takes place mostly in and around Moscow.  The book is really broken down into three parts but all three focus on Anton who is an Other, working with the Night Watch.  Others can be shape shifters, magicians etc., the main point being that they are all Light Ones, who patrol the streets and keep an eye on the Dark Others (vampires, werewolves, dark magicians etc.) in an effort to ensure that The Dark Ones adhere to the treaty established by the Light and the Dark many years ago following WWII.   Think Good versus Evil with the Light representing all that is good.  
Anton has been with the Night Watch for five years, during which time he has seen very little if any field work, until now.   As the story progresses Anton will begin to question many of the actions taken by the Light and decisions made by his boss and mentor.   The root of his uncertainty is mostly about whether the end justifies the means.  He feels shackled by the restrictions placed upon members of the Light and finds himself wondering sometimes if he could do more good in the long run if he joined the Dark.  Of course to do so would result in him being trapped in the Twilight forever.

While riding the metro Anton notices a black vortex hanging over the head of a young female passenger.  He gathers power from his amulet and attempts to knock it back, but the vortex soon returns.  Clearly this is the real deal, the product of a powerful Dark Magician.  
Having once left the metro Anton saves a young boy who has been mesmerized by a team of vampires.  Arriving on the scene just in time Anton neutralizes the male vampire, while the girl, freshly initiated by her teammate, escapes.  By the time Anton is able to take stock of the situation even the young boy he has saved  (Egor) has fled the scene.
Back at the office Anton learns from his boss that the young boy Egor is also most likely an Other.  One who promises to yield great power but who has not as yet chosen between the Dark and the Light.   Meanwhile the black vortex is growing at an accelerated rate and if the Light cannot locate the Dark Magician in control the results could be catastrophic not just for the young woman, but all of Moscow as well.

Among His Own Kind
Anton must find a Maverick Other who has been killing Dark Others.  Unfortunately the Dark Others believe that it is Anton doing the killing and they are hunting him.

All For My Own Kind
Moscow is experiencing an uncommon heat wave and many of the Night Watch have been sent away on vacation.  Anton is concerned about Svetlana ( the young woman from the metro).  Svetlana has joined the Night Watch and Anton worries that she is being developed way too fast.  He understands that Svetlana is destined to become a great Sorceress but at what cost.  Anton loves Svetlana but he pushes her away, flees the countryside and in an effort to find out just what his boss has planned for her, he enters an agreement with the leader of the Dark Ones.  

I can admit that it took me a while to find my legs here.  I kept thinking I was missing something and that maybe that something had been lost in translation from its original Russian to English.  But no, that’s not it.  Nobody takes the reader by the hand here and explains everything to them.  We are not privy to what Anton has figured out while ruminating about all things and must consequently wait until the final denouement is revealed.

This is a highly original story that brings together a motley group characters to form the Night Watch.  Warning, they take some warming up to.  I understand that at least the first part of this story has been made into a movie and I am just not sure how I feel about that.  I worked so hard to establish visual representations of all these characters in my mind’s eye that someone else’s vision is sure to disappoint.

Did I mention that Anton has a partner, Olga, a powerful female Other who has been turned into an owl.

Definitely Recommended!!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,913 followers
May 13, 2018
I think I'm a bit amazed.

There's an awful lot I love about this novel and I had to put aside a lot of my well-misinformed prejudices about what I think I like most about modern Urban Fantasy.

Let's be clear here... this novel came out before most of the modern batches. 1998.

When it comes to similar themes of dark magic vs. light and the exploration of an amazingly deep moral ambiguity between them, I actually prefer Benedict Jacka's UF novels when it comes to straight action, magic, and characters, but Night Watch takes things slightly farther with the honest questions.

In both, anyone can be good or evil despite the categories, and there's a LOT of ground covered in both series, but Night Watch actually comes close to laying down a foundation of philosophical thought. I can be summed up as balance if I wanted to be crude. Let's not be surprised this is a modern Russian novel writing about modern Russia as a full-out UF with vampires, magicians, alternate dimensional side-realms, and a fight between the light and dark. Add the police-like drama and ramp up the focus of a morality of action versus the singularity of truth and the ambiguity of all the details will bring a hoard of devils home to us.

Sometimes slow, very often broken up into what could be a series of novellas, this first book is nevertheless pretty brilliant.

Where do dark magicians get their power? Suffering. Where do light magicians get theirs? Joy. Both diminish the source. It's quite delightful.

But if I'm being very honest, this is more of a 4.5 than a full 5 stars, but that's only due to my sheer enjoyment (or lack) that pulled down this otherwise sprawling philosophical twist to a traditional gritty UF. Maybe my issue is in the translation. Maybe it's my greater enjoyment coming from similar series to have treated the topic. I do not know.

Even so, I did enjoy this very much. Especially the end.
February 17, 2019
Okay, I’m still not sure what to think of this book, but let’s try and ruthlessly cut the crap for once, shall we?

👍 The Good

The World is pretty cool and original and stuff.
The thing is, I’m not sure how much that has to do with the fact that the author is Russian and that the action takes place in Moscow. Because, when you think about it, this book is really just another case of yawn typical, average Goodly Good vs. Evilly Evil Urban Fantasy (GGvEEUF™). (Only that it’s, um, you know, set in Russia and stuff. Which is pretty refreshing and stuff.)

Granted, Lukyanenko puts a nice twist to things by using the dualism of (choose all that apply) black/white, light/darkness, good/evil to create a Grey Area Type World (GATW™). His characters try and maintain the balance between Good and Evil, which inevitably leads them to do bad things for good reasons and, um, you know, good things for bad reasons. Which is all very nice and stuff, until Lukyanenko starts philosophizing about it at length *exoskeleton starts itching uncontrollably*. But more on that later.

Cool stuff galore
The coolest among which is probably the MC’s Polar owl sidekick. (I want one for Christmas, just so you know.) There then is remoralization (want to know what this is? Read the book. You are quite welcome), magicians who are werewolves rather than werewolves who are magicians, global cataclysms (yay!), lots of interesting facts about Russian cognac, ordinary malevolence quotients (how disappointing indeed), esoteric suicide, cameo appearances by yummy demons (I want more), pretty fishing funny body swaps, psychopaths on the side of Good, a most serendipitous line about Monday Starts on Saturday, highly specialized combat magicians, alternative newspaper reading, analytical sorceresses, and computer programmers who would rather die rather than be separated from their beloved MiniDisc Walkman (I can so relate).

Sorry about that, talking about MiniDiscs makes me reminisce about the good ancient days of my youthful youth and stuff.

It’s all in the Matryoshka
Like them or not, there is always something a little different about Russian books. An indescribable mix of nostalgia, humor, drama and reflection I have never come across in any other type of literature (not even that of Papua New Guinea, as surprising as it may sound). It sets a very distinctive tone and is bloody shrimping refreshing, methinks.

😕 The Meh

Short story format
Now I don’t usually mind short stories and novellas (I used to but now I am old and ancient and no longer have the patience to read longer books have seen the light), but this felt a bit, I don’t know, odd and stuff. Maybe because I thought that this was going to be one novel, not three separate stories? Then again, the very same thing happened when I first met my ex-boyfriend Geralt, and I never had a problem with it. (Okay, so I might have been too busy planning Geralt’s kidnapping to overthink the short story thing back then.) Anyway, there’s a general arc for the book so the stories don’t feel Super Extra Disjointed (SED™) or anything, but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m not a Super Huge Fan (SUF™) of this format for this particular book. And stuff.

Slightly Pointless Boring Plot of Meh
Need I say more? Didn’t think so.

Vamps begone
Please someone, anyone, BAN THE BLOODY SHRIMPING BLOODSUCKERS from all of Fantasy already! I beg you! Yes, their “gastronomic attitude to human beings” is delightful indeed, but apart from that? They are boring and dull and lacklustre and uninteresting and insipid and unexciting, and MUCH better used as hole punchers, if you ask me *waves at Kate Daniels*.

See? My pal Nosfe himself finds this all so damn coma-inducing he has to resort to playing with the lights to stay awake.

👎 The Bad

Emotional Flatland, Inc.
My favorite herd of enthusiastic-as-bricks ironing boards is facing tough competition again. I don’t know whether this was intentional on the author’s part, but the MC comes across as so distant and aloof and detached and cold and stuff that I didn’t give two shrimps about what happened to him. I mean, if the character himself doesn’t give a shrimp, why the fish should I? And the same thing can be said about the whole cast. They could have all just dropped Very Deadly Dead (VDD™), for all I didn’t cared.

Blah blah blah to deathly death
Yes, it is interesting to read the MC’s never-ending musings about Good and Evil and how to keep the balance between the two and woe-is-me-should-I-do-good-for-nefarious-reasons-oh-my-what-to-do-help-me-vodka-woe-is-me-again. Once. Not twice. Nor thrice. Or throughout the bloody shrimping book. You get to the last story and just feel like shaking the guy to oblivion, and telling him to either DO SOMETHING or DROP DEAD ALREADY.

Horrendous Translations R US
Okay. I have now read four books translated from Russian to English by The Person Who Translated This Book. (Said Person seems to translate 99% of all contemporary Russian books out there, for some reason.) And even though this one is not the worst (by far), it is still Clunky as Fish (CaF™). Everything feels off all the time. Everything feels, I don’t know, not right (yes, that is a technical term). Is it because Russian is a difficult language to translate? I think not, because I’ve read several Russian books in French in the past, and never felt this way. Is it because Russian is a difficult language to translate to English in particular? I think not, because both Antonina W. Bouis and Olena Bormashenko do a pretty convincing job of it. Get it? Good.

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): this book could have been Slightly Very Good (SVG™). Only that it wasn’t. A most disappointed crustacean is me.

Pretty cute for someone as nefarious as me, huh?

[Pre-review nonsense]

Actual rating: 3.321548 stars? 3.1245688 stars? 3.457952 stars? 3.2456689 stars?

What to think of this book, I know not. Summon the members of my back-up think tank and have them viciously brainstorm over this I must.

Pretty wondrous bunch of vicious substitute grey cells, is it not?

Return I shall when come to a most perceptively acute conclusion they have.

Full review to magically appear post haste and stuff.

P.S. Yet another Super Extra Clunky Russian to English Translation (SECRtET™) courtesy of the Person Who Shall Not Be Named this is. A slightly little bit (if bloody shrimping) annoyed by this I might possibly be. Maybe. Perhaps.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.1k followers
October 2, 2010
You know, I've read this entire book and met quite a few Russians and I still don't understand them though I think, as a nation and hodge-podge of ethnicities, they're one of my favourites. Apart from the Irish, but who can't love those crazy, drunk, lucky bastards? (Okay, for legal purposes I am forced to clarify that they are not always crazy, drunk, lucky, illegitimate or a combination of one or more of those characteristics. This is an unfortunate stereotype propagated against the great people of Ireland.)

Basically this book was a culmination of every Russian stereotype that I absolutely love.

Anton Gorodetsky is a fourth/sometimes third level magician or "Other" working for the side of light in mostly present-day Moscow. He is little more than a COMPLETELY AWESOME computer program who doesn't appear to have any great destiny in front of him until he stumbles across a woman, Svetlana

Nightwatch takes you from the beginning of their romance, which has been given the poo-poo from the bosses who see people's destiny's, towards the foretold climatic event that will tear them apart and this does so in three short stories that kind of all work together.

But if that was the real story of Nightwatch then I'd reasonably expect a lot more T&A (Children do not, I repeat, DO NOT ask your parents what this means. Just look it up on the internet and pretend that you knew it all along like the adults do) because this is a long book.

No, it's not really the story of true love between a computer programming magician and one of the most powerful sorceresses to have been discovered in the last century.

It's a story about a Russian man trying to moralize the difference between good and evil and coming to the inevitable conclusion that it's all fucked anyway and the most you can do is drink your Vodka, love your woman and recognize that your employer/government and religion is all going to screw you over big time at some point, probably now.

it's so very, very delightfully nihilistic and the amateur, layman philosopher in me loves every bit of it.

So the good parts of this novel is the ambiguous moral value, situational philosophising on right and wrong and the dualistic ethical outcomes of action vs inaction.

Anton Gorodetsky is a fantastic character both parts maker of his own destiny and trapped in it - powerless against the larger movers and shakers that control his world. He's smart, analytical and thoughtful.

The plot twists, the world building and the other characters are all great, with one exception that I'll cover later. This is not a boring read, in my opinion though it does wax lyrical at some points.

I think the biggest let down is Svetlana in this series. Not because of her decision or actions but because she is so very two dimensional. She exists only to be Anton great love but Lukyanenko never manages to convince me that they truly love each other. Mostly because his interest in their courtship is almost non-existent and so much of it doesn't even appear in these three short stories.

In fact, the strongest emotion I ever get between them is hurt feelings and a vague understanding of each other. They never make each other smile, they don't have any silly couple quirks and they don't even seem to enjoy each other's company.

I'll never complain that Lukyanenko writes vapid female characters because Svetlana in her own rights is not weak. Nor could you suggest Olga or Tiger Cub are weak characters. It's just that outside of her purpose as the detonator for Anton moral uprising, she doesn't exist and fulfils little other niche.

So, over all, I loved this book and I can't wait to read the others! It's a worthwhile read even if it does give me a vague, nostalgic urge to break out the vodka, listen to Iron and Wine and consider life for the cruel, heartless, inevitable bastard that it is.
Profile Image for Adrian.
552 reviews196 followers
February 26, 2021
I realised today that I had not written a review for this book, so time to remedy that.

One of the groups I freezes runs the occasional Bossy Book Challenge where one gets paired with another volunteer, puts forward on an agreed theme, a few book suggestions to each other that the other hasn't read. Et voila Bossy Book Challenge.

Of the suggestions put forward by my partner, this was the one I chose, and a good suggestion and choice it was to.
Set in "present day" Russia, this a novel about three sets of people : those that are intrinsically guard and guard humans against evil: those that are intrinsically evil and will do all they can to corrupt humans and finally the normal everyday humans.
The Others as all the non-humans are called, are long lived and possess various differing powers, and battle amongst themselves within various agreed rules and regulations.
This book is intricate, and well written with some great characters and a good story line (I understand it is both now a film, and also that there are a number of sequels). I would certainly read sequel, as I enjoyed the book, however the one reason to me this is not 5 stars, is the fact that it is 3 novellas, not really one novel. All good stories but not really a novel.
Profile Image for Kristalia .
382 reviews609 followers
October 5, 2015
Final rating: 3/5 stars

“Why was is that the Light acted through lies, and the Darkness acted though the truth? Why was is that our truth proved powerless, but lies were effective? And why was the Darkness able to manage perfectly well with truth in order to do Evil?”

I have no idea what to say about this. I liked it and disliked it. Both, equally. I loved it because the idea is unique and there is a lot of thinking about consequences, life in general and lot more. But i felt that the story was poorly executed.

Anyway, the book is separated in three stories.

First one is about Svetlana and boy Egor. Svetlana is cursed by a black mage, and her curse may affect thousands of people, leading to their deaths which will probably end by earthquake, war, comet or anything on big scale; while Egor is the Other/Ini who needs to decide whether he is going to be in Night watch or Day watch. Either good or evil.

Second is about a rogue Light Other/Ini who is killing Dark Ini, and all of the blame is being placed on main character Anton.

Third is about Night Watch's party time and some thinking and such, with some kind of resolution in the end.

I guess my favorite stays the second one.

“Many years ago someone told me something that I flatly refused to accept. And I still don't accept it now, despite all the times I've seen it proved right.
"The common good and the individual good rarely coincide..."
Sure, I know, it's true.
But some truths are probably worse than lies.”

The bad:

♦ The problem is that every of these stories ends suddenly. Next one starts almost immediately, and you have to wait a lot until you find out what happened to other characters from the previous story. I found that quite irritating.

♦ Sometimes i had no idea what was going on. And there were a lot of stuff going on. I just don't know. And it really bothered the hell out of me. It was just poorly executed while it could have been good.

♦ Writing. I also found the writing...tricky...sometimes i just didn't understand what writer wanted to say, so i had to go few pages before and read it all again.

♦ Characters. Except for Anton, i thought all of the characters were seriously underdeveloped. Except maybe Olga, but still. Svetlana is especially underdeveloped. And she is supposed to be one of the main characters.

The good :

♦ Stories were quite interesting. I liked them, especially the second one, it was amazing (if it hadn't ended suddenly like other three).

♦ Anton is cool character, i loved his thinking, i loved his voice.

♦ The world building is interesting. Even though it's about good side and bad side and so on, i just found it different.

♦ No matter how much confused i was, i never found it boring.

♦ The moral and philosophical value in the story.

Characters :

Anton: is just awesome. I loved him, i enjoyed reading the book only because of him. He is also a programmer, and i love programmers <3 (being one myself). Anyway, he is also a magician, Night Watch and crazy as hell. I loved how he questioned everything eventually, his struggles and decisions. He is really analytical, he analyses everything before doing something that he would regret.

Svetlana: really felt underdeveloped. I felt like she was there only to be love interest, and i have no idea how the hell it happened. I mean, i get it that some time passed between the stories, but i just don't get their (Anton + Svetlana) relationship or their love. It didn't feel real. She just felt two dimensional and that's a big let down. She was also not interesting in any way at all.

Olga: I liked Olga, i loved her in just every sense. To bad that she was not meant to be Anton's lover or something, because i think they would have been perfect for each other. She is just so interesting.

Egor: i really liked. He is sympathetic type of character and i just liked him a lot. He is so cute <3 He is kind of like Anton, he thinks a lot about everything, he questions a lot about both sides and in the end he decides his fate.

♦♦ There are of course a lot more characters. Some were interesting, some were not, but i definitely liked the characters from the Day watch.


I really have no idea what to think about this one. I liked it but i didn't. My final decision is to not continue this series, because i just lost interest in it.

This review can be found on my blog: infinity-of-time.blogspot.com also known as...

Profile Image for Chloe.
348 reviews530 followers
March 5, 2010
For the past month or so I have been regrettably absent from the nets that I like to call my digital home. Real life demands have left me with precious little time to call my own and, more frightening still, the books that have found their way into my hands have not been inspiring me to take to the webs and shout my opinions into the ether with my usual gusto. Yes, I was in the grip of a mid-winter malaise second to none where everything I read, saw, or listened to just seemed either like it was trying too hard to be something that it wasn’t or was emotionally empty pap that entertained but left little behind in its passing. This was true until I finally cracked the spine on Sergei Lukyanenko’s fantastic Night Watch. Finally, a book that was everything I wanted to read at that moment: entertaining but thought-provoking, engaging while still making me pause to appreciate a particularly good passage. I knew I had been saving this series for a rainy day for a reason.

On face this is a standard tale of good vs. evil as performed by a motley collection of magicians, shape-shifters, vampires and werewolves trying to preserve an ancient truce between the forces of Light and Darkness. The keepers of this truce are the titular Night Watch, agents of the Light who watch over the night to make sure that the balance of power is maintained, and the Day Watch, agents of the Dark who oversee the sunlit hours. Anton Gorodetsky is a mid-grade Light Magician working as an analyst with the Night Watch, new to field work, who quickly becomes an important pawn in the latest scheme by the Day Watch to tilt the balance of power in their favor.

A familiar scenario but for the uniquely Russian ability to interject large amounts of ethical ambiguity and age old moral dilemmas (see: Kant- Utilitarianism) into a novel without it seeming heavy-handed or needlessly digressive. As Anton is drawn deeper into the secrets of the Watch, he is forced again and again to make extremely difficult decisions and manipulate events in ways that go against the core values of the Light but, as Gesar, the ancient magician who heads the Moscow offices of the Night Watch, likes to remind Anton- it’s all about the net effect. As long as the amount of good created by an action outweighs the possible harm, the Night Watch is able to act with a free hand. With as vague a definition as this, it is no wonder that the Light has been inadvertently responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century and Anton comes to realize that the Day Watch does just as much to hold back the ambitions of the Light as his cadre stops the Dark. Realizing that he is a bit player in a far larger show than he first thought, Anton tries as best he can to break out of the predictable paths that his superiors are relying on him to follow, which leads to a fair amount of madness in the streets of post-Soviet Moscow.

In Night Watch, Lukyanenko has crafted that rarest of gems- a story that manages to both thrill and excite with non-stop action and grand descriptions of magical powers while also forcing the reader to wonder what they would do in that situation. If one had the ability to become an Other, would you return from the Twilight as an agent of the Light or an agent of the Dark? Could you license vampires to feed upon the innocent even if it helps preserve a precarious peace? Could you take it upon yourself to rewrite a person’s destiny to push them closer toward the Light, or does that smack too much of compelling goodness (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one)? These are the thoughts that the book left me with upon finishing and I could not help but turn immediately to the sequel for another serving of some of the best story-telling I’ve read all year.

Profile Image for Belinda.
1,331 reviews177 followers
June 10, 2018
4,25 sterren - Nederlandse paperback - Ik heb dyslexie -
Een fantasy die zich afspeelt in het hedendaagse Moskou. Een strijd tussen goed en kwaad. Anderen, magie, vloeken en goede en slechte bedoelen. Een grote ketel heksensoep kun je het noemen. Anton, Egor en Sveta zijn mooie karakters in deze duistere fantasy. Nog nooit in Moskou geweest, lijfelijk. Wel door boeken zoals deze. 😁❤️😁
Profile Image for Stanislav Lozanov.
373 reviews154 followers
June 14, 2021
Доста добро начало на обещаваща поредица.
Книгата си е за 5 звезди, но няма да ги дам заради постоянните снизходителни определения що се отнасяше до гейовете. То не знам какво съм очаквал от руснак пък и от книга писана ‘98 година.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,394 reviews824 followers
March 10, 2017
3.5 stars. This had some interesting ideas and story lines but the delivery was clunky because of the translation. In some ways it was like the Russian version of Rivers of London, but not as funny or readable. This was a reread and I first read it many years ago so when I first rated it from memory, I gave it 5. But there werent so many excellent books in the genre back then ( or at least not that I knew of). Glad I refreshed my memory, but sadly not as good as I remembered.
Profile Image for Viktor Stoyanov.
Author 1 book155 followers
September 27, 2020
Петичка за патрула. Субективно, може би от носталгия по едни истории, които четях и гледах през 90-те и в началото на милениума. Добро и зло. Светлина и мрак. Толкова просто. Толкова сложно. Вероятно най-доброто, което съм чел в жанра, без да съм от най-големите му почитатели.
Profile Image for Charmaine.
52 reviews27 followers
May 11, 2017
2.5/5 on a good day.

This book is my biggest let down of 2017 so far. I really expected great things from it, and I was excited that Autumn and I were able to select it for Bookworm Bitches April Pen Pals buddy read, but it just didn’t do it for either of us. I obviously had quite a few issues with this book, and yeah I could focus on the positive, but right now I’m bitter that I wasted my time and I just want to get all the negatives over with first, SO HERE WE GO KIDS...

It’s hard for me to explain what this book is really about because I spent the majority of the time staring blankly at the pages in complete and utter confusion, but I’ll do my best. The basic plot focuses on Anton Gorodetsky, a member of the Night Watch, as he essentially navigates life contemplating the differences between Light Others and Dark Others, how he fits into the overall system, and how his choices ultimately define him. The entire novel focuses on the Night Watch (of which Anton is a member) and the Day Watch, two opposing supernatural organisations who keep each other in check. To keep things simple: The Night Watch = good / The Day Watch = bad. I found this a tad confusing at first, but I suppose it’s set up this way because the night is when evil tends to come out and play, and it’s a bit difficult to get your evil on when the sun’s shining down on your sins. (Or so I’ve heard, as being an absolute angel means my knowledge is limited…)

Firstly, this book includes so many new terms to learn and a ton of historical information to digest, not to mention that the Russian names add an entirely new element to deal with. It doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re constantly battling with info dump after info dump, but the writing is quite unclear at times which leads to (yes, you’ve guessed it) confusion. I didn’t even know who half the characters were until about a third of the way through. Speaking of the characters, excluding Anton, the majority of them are ridiculously underdeveloped. I mean, Svetlana is supposed to be this super important piece of the puzzle, but she’s just so BLAND guys. I’m serious, okay. Soya milk has more of a personality than this woman. Besides her connection to Anton and the fact that she’s this super important piece of the puzzle, what else is there to her? I meant to repeat myself by the way, because the book honestly never lets you forget that she is a SUPER IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE PUZZLE OKAY. You know, just in case you didn’t get the memo.

Another major issue I had with this book was that it didn’t even seem like a book, but rather several short stories put into a collection. I'm talkin' a ton of filler, a ton of characters (what the fuck was up with the old man and the melon? DOES ANYONE EVEN KNOW?), and whenever I finally felt like I maybe had a grasp on things, everything just kept getting weirder and more convoluted. I spent most of the time forgetting huge chunks of the story and just shrugging it off. I wasn’t even enjoying it by the time I reached halfway, but I kept on truckin’ because it had initially pulled me out of a reading slump, for which I was very grateful. Unfortunately it then slowly put me back into one, so I guess you can’t have everything eh. Who knew.

Perhaps The Night Watch is suffering from first book syndrome and that’s why it read more like a poorly structured pilot, but that’s a damn shame because the first few chapters had me feeling really hopeful and there were multiple points throughout the story that I found myself intrigued, it's just ultimately it didn’t seem very put together. I attributed most of my initial confusion to the fact that I wasn’t used to this new world or its inhabitants, but that feeling never went away. If I find myself with 50 pages left and I still don’t feel any closer to the main characters or the story than I did at the beginning, then in my eyes something’s gone terribly wrong. Obviously everyone gleans enjoyment from different things, and this may end up being your cup of tea, but for me it was a huge miss.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
636 reviews75 followers
May 9, 2019
Night Watch is the first book in a six-book series. I would consider this to be urban fantasy. It’s set in Moscow and focuses on “Others”, people with special abilities who walk among non-humans unrecognized, usually picking a side between the Light and the Dark and working in organized groups toward the goals of their chosen side. Since both sides seem primarily concerned with maintaining a balance, the lines between them are a little blurry. Rules are in place to keep conflict between the two sides from escalating into a war. If somebody strikes a blow for the Light, then the other side has the right to strike an equal blow for the Dark.

The structure is a little different; it consists of three individual stories. Each one tells a complete story, but follows the same main character and builds on the previous stories. This book was originally published in Russia in the late 1990’s. I read an English translation, of course. The only way I could read a Russian book in its original language would be if it were transliterated into the English alphabet and if it consisted solely of the word “nyet”. I enjoyed getting some sense of Russian culture through the book, although it wasn’t a very strong sense because the story focused mostly on the fantasy elements and very little on the day-to-day lives of normal people.

I didn’t always feel like I understood the motivations of the characters. I always had some sort of a “wait, what?” type of reaction at some point during the climactic events of each story. It seemed like characters took the long way around to work toward their goals, and the main character was often ineffective. The main character’s actions made more sense than anybody else’s since we were in his head, but even his actions didn’t always make sense to me. He was a likeable character though, a bit bumbling and confused, but well-meaning.

I think my biggest complaint about the book would be the constant and repetitive musings on morality as it related to the actions of the Light versus the Dark. In the first story when I was still learning about the setting, it was interesting to learn about the choices that the sides had made, why they had made them, and consider whether their choices were ultimately more or less harmful than alternate choices. But then in the second story the characters continued to muse over more-or-less the same things, and it started to get tiresome. By the third story, of which at least half seemed to consist of more repetition of these same thoughts, I had reached the “please make it stop” point. I liked the way the story had this moral gray area, but I didn’t need its existence beaten into my head so much.

Aside from those complaints, it was a quick read that held my attention well. I enjoyed the concepts introduced and I liked the stories and the characters. I’m not sure if the setting can sustain my interest for a full six books, but I liked the first book well enough to try the second. I’m rating it at 3.5 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Jaidee .
573 reviews1,071 followers
July 4, 2018
All three novellas in this book were 3 stars.....fascinating but all ended rather anticlimactically....the setting was very cool as were the characters....it was interesting to slowly find out the many laws and philosophies of the light and dark watches....I will try the second in the series at some point !
Profile Image for Maria.
75 reviews28 followers
February 11, 2022
Любимая фраза "книга лучше экранизации" в этом случае подходит как никогда!
Книга разделена на три части. Первые две наполнены действием, третья - больше философией. По-моему, третья часть немного разбивает ритм книги, заданный первыми двумя частями, что сказалось на моей общей оценке.
Profile Image for Kaya.
217 reviews218 followers
April 4, 2016
"The Dark freedom is, first of all, the freedom from yourself, your consciousness and soul. When you feel no more pain in your chest - it's time to scream for help. Except for then it's too late."

The author took all sterotypes of urban fantasy and crushed them into pieces. It’s not about Anton’s selfish wishes to be with a woman he loves as much as it is a fight for his right to choose his own destiny. I adore Anton, I adore the humor and ambiguous messages. It's far from perfect, but enjoyable enough.

This is a story about a man trying to accept that the Light can have catastrophic consequences just as the Dark does. Magicians, shape-shifters, vampires, werewolves and who knows what else are trying to maintain a truce between the forces of Light and Darkness. The keepers of this truce are the Night Watch, agents of the Light, and the Day Watch, agents of the Dark. As Anton digs deeper into the secrets of the Night Watch, he is forced to make difficult decisions, over and over again. Also, as long as the portion of Good outweighs the possible harm, the Night Watch is able to act with a free hand. The Light has been responsible for some of the horrors of the 20th Century and Anton realizes the Day Watch does just as much to hold back from destroying the world.

The war is fought by Others. They have magical powers and all their emotions are heightened. The world exists on many levels -the one we see as humans, then there is Twilight which is only approachable to Others and is called upon by stepping through ones shadow. The Twilight also has many levels, each demanding more energy to enter than the previous one. Magicians choose the Light or the Dark - their choice is based on the state of their mind. The first enter into Twilight defines ones destiny. The consequence of doing good magic is allowing the other side to do an equal amount of evil magic and vice versa.

"The scariest thing in the war is to understand the enemy. To understand means to forgive. And we don't have the right to do that."

Though this is a fantasy there isn't many action, but there is a lot of universal existential questions, philosophy, inner fights and inability to make the right call. The author developed struggles and resistance of our protagonist so beautifully it's almost impossible not to relate to Anton.

In the first part of the book, Others must save Egor, a young boy, future Other, from a female vampire, who illegally tried to kill him. Anton formed a certain kind of bond with the boy, so he might be a key in saving him. At the same time, an enormous dark vortex has been opened over the head of Svetlana, young woman, who happens to be a latent magician. Anton is connected to her, in some way, which means he's the only one who can save her. Basically, Anton is average magician and he'll never be extremely powerful, but with his charisma, he manages to be in the center of everything important.

The second part of the book, Anton searches for Maxim, another latent Other, who doesn't even realize what he really is and who has been killing off Dark Others for around three years. Anton must find him before the Day Watch arests him for the crimes they try to frame him.

The third part is a bit anticlimactic. the Night watch has been sent off on a vacation. There is a lot of partying, alcohol and drunken conversations. It doesn't really feel like an ending of the first book in the series, but at list we get to know Anton even better.

“The hardest thing of all is when pain is hidden behind a mask of calm.”

Anton has been calm and obedient enough.

So, the biggest part of the novel is the arguable moral value, philosophy of right and wrong, and acceptance that nothing really is black and white. This book is at the same time amusing and thought-provoking, consuminh and witty. Our protagonist questions morals and purpose of authority figures.

“But some truths are probably worse than lies.”

This book is awesome. There are epic quotes, sufficient protagonist who's at the same time humble and cocky, sneeky plot, intelligent humour and secondary character that wait for their moment to shine, like Semyon.

It looks like Anton is destined to change the course of those close to him. With his doubts, fears and contradicted emotions, he is such a strong protagonist that you don't even feel the need to become familiar with other characters. He's intelligent, articulate, resourceful and thoughtful. Anton is an underachiever,reluctant to go into field work because he knows he's not good at it. While questioning everything, including the intentions of the Night Watch, he still manages to be fully on the side of Light. There is a family of Vampires, Dark Others, living in his building that he is friends with. They are Dark, but they don't feed on humans and Anton respects them.

“Why was is that the Light acted through lies, and the Darkness acted though the truth? Why was is that our truth proved powerless, but lies were effective?"

I can't wait to find out more about the Day Watch. They seem odly disciplined, with even less schemes than the Night Watch. Secretly, I even want Anton to change side. His scenes with Egor were pretty powerful too.

Profile Image for saïd.
5,873 reviews547 followers
March 13, 2023
I enjoyed this book the first time I read it, but since then I have learned a lot more about Lukyanenko’s political views, and a lot of things in this book suddenly felt a lot more uncomfortable. An example is the fact that Lukyanenko constantly refers to Ukrainians as ‘farmers’ and otherwise disreputable. The book is also a lot more casually misogynistic and homophobic than I remembered.

On his blog Lukyanenko wrote:
В Европе вообще понятие ‘предательство’ мало понятно. :) Ибо там целесообразность.
А на Украине... да. Увы. Предательство - это одна из черт малороссийского характера. Просто по той причине, что малоросы - сельская ветвь русского народа. А селянин всегда по натуре предатель. Жизнь такая.
Нет такой страны, Украины. Есть обмылок с раздутым эго и голой жопой.
Что ж, пора этому обмылку понять свое место в мире.
P.P.S. Ну и для украинских писателей-фантастов. Для некоторых - и они прекрасно знают, к кому именно я обращаюсь... Славьте бойцов майдана и носите им пирожки, недоумки. Но если хоть одна из писательских ‘персон’, славивших майдан и майданутых, пишущих при том на русском и печатающихся в России, захочет появиться на российских конвентах - я буду против. Захочет публиковаться в России - приложу все силы, дабы помешать. Будьте последовательны, мерзавцы! Я отныне в Укр��ину не езжу, в украинских конвентах не участвую, переводить свои книги на украинский запрещаю. Рекомендую и вам придерживаться того же правила. Хорошо?
That’s absolutely disgusting and hateful.

I guess I should also say that the English translation was not very good. Lukyanenko is by no means the next Dostoyevsky, but he’s not a bad writer (in Russian) (side note, I find it funny that he has sided with Russia against Ukraine considering that he himself is Kazakh... the irony!), and I felt the translation did him a disservice. Maybe the simple charm of insulting an entire country’s population just doesn’t translate well. What do I know, right?
Profile Image for Sumant.
237 reviews8 followers
March 26, 2017
I was really close on giving up this book after I was almost seventy five percent done with the book, but I kept going after thinking that I had come near to the end and the final conclusion will be satisfactory to my persistence, but unfortunately it left me wanting for more.

The genre of book is Urban fantasy, but author manages to put in lot of grey moments in the book, where in you are confused regarding classifying the good guys as good, it's not your typical Harry Dresden type urban fantasy not taking anything away from Dresden files.

Some of the strong points of the book are

1.Different urban setting.
2.Grey characters.
3.Short story format.

Some of the weak points are

1.Too much philosophy & brooding.
2.Story seems to be going no where.
3.Hazy magic system.

Let me elaborate on the above points now

1.Different urban setting.

The book takes place in Moscow where they have classified all the persons excepts humans are to be classified as Others.

So it is perfectly normal for you to be a werewolf or a witch or for that matter an vampire provided you are not hurting anyone.

It's the responsibility of Watches to maintain this watch and keep a tab on others present in their areas.

We have an Night Watch & a Day Watch. But it's the responsibility of Night Watch to maintain the balance for good, and of the Day Watch to maintain the balance for bad acts.

Also these watches are at equilibrium with respect to one another.

All this takes place in Moscow which gives completely different color altogether.

I love the metro at night, but I don’t know why. There’s nothing to look at except the same old dreary adverts and the same old tired human auras. The rumble of the engine, the gusts of air coming in through the half-open windows, the jolting over the rails. The numb wait for your own station.

2.Grey characters.

‘Anton, I’ll tell you what the problem is. You’re a young guy, you join the Watch and you’re delighted with yourself. At last the whole world is divided up into black and white! Your dream for humanity has come true, now you can tell who’s good and who’s bad. So get this. That’s not the way it is.

This is the biggest plus point of the book, you just can't pinpoint that if a guy belongs to Night watch he is just going to do good deeds, but some of the guys from Night watch take such actions that you question their motives.

3.Short story format.

We get an continuous story in the book where we have same characters involved, but the author splits the story into three different situations, this keeps things fresh.

Regarding the weak points of the book

1.Too much philosophy & brooding.

Ok we know that Night watch is not always doing things it is suppose to be doing which is protecting humans.

But what about humans?’ ‘What have they got to do with it?’ ‘What do you mean? It’s them we’re defending. Tirelessly, self-sacrificingly. So why aren’t their lives getting any better? They do the work of the Dark themselves. Why? Maybe it’s because we’ve lost something, Anton. The faith Light Magicians used to have when they sent entire armies to their deaths, and marched in the front ranks themselves? The ability not just to defend people, but to bring them joy? What good are secure walls, if they’re the walls of a prison? Humans have forgotten about genuine magic, they don’t believe in the Dark, but they don’t believe in the Light either! Yes, Anton, we are soldiers. But people only love the army when there’s a war going on.

But you can repeat this philosophy once or maximum twice in the book, you just can't keep hammering the reader with this continuous dilemma which our night watch guys face, because its gets tiring after some time reading the same thing again and again.

Also the story is mostly told from the pov of night watch agent Anton, the author does not give us any background information regarding him, and this guy just keeps thinking in his mind and his self pitying and self dialogues just become too much after point.

As a reader I was not able to connect at all with this character.

2.Story seems to be going no where.

This is especially true in the last story because the author spends most of the time debating whether night watch or good guys or bad, and due to that the circumstances which are happening in the story tend to get shadowed.

Also everything gets wrapped up in last 40-50 pages which just left bad taste in my mind.

3.Hazy magic system.

The author does not go into detail regarding the magic system in this world, he just introduces to use some magical environments like twilight.

Twilight gives us more strength than humans can ever have, it gives us a life that is almost immortal in human terms. And it also takes it all away when the time comes. In one sense we all live on borrowed time. Not just the vampires and werewolves who have to kill in order to prolong their strange existence. The Dark Ones can’t afford to do good. And we can’t afford the opposite.

And it is left mostly to the reader to make sense out of it.

Although with fallacies this book is an decent read and I give it 3/5 stars, but as to continue reading this series I am bit skeptical.
Profile Image for Alex Nieves.
172 reviews637 followers
December 1, 2021
This was a pleasant surprise and I definitely enjoyed it! I'm happy that my Patron Nick voted for this one as the Patreon read because I'm not sure when I would have gotten to it otherwise. It was refreshing to read a fantasy story set in Russia as I'm totally unfamiliar with it or Russian traditions but it's my understanding that it's pretty accurate at depicting the area and time.

Anton was a compelling character to follow and the way the book is split up into 3 separate "books" kept things interesting. I think the second story overall in the middle book was the best.

The Night Watch balances a story of Light and Dark wonderfully and there is quite a bit of moral ambiguity that is focused on. The Dark and the Light factions of the Others are at odds throughout the book with plenty of scheming going on.

Overall I'm happy I read this and I would certainly be interested in continuing at some point.
Profile Image for Katy.
1,293 reviews284 followers
February 27, 2014
Please note: I've read this book twice, the latest time being December 2006.

Translation: I had my husband read this first, after he read the Russian version, so he could tell me how good the translation was (he was born in Russia). He tells me the translation from Russian is very good, as good as could be expected considering there are so many Russian words and phrases that simply cannot be translated into English with the same amount of impact. Apparently the Russian version of this book has a great deal of humor in it - what I primarily perceived was a fairly melancholic air.

My Synopsis: This book - all three parts of it - focus on Anton, a 5-year veteran of the Nightwatch. The Nightwatch is a group of Light Others - magicians, shapeshifters, etc. - who work to ensure that the Dark Others (led by the Daywatch) keep the truce that was set up by both sides as a result of WWII (as far as I could tell judging from the time frame). Anton is having what could be most closely defined as a crisis of faith; he feels that maybe the ends do not justify the means and that the Nightwatch is not acting in the best interests of humankind after all. However, he does not want to switch allegiances - in fact, as far as he knows no one can - and he cannot act directly against the Nightwatch or he will be sent into the Twilight forever.

Act 1: The first part of the book is the part that most closely resembles the movie that was created from these novels - they must again save Egor, a young boy, from a female vampire, after Anton has already saved him once and killed her paramour, who illegally turned her after falling in love with her when he was licensed to take her (I presume the "legal" result of this transaction would be the death of the girl, but it is never baldly stated this way). At the same time, a large dark vortex has opened over the city and they must find first the person over whom it has risen and secondly the Magician or Sorceress who has set it.

Act 2: The second part of the book finds Anton in a great deal of danger when he is sent after a Maverick Other, who does not even realize that he is an Other, who has been killing off Dark Others for around three years. He must find the Maverick and bring him in before the Daywatch catches up to him (or the Maverick - but the Daywatch is certain is it Anton himself who is committing the murders).

Act 3: Finally in the 3rd section of the book, we find Moscow under an unusual heat wave and the Nightwatch has been cut down to a skeleton crew, with the rest being sent off on vacation. Anton fears that Svetlana - who, he is told, is destined to be a Great One - is being pushed too far, too fast and that, as a result, the fragile love that has grown between them will be snapped. As a result, he pushes her even farther away and finally ends up making a deal with the Dark Ones; however, he redeems himself in the denouement, before announcing to Gesar and Svetlana that he has realized this whole situation has been a feint and distraction to keep the Dark Ones from knowing what is actually going on (of course, we ourselves have very little idea ourselves, as Anton doesn't deign to actually state out loud much about the actions going on.)

Comparisons and Recommendations: Maybe more perceptive readers than I will figure out what is going on in the background, but a lot of this feels like a book by L E Modesitt, Jr., where I never quite know what the heck is going on, but I love it anyway.

Don't miss this one - it's a terrific book.
Profile Image for Penny.
172 reviews344 followers
September 7, 2013
I thought there are a lot of interesting and unusual aspects to this book. In particular, the tripartite structure (I got that term from the book club discussion), the magic system, and the depth of discussion on the nature of good vs evil and how to go about keeping a balance between the two.

I liked the tripartite structure of the book. It sort of spilt the story into three sub-stories although the time line was consistent as were the main characters. However each sub-story had its own focus and resolution within the greater arc of the entire book. It made for very good reading in my opinion.

The world building and magic system are simply fantastic. Lukyanenko managed to take a very simple old idea of good and evil and present it in a way that completely held my attention. The world exists on many levels, the one we as humans can see, then just below that there is the Twilight which is only accessible to those with magic and is called upon by magicians by stepping through ones shadow. The Twilight has many levels, each requiring more energy to enter than the last. Magicians are born, not made, and they choose either the Light or the Dark. The consequence of doing good magic is allowing the other side to do an equal amount of bad magic and vice versa, a result of the Treaty. This brings up the questions of how much good is achieved in a good deed that can't be outweighed by a bad one? How much evil can you undo by reforming a bad man? It is equal to the cost? These questions and more are addressed in a beautifully complex and well thought out manner.

I'll definitely be continuing with the series.
Profile Image for Graeme Rodaughan.
Author 9 books339 followers
October 21, 2016
Light and Dark! Anton Gorodetsky, a light other, is a newbie field operative for the Night Watch as all hell threatens to break loose in Moscow. This is exotic Urban Fantasy unlike anything I have read before.

Sergei Lukyanenko has built a wonderfully detailed and consistent world where secret powers war against each other while bound by a mutually enforced treaty. The world building is elegantly presented via character conversations that are well contexted to the narrative. There are distinct philosophical themes to this story as the main characters debate how do good in a morally ambiguous world.

This is a philosophically rich work, but don't assume that is all there is, there is suspense, courage, danger, mystery, betrayal, duty, fanaticism, and above all, love which motivates so much at great cost.

This is the first book, an omnibus of three inter-related novella sized novels, of an ongoing series. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone with a love for paranormal, and suspense orientated urban fantasy.
Profile Image for Stuart.
121 reviews51 followers
May 8, 2014
"Ever danced with the devil in the middle of the night?"

Once there was Twilight

Then True Blood

Somewhere in the middle came The Vampire Diaries

Robert Pattinson's forehead, move over please, The Night Watch is here.

What a great writer Sergei Lukyanenko is. Many reviewers seem to think he is a Russian-Tolkien. I can't really see that, given that The Night Watch is set in Moscow, with no real invention with languages or places. What the author does well is keep a concise story flowing throughout, even though the novel is essentially three novellas. He blends several genres into his own mould if you will. All the stories interlink flawlessly, where the main protagonist is Anton - a 'Other' and a drunk, not the best hero, more a anti-hero if you will. He fights for the 'Light' side. What a goodyliltwoshoes!

The moralistic make-up of many could be viewed as black and white, socially this is a standard archetypal construct. Some actions are viewed as good, other's bad. Who decides what is good and bad? In this case, 'The Inquisitors' who up hold the Treaty which has been in effect for thousands of years. There's always a fine line between good and evil, sometimes you have to skirt both, or jump in the middle of the two, whereupon you take action from somewhere in-between the two. This is essentially what The Night Watch do. They are of the light, they believe in all those good things you might associate with such a acronym. Now the Dark Watch are the opposing faction, they are not so nice; demons, forked tongues, vampires, werewolves, witches and the feeding of energy from human, whom they view as cartel. Nothing wrong with that from their perspective, something wrong about it from the light side stance. Both of these factions are known as 'Others', not quite human, but something else altogether. Well let's be honest, nothing different many other fantasy novelist haven't written in the past.

To keep balance between the two factions is the Treaty, which essentially says 'for every action there is a re-action.' So, if the Night Watch decide to influence someone's happiness, then the Dark Watch are a loud to do something similar, such as cause a car crash. Why would they wish to do that? They feed off human's misery. Where the Light feeds off people happiness. We're being leeched!!! No wonder I wake up some mornings feeling like a car wreck!

I believe what the author is attempting to show (abide more subtly than I) is for every action, there is a re-action, which brings a balance to the natural order of 'things'. Good and evil is one facet, the concept has been around for generations. There is a belief that everyone has a angel and demon looking over them, influencing them to do things and take action. Really, what is happening is you are in control, you cause say a affect due to your action, then attribute that to being 'influenced' by your angel or demon. This is essentially a major posit of The Night Watch, good things happen because those people make it happen, and so on.

The story begins when Anton stumbles across a victim of a unlicensed vampire attack, a cursed woman named Svetlana - soon events are set in motion and not just by 'cause or effect' but influenced by someone or something *shudders*. Scary stuff huh. How is Svetlana cursed? Well 'obviously' if you're a 'Other' you can see the auras that float above human's heads - the one above Svetlana isn't a good one.

Sergei's writing style could be described as minimalist - there is no flowery prose here, it never get's over descriptive. I mean how descriptive can one be when describing the suburbs of Moscow - which really sets the tone for a depressing gritty backdrop - one that could be described as taking that first shot of vodka, harsh but warming - now the warming part comes from the romantic content, which you may enjoy, I did as it lead to some tough moral choices for some of the characters.

As for the dialogue, well mostly it's really simple, however I really had difficulty with the formal nature of some of the characters. For example Anton, always called his boss by his full name, every time - "Yes Boris Ignavatich" - on one occasion he said his name six times. Are Russians really that formal? Myself, I can be, but really would be awkward after the first time haha. Other than that, we get a good look at some of the 'Light' characters; Tiger Cub (a shape-shifter), Seymon (a magician), Ilya (a magician) and a few other's. I particularly found Seymon appealing. The sort of 'old sage' with fountains of information, who's been there and done it.

The Night Watch is a really thought out novel, with elements taken from supernatural, fantasy and horror genres. This isn't Harry Potter or Buffy The Vampire Slayer - in fact I'd go as far to suggest this series is fairly unique given it's Soviet-style urban decay and cross-genre jumping. It's not just about good versus evil, it's about moral choices that skirt between the two or some time's goes beyond one's moralistic beliefs. Are the 'Light' side blind to the evil they do towards humans? Will Anton make choices that are for the betterment of mankind, or will he be lead marionette-style to do another's bidding - even if it's on a sub-conscious level. Will Bruce Springsteen be singing "On the streets of Soviet Moscow... dada da da da" instead of Philadelphia? Read on reader, but be warned, this is adult content and not YA.
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,362 reviews352 followers
May 29, 2018
Oh man I had so many expectations for this book and it bitterly disappointed.

Firstly, ignore that tagline on the cover that says it's like Russian JK Rowling. Clearly the Daily Telegraph was drinking some bribery cognac when they wrote that. The only thing the two have in common is a little bit of magic, but honestly this book is pretty stingy with it. Like, maybe imagine JK fell into this really dark depression, drank too much vodka and lost her creativity streak. Then MAYBE you could compare this.

It's not like I hated the story. You've got this young guy, Anton, who works for the Night Watch. These are the good guys (Light Others) who stop the bad guys (Dark Others) from getting out of control. (There's also a Day Watch full of bad guys who stop the good guys being too good.) Dark others include vampires, werewolves, witches, ghouls ... apparently just an endless stream of typical monster-movie bad guys. I can't actually say for sure, because this book has like three vampires and a couple of shapeshifters and nothing else. So here's the first disappointment: scope. Instead of throwing in all these amazingly horrible monsters, this book focuses (narrowly) on a handful of NW characters who are pretty ordinary, and a single plot involving two other pretty ordinary characters. ORDINARY. THIS BOOK IS ABOUT MAGIC AND MONSTERS AND ALL WE GET IS ORDINARY

So here's lil old Anton. I think he's supposed to be young? But to me he reads like a fussy old middle-aged man. He inevitably gets caught up in things he shouldn't and is 100% NOBODY, which was actually pretty refreshing. But he still whines and protests a lot so finds himself doing things outside the norm. He had some interesting adventures, but as mentioned, the scope just wasn't there. It's basically 500 pages of Anton wandering around not knowing what to do.

So here's my second problem: I think there may have been a serious 'lost in translation' issue. The story is so vague and random and relies heavily on the reader putting things together which, quite honestly, I struggled to put together. Maybe I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it just seemed messy to me, and I think never understood well enough what it was actually saying to figure out what it wasn't. I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt and put it down to a bad translation, because otherwise that's just rubbish, arrogant writing.

The story is divided into three parts - interlocking short stories that focus on Anton, a mysteriously powerful woman and an average kid who is destined for ... mediocre things. (I dunno, I never really worked out what his deal was, to be honest.) The prologue of each sets the scene and then we go frolicking along as Anton tries to figure out what his boss is up to and what he's supposed to do about it. Honestly, the only person thicker than me-trying-to-read-this-book is bloody Anton. If he'd been a bit sharper I'm sure this book would have been easier to read. As it was, I lost track of what was happening so many times. The Russian names don't really help, because they're hard to remember.

Disappointment #3: I found this book in the 'horror' section of the bookstore and it is most definitely NOT HORROR. I wanted horrific monsters, gore, blood, guts, suspense, tension, goosebumps, fear of sleeping ... I got yawns and a headache.

The magic was actually pretty cool when they used it. The Twilight was a bit hard to understand at first but it was quite unique, so I appreciated that element. There's some okay world-building, but the book seems to focus more on the morals of the world than how it actually functions. It also comments a lot on humankind, and by the end of the book I was kinda over being judged by this cynical Russian author who doesn't know me at all. Like, he complains so much about humans being horrible and causing their own evil, and I totally agree that the world is a bit of a mess right now, but like Samwise said, 'there's some GOOD in this world (Mr Frodo), and it's worth fighting for.' It was too dark and depressing and just chose to focus on the worst of humanity without balancing it with some good. That made me sad.

I did really like the bit towards the end (non-spoiler) where happiness was likened to flowers. That was nice. (Even if it did drag on a bit).

So, look. I didn't hate it - there's three interesting stories here. But I think you probably need to read slow to make sure you're following what's going on, and be prepared to fill in a lot of blanks yourself. Don't expect too much in the way of action, or thrills, or monsters, and be prepared for lots of commentary on the human condition.

This may go down better with a glass of vodka.
Profile Image for Toby.
829 reviews328 followers
May 9, 2012
I was really enjoying this book until about the midway point and then instead of Lukyanenko pushing the story on to a fantastic ending which would have had me drooling for the following instalments he simply repeated the same trick from the first part of the book twice more and helped me to lose interest entirely.

At the heart of the book is a fantastic premise; police departments set up by Light Magicians and Dark Magicians to monitor the behaviour of Good and Evil (his pronouns not mine), fighting a war that's destined to continue forever in stalemate. This idea is suited perfectly to that hard-bitten detective style narration which I love so much and so the sections which are narrated in first person stand out as much better than the odd paragraph/chapter that deals with other characters in the third person. The quote on the front of this version of the book refers to it as "J.K. Rowling Russian style" and I actually came to see the similarities between Harry and Anton, both are pawns of superior magicians and both are at the centre of a war between light and dark but I think that is where these comparisons should end. Unless of course I find that by the end of the trilogy Anton is killing the dark lord, at which point I might just exhale deeply and roll my eyes before feeling like I've wasted 1500 pages of my life.

This book is comprised of three seperate stories of Anton and The Night Watch and neither of the three are particularly spectacular, I kept thinking back to the Ed McBain 87th Precinct police procedural novels which started so well with Cop Hater and became formulaic very quickly. The relative brevity of each instalment was also matched by Lukyanenko here. That ended up as the only saving grace, allowing me to forge on to the end.

Looking beyond the fantasy elements of this story, it was Post-Soviet Russian literature aspect to the storytelling that was most interesting for me. Discussing it briefly with Daniel after he recently read A Matter of Death and Life it occurred to me that the authors who grew up under Communism and faced with a rich literary history, that includes people like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov (referenced by Lukyanenko in the third story,) have a quite unique approach to contemporary world fiction. This is no different for Lukyanenko's Night Watch, the same themes and outlook on the world are all there, if you look at even just the premise of Homo Zapiens you begin to understand just how greatly the world view of these authors differs to that of you or I and why countries (again, as referenced by Lukyanenko in the third story) from the Former Soviet states, Asia and the Middle East will be the future of the world economy (and interesting literature.)

Aside from the less than exciting end to each of the three linked episodes in this book the major reason why I won't be moving on to the Day Watch is the constant moralising and discussion of what it takes to be a good person that is apparently a recurring theme in the authors work. I don't want to be so overtly preached to in my fiction, I prefer it a little more subtle if it has to be there at all. At least it was miles better than Finch.
Profile Image for fleurette.
1,328 reviews110 followers
October 6, 2019
Night Watch

Many years ago I watched the movie based on the book in this series and I liked it so much that I decided to read the book. It was so long ago that I don't remember what was this movie about in fact. Maybe it's good, making me like the book even more. I was surprised with this story. It is different than I expected. To my amazement, I liked things I usually don't like.

The entire book is divided into three parts. Three separate stories that are closely related. The same characters, similar themes, the continuity of the story is maintained. And that's what I like so much. The whole story is very coherent, even though they are three stories, they definitely form one whole thing and have one goal. They are very similar but at the same time different enough not to be boring and repetitive. On the contrary, each one is a great story that you read with interest.

The narration is conducted in the first person from Anton's point of view. Although I usually don't like this type of narration, it doesn't bother me here. Anton is an intelligent and interesting man with a complex personality. Being in his head and watching the world through his eyes is a rather pleasant feeling. It's easy to like him.

And so is the case with the other characters. They are complicated, interesting and ambiguous. They give the whole story a deeper dimension, make me wonder what their motives are. I really like the ambiguity of their actions. Makes them more real.

The whole world described in the book is amazing, unique and different from everything. The eternal struggle between Good and Evil has been told anew. The best things are all shades of gray that are presented in this story. The world which is theoretically divided equally between Light and Darkness is in fact much more complicated. Warriors of Light sometimes think like representatives of the Darkness. Darkness uses good to do evil. All this makes the whole story extremely interesting. It also gives it a deeper meaning.

I also want to emphasize the complexity and genius of the intrigue created by the author. And three times! Anton slowly begins to understand the situation and its various nuances, and we, the readers, with him. Everything is unobvious and fascinating. All the time we want to know what will happen next, how it all ends.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a really good story. And above all, all fans of the fight between good and evil, urban fantasy and a completely new view on morality. The next book in this series will definitely be on my list of books to read. I think I'll also watch that movie again.
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