Sunday, 2 December 2007

Book Review: The Night Watch (Sergei Lukyanenko)

After a few weeks, I finally finished a book! Yay! So here we go, the return of the Hopefully-Weekly-Book-Review!

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Title: The Night Watch (Book one of the Watch series)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Set in contemporary Moscow, a small number of Muscovites with supernatural powers — those who are Other, owing allegiance either to the Dark or the Light — co-exist in an uneasy truce, each side keeping a close eye on the other’s activities around the city.

Anton, an Other on the side of the Light, is a night-watchman, patrolling the streets and Metro of the city as he protects ordinary people from the vampires of the Dark. On his rounds, Anton comes across a young woman, Svetlana, whom he realizes is under a curse that threatens the entire city, and a boy, Egor, a young Other, as yet unaware of his own enormous power. Partnered by Olga, an Other who is in the form of an owl, he struggles to remove the curse and thereby save the city, while at the same time prevent Egor from falling into the clutches of the Dark.

What I Liked:
  • Pretty exciting action sequences
  • Twists! Twists! Twists! (No not the dance, you morons)
  • I like the whole concept of the Twilight
  • It takes familiar plots and gives them a slightly newer spin
  • Vampires! Shapeshifters! Magicians!

What I Didn't Liked:
  • A lot of it really does seem rather familiar
  • That bloody blurb by the Daily Telegraph in the front of the book proudly proclaming "JK ROWLING, RUSSIAN STYLE!". Like, Get over your over-inflated British egos already - Harry Potter is so six months ago.)
  • The translation seems to be a little clunky sometimes.
  • I was a little disappointed that they didn't keep up the real-world comparisons in the later parts of the book. That was what made the first part so intriguing in the first place.

Summary:
Like I said before, it really annoys me when reviewers compare other books to J.K. Rowling's stuff because most of the time they don't really deserve to be set against that over-rated crock of perceived originality.

Without Harry Potter to be compared to, The Night Watch is actually a pretty decent read - a novel of good fantasy that is not necessarily original, but engaging in its own way. Anton as a main character is the typical low-level magician who is suddenly entrusted with the task of destroying the Death St.. er.. saving the world.

I do like the concept of the Day and Night Watches keeping tabs on each other, maintaining the balance of good and evil by exchanging 'interventions'. The concept was good enough for me to keep reading it despite some really cheesy moments and some less than stellar translation (I'm sure it would have been way more absorbing in Russian).

The Night Watch may not seem particularly original to most avid fantasy/sci-fi readers, but at least it manages to take some tried and tested formulas and makes it work for it in entirely its own way, making for a pretty engaging read. The twists at the end of each segment of the book also make up for it somewhat.

Now gimme that Day Watch book...

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