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The Day Watch review

Russian fantasy, torn between the light and dark…

Author: Sergei Lukyaneko

Publisher: William Heinemann

487 pages • £11.99

ISBN: 0-434-01443-5

Rating:

Within a fantasy world that favours
fat American sword and sorcery
trilogies, the success in 2006 of Russian
writer Sergei Lukyaneko’s The Night
Watch was heartening. Here was a
fantasy set in a post-Soviet world,
where The Other, those who possess
supernatural powers, exist in parallel to
the humdrum everyday world.

The sequel picks up where its
predecessor left off, dramatising the
clash between the Night Watch (good
guys) and the Day Watch (bad guys).
At the story’s centre lies a young Dark
Other of the Day Watch, Alice. On what
should be a routine job, witch Alice
almost loses her powers.

She’s sent to recuperate at a youth
camp on the Black Sea. Spookily, she
sucks up the nightmares of her young
charges as she recovers her strength.
She also falls in love with Igor, who she
assumes is an ordinary human. But Igor
is a Light Mage, Alice’s enemy.

The opposites-attract narrative
works a treat as Lukyaneko explores
how love and sacrifi ce might play out
amid such super-powerful folk, while
the demonic Grand Dark Mage Zavulon
attempts to influence their fate.

The novel’s treatment of sex can be
less easy to take. Frequently, it’s linked
to violence, whether through the threat
of rape or, in one extraordinary scene,
when Alice forces two would-be
attackers into a spot of man-on-man
action. What do such scenes say about
the mindset of Lukyaneko?

Parking that worrying question for
now, The Day Watch is vividly realised,
well-paced and hugely entertaining. It’s
enough to make you ask: what other
foreign SF and fantasy authors should
we be hearing from?

Jonathan Wright

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