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The Night Watch review

Two parts mystery and intrigue to one part dull philosophical rambling…

489 PAGES · £18.99

Author:
Sergei Lukyanenko

Publisher:
William Heinemann

ISBN:
0-434-01609-8 (hardback)/0-434-01412-5

Rating: 3_5/5

It can't be easy to write a novel that’s built on a foundation of heavy philosophy – as an author, can you sustain a decent story without getting sucked into your own intellectual debate? Russian writer Sergei Lukyanenko has had a good go at it here, but despite a valiant effort the story in The Night Watch can’t quite go the distance.

For millennia a treaty has existed between the forces of Light and Darkness, designed to enable both sides to co-exist with minimal bloodshed. To ensure that everyone abides by the treaty, two supernatural police forces have been established – the Light-aligned Night Watch, and the Day Watch, staffed by the Darkness. But things are brewing behind the scenes in the run-up to an event that will profoundly affect human history…

No doubt people who loved the superb film adaptation will want to read the original book, but it’s a very different animal: the book consists of three separate but linked stories (only the first of which will be familiar to fans of the film), with much of the action taking a back seat to philosophical musings on the balance between Light and Dark. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since this balance is more complicated than you might think, but it does get quite wearying after a while.

While the first two acts offer some real intrigue, by the third it feels like the plot has been thrown out of the window in favour of extended navelg-azing sessions. In the end The Night Watch feels rushed and confused, and after the first strong two-thirds the denouement is just a little disappointing.

Sandy Auden

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