The Day Watch
(Translated by Andrew Bromfield)
Published 2007 487 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Walking the streets of Moscow, indistinguishable from the rest of its population, are The Others. Possessors of supernatural powers and capable of entering the Twilight, a shadowy world that exists in parallel to our own, each owes allegiance either to The Dark or The Light.
In The Day Watch, second volume of the Night Watch trilogy, Alice, a young but powerful Dark Other, attends a planning meeting with her comrades in the Day Watch. The team is on a mission to apprehend an uninitiated Other, a practicing Dark witch who has so far eluded those responsible for finding and initiating unlicensed practitioners of magic.
It seems a routine operation. But when they arrive, the Night Watch team has already made the arrest. A fierce battle ensues, during which Alice almost dies. Drained of her powers, she is sent to recuperate at a camp near the Black Sea. There she meets Igor; the chemistry between them is instant and irresistible…
But then comes a shattering realisation: Igor is a Light Mage. Suddenly Alice remembers him as one of those involved in the battle that left her crippled. Now that they know, there is no alternative to a magical duel, a battle that neither of them wants to win...
The Day Watch is the second part in Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko’s popular Night Watch trilogy. Since this is part of a trilogy, it is really necessary to have read The Night Watch (the first book) beforehand because the author wastes little time explaining the events that have lead up to the stories narrated in The Day Watch but assumes that readers already have the background knowledge.
Set in pre-millennium Moscow The Day Watch continues the intrigues of the supernatural forces (one Light, one Dark) that exist within that city. This time the story focuses on the lives and actions of the Dark Others and the Day Watch rather than focusing on the Light Others who make up the Night Watch.
For hundreds of years the forces of the Night Watch and Day Watch have been at an impasse, neither side able to win their never ending battle for dominance. The rules of engagement are strictly governed by an ancient treaty and the rules of the treaty are rigorously enforced by the Inquisition (a council of Light and Dark Others whose sole purpose is to see the treaty upheld) because the alternative, a supernatural apocalypse, is unthinkable.
Yet with the rules of the treaty equally weighted for both sides of the conflict it is left for the powers of Light and Dark to try to find loop-holes and alternative ways to open conflict to win their unending war for supremacy. There are a lot of chess metaphors used in the story’s narrative with pawns being sacrificed to aid the greater plans of the leaders of the Moscow Watches but any cold war metaphor seems equally apt.
Like Night Watch, The Day Watch contains three separate stories - the relevance of each story becoming apparent only towards the end of the book as the whole picture of events is slowly revealed and seemingly unconnected actions suddenly fall into place. The first story is narrated in first person by Alisa, a young witch of the Day Watch. Alisa is probably the most difficult character to like out of all the characters featured in the book. To me, her pointless, petty cruelties make it difficult to empathise with her and her sad fate.
The second story, narrated in first person by a Dark magician who has journeyed to Moscow for a reason yet can’t remember anything about that reason or about his own self, is a much more engaging tale. This is probably because Vitaly is a more likeable character and the mystery surrounding his identity and purpose is intriguing and not easy to guess.
The last story is told in third person from the perspectives of two Others, a Day Watch and a Night Watch operative, who have been sent to Prague to attend a tribunal of the Inquisition. This story is where the hidden schemes and plans within plans of the forces of Light and Dark are finally exposed at the story’s exciting climax.
All of the stories add up to The Day Watch being another great slice of Russian style fantasy fiction. With its gritty Russian realism and melancholy prose The Day Watch is the polar opposite, in both style and substance, of much of the American urban fantasy currently being written but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Day Watch has only a small amount of vampire action but with high quality writing and original fantasy landscapes this book shouldn’t fail to please vampire or fantasy fans alike.
Film Note: The movie entitled The Day Watch is not actually a film of this book. It is actually the dramatisation of the second story from The Night Watch, the first book in this trilogy (like that is in no way confusing!)
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