The Last Watch
(Translated by Andrew Bromfield)
Publishing 2009 394 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
While on holiday in Scotland, visiting a macabre tourist attraction, 'The Dungeons of Edinburgh', a young Russian tourist is murdered. As the police grapples with the fact that the cause of the young man's death was a massive loss of blood, the Watches are immediately aware that there is a renegade vampire on the loose. Anton - the hero of the Night Watch trilogy - is detailed to this seemingly mundane investigation, but on arriving in Scotland begins to realise that there is much more to the story than a wildcat vampire and a single murder.
Aided by Thomas, the head of Edinburgh's Night Watch, Anton investigates and ruminates, and becomes aware that a team of unlicensed Others are hunting for a fabled magical treasure, hidden in the sixth level of the Twilight by Merlin himself…
The Last Watch is the sequel to the popular Night Watch Russian fantasy trilogy by Sergei Lukyanenko. Unless you have read the entire Night Watch trilogy, The Last Watch won’t make much sense, so readers new to this series should start with The Night Watch and read these books in order rather than starting here.
Set a year or two after the events of The Twilight Watch, The Last Watch sees Anton travel to Edinburgh and Uzbekistan in pursuit of a group of rogue Higher Others, who are trying to steal a powerful magical artefact called the Crown of All Things. Like all the previous books in the Night Watch trilogy, The Last Watch is a story in three separate parts, which together make up the whole tale. All three stories are narrated in first person by Anton Gorodetsky, the main protagonist from the Night Watch trilogy.
The first story, “A Common Cause”, sees Anton travel to Edinburgh to investigate the death of a Russian tourist in the Edinburgh Dungeons. At first glance the murder looks like an attack by an unregistered vampire. The victim has bite marks on his neck and he’d been drained of his blood, but further investigation shows that all the blood poured away into a water feature in the Dungeons. What kind of vampire would not drink the blood?
As ever with Sergei Lukyanenko’s Watch books, nothing is ever as simple as it seems – although for once even the forces of Light and Dark seem to have the same goals and interests in this case. Since the rogue Others who are trying to steal the mysterious Crown of All Things, have involved humans in the business of Others – which is against the rules whatever side you stand on.
The descriptions of Edinburgh are spot on but some of the usual Russian melancholy has been lost in the switch from Moscow to Scotland. In fact, the occasional remark like, “Edinburgh was remarkably good for taxis in general” and “Even the good hotels here didn’t have air-conditioning, the climate didn’t really require it” seem somewhat banal and more like the comments from a travel journal than a fantasy novel.
The second story, “A Common Enemy”, sees Anton travel to Uzbekistan to find an ancient Higher Other who might be able to help him understand the purpose of the Crown of All Things. Anton is closely pursued by rogue Others and their human servants - their battles providing an action-packed trip to the remote mountains of Uzbekistan where Anton discovers the terrible power that the Crown holds.
In the final story, “A Common Destiny” it’s up to Anton to stop the rogue Others from destroying his family and possibly the whole world too. This is a tall task for a Higher Magician who still hasn’t fully harnessed his powers…
In The Last Watch the fate of the world lies solely on Anton’s shoulders. There is little of the political posturing between the forces of Light and Dark that has been the crux of previous novels. This novel is less about the tit-for-tat machinations of two super-powers at a stand off, than it is a personal adventure and voyage of discovery for Anton. While it lacks the literary brilliance of the original Night Watch trilogy novels, and the story’s ending is somewhat abrupt, it still makes a welcome addition to the trilogy. Fans of this series will be pleased that the book’s last line doesn’t rule out the possibility of more Watch stories in the future either. Yeah!
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