wilderthan: ((AkihikoShinjiro) To touch you)
[personal profile] wilderthan
I finished reading Surgei Lukyanenko's The Night Watch last night, but I didn't write my review then to give me time to digest it, so to speak. It was originally written in Russian, so obviously I read it in translation -- it's quite odd to see a translated fantasy novel be relatively popular here. I think the only other translated fantasy novels I've read were by Cornelia Funke. In any case, the translation isn't bad. I'm sure it loses some of the original, but I didn't get a horrible sense of distance from the text as I do from most translated works, and I didn't feel as if I was missing anything huge.

The book is split into three parts, and is largely from the point of view of a single character, Anton. I didn't find him incredibly easy to sympathise with -- when he was in action and doing things, it wasn't bad, but when he's sat around waiting or contemplating, he's awfully whiny. I found that particularly in the third part. I felt like that could have been shorter, or more to the point, and I also felt it ended a little confusingly. The same twist is used in each of the three parts, too -- so while the first part was hard to predict and interesting, the second part you felt an inkling of what was going to happen, and you knew nothing was as it seemed in the third part.

I like the world-building, though. I like the fact that it's set in Moscow and that's it -- it doesn't spend a long time introducing people from London or New York to what Moscow is like. That part is quite matter-of-fact -- so much urban fantasy seems to be set somewhere that's sort of generally familiar in a way, like London, and then when it isn't, they make a big song and dance about the fact. It's nice to read something that's just simply set in Russia. It allowed that part to be familiar -- even though it isn't, to me -- so the world of the Others is what we're really being introduced to. The explanations about Dark and Light in this book are interesting, and the way the Dark isn't completely horrible -- that Dark Ones can love, have families and affection... in fact, they seemed warmer than the Light Ones. For all the main character, Anton, is a Light One, and he talks about loving Svetlana, there isn't really much warmth and humanity. There are only a few references to his parents, for example.

It was very interesting to read something like this that wasn't written by a Brit and set in London. And refreshing. It was also refreshing to read about vampires who weren't necessarily evil -- I would have liked to see more of Anton and Kostya's friendship -- and to read a book that just casually contained vampires and werewolves without romanticising them...

I can't quite give this book five stars. The first two parts kept me quite interested, but the third part felt self-indulgent and not as substantial. Four stars, it is!


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