Day Watch

Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Published: 2007

Reviewed: 2009-01-15

Publisher: Miramax

I came late to the "Night Watch" series. Well, not that late, I
suppose, since it's only two years since this book was translated into
English, but it was another case where others around me had been
raving about how good they were before I ever went and picked one up.
"Day Watch" is the second in the series, following "Night Watch," as
Mr. Lukyanenko continues to explore his world, filling in the details
bit by bit, and gradually building up a beautiful and monstrous

You see, in Mr. Lukyanenko's world, a small fraction of people are
Others, magic-enabled folks who can step out of our world into a
fearsome magical distortion of it known as the Twilight, which may or
may not be alive. The Others regard themselves as not human, but
something more---and yet, they are all only too human in some ways, in
their wants and needs, and especially their moral dilemmas. For the
world of the Others is riven by a centuries-long cold war between the
Dark and the Light, those who embrace freedom and those who embrace
responsibility, regulated only barely by a treaty enforced by the
Inquisition, which stands above and between the two warring factions
of Others.

It's all very Russian. Not just the settings and the characters---the
whole world seems to revolve around Moscow and the contest between the
god-like wizards who command the two factions there---but the
attitudes. One of my favorite scenes in all of "Day Watch" is when
one character, visiting another abroad, brings him terrible food and
fake vodka as a gift from the Motherland to cheer him up---and it's
exactly the right thing to help revive the melancholy man. And all
the power in their hands brings none of the characters real joy---only
hard decisions and peril.

Theoretically, it's all about moral ambiguity and there being two
sides to every story and so on, but frankly I found myself
sympathizing more clearly with the Light---and maybe that's just a
diagnosis of my own personal character. Neither side is particularly
nice and both do some horrible things, but I just didn't find it
as murky as I feel like I was supposed to.

A lot of people die in this book. That was one of the things that
made it hard for me to make my way through it, I think. They die, and
they die fast or slow, but almost pointlessly. It all comes together,
in the end, but for what? Mr. Lukyanenko pulls everything together in
a game of chess that kept coming around corners at me, even though I
knew from "Night Watch" that I should expect him to be doing that.
And though there is no salvation in Mr. Luyanenko's world, one may
still do right and live well.

So who should read this book? First off, not anybody who hasn't read
the first. Not only will it spoil "Night Watch" for you, but you
won't get a lot of the subtle bits that are weaving together, or the
pathos of some of the deaths that happen. But if you can get yourself
into the Russian mind-set and aren't afraid of a little ambiguity and
tragedy, it's a fine book to read.