The Night Watch Series is an urban fantasy written by Sergei Lukyanenko and set in Russia. It tracks the lives of a type of human called Others, who are magicians, shape-shifters, vampires and werewolves that live among us humans.
It’s not quite good vs evil
There are two types of Other, Light Other and Dark Other. The Night Watch are made up of the Light Others, which polices the Dark Others. The Day Watch is made up of Dark Others, and they police the Light Others. Both draw their power from the humans around them. But you’d much rather it be drawn by a Dark Other than a Light Other. When a Dark Other draws his power from you, he removes your darker emotions. A Light Other takes away your happier emotions.
The Dark Others don’t see themselves as purely evil. The distinction is rather one of outlook. The Light Others see it as their duty to help others, the Dark Others ascribe to a more individualistic worldview. While this may seem pretty cut and dried the series does work hard to give you both viewpoints. For example, Russia’s communist state is stated to have been initiated by the Light Others. This suggests that the Light Others would sacrifice freedoms for stability. Something which is quite jarring to Western ears.
You will relate to the job of a magician detective
The key protagonist in the Night Watch series is Anton Gorodetsky, a Light Other in the Night Watch. Anton is a fiercely Russian and perennially gloomy magician, who often finds himself in the middle of other more powerful magicians’ plans. What sets Anton apart from a lot of protagonists in this genre is that he ultimately accepts the system in which he works. He may grumble about his bosses, but he also realises that they have got where they are for reason. This is a situation all but the most obstinate will have been in, and it really cements his everyman credentials. No mean feat considering he is essentially a wizard!
Although a lot happens to the characters in the Night Watch series, very little improvement to the overall world they live in occurs. Any advancements in their situation are at best incremental (if not illusory) and are paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of some of the rank and file Others. This shows the strong realist streak that runs through a series where few things are entirely good or completely bad.
It’s so damn Russian!
The patriotism of the author shines through the entire of the Night Watch series. This doesn’t mean that Sergei Lukyanenko spends these novels being an uncritical cheerleader of his home country. But he does clearly have a very one-sided, possibly ignorant view, of countries that aren’t Russia. I was going to say that his view of the West is probably as jaundiced as my view of Russia. But I don’t believe that. In the UK freedom of the press is pretty well entrenched, whereas the Russian government keeps a pretty tight control on information, so I’m pretty confident I have a better understanding of Russia’s actions in the world than Mr Lukyanenko.
It’s these actions of Russia, and the heightened tensions they have helped bring about in the global community, that makes this such an interesting time to start reading the Night Watch series. It will help give you a slightly better understanding of how some Russians see themselves and the West.
I hope that if you haven’t read the Night Watch series then this article will have inspired you to do so. If that’s the case you can find it on Amazon here:
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