REVIEW: Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

172. Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
Publication: Miramax; Tra edition (July 26, 2006), Paperback, 464pp / ISBN 1401359795
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Read: September 20-22, 2012 (reread1)
Source: Bought

Author’s site | Goodreads | LibraryThing

Summary from Amazon:

The Night Watch series has caused a sensation never before seen in Russia — its popularity is frenzied and unprecedented, and driven by a truly great, epic story. In 2005 Fox Searchlight announced it had acquired the Russian film adaptation for an American release. Interest in the books here is now set to reach a fever pitch.
Set in modern day Moscow, Night Watch is a world as elaborate and imaginative as Tolkien or the best Asimov. Living among us are the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?

An extraordinary translation from the Russian by noted translator Andrew Bromfield, this first English language edition of Night Watch is a chilling, engrossing read certain to reward those waiting in anticipation of its arrival.


I feel really bad about saying this because Memory loves this series and I don’t want to hurt her bookwormy feelings, but I didn’t like this book. I mean, I didn’t HATE it, but neither do I want to finish reading the rest of the series any time soon2. The movie version of this book was pretty decent– I mostly liked seeng modern Russia3 through the eyes of actual Russian people and not, like, a host on an American travel show or through the past via a wonderfully terrible 1960s movie.

However, the book suffers from a thing that is subjective and probably slightly insulting and that thing is Being Boring. It’s got lots of things in it that SHOULD be interesting and probably WOULD be interesting if only I could get over the writing/translation. But I can’t. In the first half of the book it isn’t too bad, but by the time the middle rolls around I’m wondering wtf happened. It gets clunky, there are bits where I wonder if my copy’s missing whole passages of text, and the dialogue is like reading English subtitles for a foreign film written by someone who speaks neither English nor the film’s language.

So, basically: not for me. I don’t even know if it’s the translation that’s the problem, or the original writing, but navigating around clunky sentences sucks out all the fun that should be present in an urban fantasy and I don’t like it. The actual STORY was pretty good! And I liked the characters. And the ending was pretty cool. But the writing…



It was okay.


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Other reviews

Love Vampires: “Nightwatch is a highly imaginative and original fantasy thriller that somehow manages to combine fantasy with political thriller to good result. If you have seen the movie it is still well worth reading the novel because the plot covered by the film is about the first third of this book and the book explains things more clearly. I also think that the whole point of this book – good and evil battling it out cold war style – was slightly obscured by the film.”

Drying Ink: “For, at its heart, belying the excitement and the urban flair, is an intensely moral conflict – of what is justifiable, what is necessary. Of inherent qualities, and those earned.”

Eye on Everything: “The Night Watch may not seem particularly original to most avid fantasy/sci-fi readers, but at least it manages to take some tried and tested formulas and makes it work for it in entirely its own way, making for a pretty engaging read.”


The author’s photo comes from Goodreads. It’s not mine! Book cover comes from Amazon. It’s not mine, either.


  1. I’ve just checked my LibraryThing account (which is in desperate need of being updated, omfg it’s so bad I don’t think I’ve added ANY books I’ve read this year holy hell okay moving on) and I actually HAVE READ THIS BEFORE! In 2007! Only I forgot I’d read it. I thought I DNF’d it right before the third act, but apparently not. lol?
  2. which is annoying, because I have the next two books already and I have HAD them for at least four years and I’m still no closer to moving them off my TBR pile.
  3. albeit a Russia with vampires and werewolves and stuff
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  1. Awww. At least you’re being honest. A, are you going the read-a-thon this weekend?

    • I am not, mainly because I don’t really have an internet connection except for a few hours in the morning and I also can’t really mess with my sleeping schedule. :( But I’ll be reading books all day (or mostly all day) and sending positive thoughts to everyone doing the ‘thon!

  2. I fail dramatically at reading absolutely anything in translation. I’ve liked maybe three non-super-old translated books in the history of reading. So even if this were the coolest Russian fantasy book in the world, odds are against my liking it. It makes me feel so narrow-minded!

    • Maybe you’re cool with old translations because they were translated into, like, Victorian English or whatever and thus any stilted translated language is covered up by stilted Victorian English language? Because I’ve noticed the same thing about myself and modern translations vs. classic translations, and I think that’s the reason why I have less of a problem with older translated books than newer ones.

  3. No worries! I’ve heard other readers complain about the translation, too. I seem to be weird for having enjoyed it so much.

    I wasn’t crazy about the movie, though. It bored me about as much as the book bored you. I probably would’ve turned it off, except I went and bought it (it was on sale) and felt like I had to get my money’s worth.

    • Now that I think about it, I think the English subtitles for the movie had issues, too! Is Russian just super hard to translated into English or something?

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