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THE LAST WATCH
The Last Watch is technically the fourth book in what was originally a trilogy. Personally I did not discover this until I finished reading the third book and started complaining about the fact that it had no clear cut ending. For those of you who have read the first three books: if you have got this far, you will definitely enjoy the last book. I found it to be more cohesive than the Day Watch, a little lighter than Twilight Watch and altogether more enjoyable to read. For those of you who have not read the first three books: although you could read each of these books on their own, if you do so you will not get the complete picture, which emerges almost painfully slowly throughout the series.
I would describe Lukyanenko as a modern day Proust; an unbelievably intelligent author, although possibly a little bit crazy. I can't say I agree with the claim that he is "JK Rowling, Russian style" (Daily Telegraph). Rowling's writing is something that completely takes you in - until you finish her books, you don't sleep, you only eat what happens to be at arms length, and you certainly don't put it away because you're not in the mood. With Lukyanenko you have to be in the right mindset, read a few pages every day, and only when you are fed, watered and fully awake. That is not to say that his books aren't great, in fact it is rather rewarding when you finish the books. In my opinion, the style of writing is so incredibly different that you have to focus a bit more so that you don't miss the intricate detail in the plot. Sticking to the comparison with JK Rowling, her writing has a lot more ups and downs, as is often taught on writing courses (build up story, peak, slow down and so on), whereas my first impression of Lukyanenko's style of writing was that it was almost completely level. However, when you do get into it, this is strangely addictive.
Like the previous ones, this book is divided into three interlinking stories. This book would be very difficult to follow by readers who have not read the prequels, as it features a great number of characters whose personalities have developed throughout the series.
PART 1: The Last Watch begins with Anton travelling to Edinburgh, where he is expecting to find the vampire who killed an innocent man in the Edinburgh Dungeons. However, he ends up trying to stop "The Last Watch", a trio of a Light One, a Dark One and a member of the Inquisition who are out to find and use Merlin's crown. In order to retrieve the crown, they need to gain access to the 7th level of the Twilight, where Merlin has hidden his greatest achievement.
PART 2: The second story takes place in Samarkand, in Uzbekistan, where Day Watch and the Night Watch have to share their offices in order to save money. Anton is sent to Samarkand to find Rustam, the last surviving friend of Merlin, who has not been seen for a decade. Rustam is thought to know where the "Crown of all things" is hidden and - more importantly - what it is. At the Night Watch in Samarkand, Anton and the Day and Night watch are attacked by humans who have been magically armed by the Last Watch. This is when Anton begins to suspect that a character who is believed dead is in fact alive and one of the members of the Last Watch.
PART 3: The final story takes place in Moscow, where Anton finally finds out who the Dark One is in the mysterious trio (a revelation I will not give away here). By this time he also knows who the Inquisitor is. However, he cannot identify the Light One in the trio. Anton and Svetlana's daughter Nadya, the most powerful Other in the world, is being protected by both the Day and Night watches, as it is believed that she is the key to anyone getting to the 7th level of the Twilight. The two known members of the Last Watch then kidnap Anton and take him to Edinburgh, threatening to set off a nuclear explosive if he fails to help them acquire Merlin's crown. In Edinburgh Anton meets the third member of the Final Watch, who has also made an appearance in the prequel. Will Anton figure out Merlin's secret? Will the Last Watch succeed? You'll have to read the book to find out!
And it looks like we might get to read more, as Anton says: "You didn't think this was the Last Watch?"
I have given my opinion on the author above. I usually finish a book in a couple of days, but this book took me a while to read, as it was quite challenging and you need your full attention to keep track of what's happening. I found that the book was great value for money, because each of the stories has so much detail that it is like reading three books. You can actually read one story, take a break and then come back to it a bit later on. Out of the four books, I found the plot of The Last Watch easiest to follow, although this is perhaps because I was finally getting used to the style of writing.
The characters are incredibly well developed. The only downside, I would say, is that Lukyanenko has problems letting go of some of the characters, and therefore there are a few characters present in this book who did not need any further mention and who did not add anything to the story. Another thing I found a little inconsistent is the fact that the first three books use the name "Gesar" for one of the main characters, which in The Last Watch has a different spelling: "Geser". I assume this is because the translator is spelling the names phonetically, but either way this is only a minor point.
All in all, I enjoyed The Last Watch, especially as it contains a little more action than the previous books, and it has a carefully constructed plot which ties up some loose ends from previous books. The ending is perhaps a little abrupt, you can almost see how Lukyanenko wanted to carry on with the story but knew it had to end sometime. I would have liked an epilogue to see what happens to the characters, but I expect that there might be more to come. I would recommend the entire series to anyone who wants more than a "beach read". This is a series in which there is no black and white, as much as the Watches want to believe there is, but where everything is shades of grey. As such, it has a much deeper and more philosophical make-up than your traditional fantasy series, and is an excellent addition to the genre.