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Twilight Watch (also known as 'Dusk Watch') is the third book in the best selling Night Watch trilogy by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko, and follows on from the events in the Night Watch and Day Watch novels. As I mentioned in my review of Day Watch, this former trilogy is now a tetralogy with the release of 'Final Watch'.
The Twilight Watch movie is also currently in production (and, unlike the previous two films, is being shot entirely in English). However, it is unclear at this stage whether it will cover the events in this book. The first two films only covered the plot of the first book, so it appears unlikely that the Twlight Watch film will correlate with the book in terms of plot.
As with the previous novels, Twilight Watch is set in modern day Russia, though the scope of this book in terms of locations goes beyond Moscow to other areas, and other countries, something that the first two books were reluctant to do. The book revolves around The Others, beings who look like humans, but who possess supernatural powers. They also have the ability to enter the 'Twilight', a shadowy parallel world that drains power from those who enter it, but which also offers benefits to those who have the power to stay in it. The 'Light Ones' and 'Dark Ones', the two different types of others, are locked in an uneasy truce governed by a Treaty. The behaviour of both sides is watched over by the Inquisition, an independent and powerful body responsible for ensuring that the Treaty is adhered to by both sides.
Twilight Watch is set two years after the events of Day Watch, and there have been developments in situation of the characters. Following the events of the second book, Svetlana has left the Night Watch. The positive spin to that is that she and Anton are now happily living as a couple, and have a two year old daughter who is destined to become one of the most powerful Others in history. Edgar, a Dark Other who was a key member of the Day Watch in the second book, has now joined the Inquisition and seeks to police both sides. Kostya, who was friends with Anton in the first book despite being a vampire (and Dark Other), has now become a powerful Higher Vampire, and is an important member of the Day Watch.
As with the previous books, Twlight Watch is split into three different stories. However, this time around they could easily be one story. In the previous two novels, the stories linked together in terms of plot, but were clearly distinct stories in their own right. The stories in Twilight Watch all have definitive ends to them, but they flow on from each other almost seamlessly in terms of the overall plot, and in that sense the three story mechanism in this book is not as important as in the previous two.
Twilight Watch, like Day Watch did before it, develops the style of the plot compared to the books that have come before it. Day Watch told a story of an intense strategic battle between the two Watches, whereas this time around a powerful witch and a legendary book called the Fuaran threaten both Watches simultaneously, and indeed threaten the very existence of all Others. This forces the members of both Watches to work together along with the Inquisition, something which has never happened before.
As with Day Watch, it would be perfectly possible to enjoy Twilight Watch as a standalone novel. However, only by reading the previous two books can the scale of this book be appreciated, as well as the intricate character interaction and plot twists. As such it really is recommended that you pick up the first two books first to get the most out of Twilight Watch's plot.
Unsurprisingly there are new major characters that make their appearance in this book. What perhaps is more surprising is that there are only a couple of them. Arina is the witch mentioned above, an Other who is not only very old but also immensely powerful. She has been in hiding for sixty years following a disastrous social experiment sixty years ago when Communism was coming into the fore in the Soviet Union. She is still wanted by the Inquisition, but also holds the artefact that could have grave implications for all Others. The other new character is Las, a seemingly normal human with no powers who nonetheless manages to crop up in rather suspicious situations at various points.
In addition the main cast from the previous books return, though the peripheral characters from both Watches are rarely mentioned in this novel. However, this does not hamper the book in the slightest, as the Watches being forced to work together opens up plentiful opportunities for character development and interaction, something that Lukyanenko uses to its fullest potential.
In Twilight Watch Lukyanenko reminds us once again that he doesn't just seek to develop his books in terms of plot, but also in their style. I have written before about just how skilful he is as a writer, in addition to being a great storyteller, and this book does nothing but reinforce that opinion.
The book is written in Lukyanenko's traditional first person style, and this time (as with the first book) the whole story is told from the perspective of Anton, the main character throughout the series. At first glance this seems like it could be a step back from the flexible and innovative style of the second book, but in reality this style fits perfectly with the book. Unlike the second novel, the third book has both Watches working on the same side and more or less all of the characters are attempting to figure out the answer to the same problem. As such it is entirely appropriate for the book to be from the perspective of one character, and it works very well.
The scope of the plot of this book once again advances from that shown by Day Watch, giving a good sense of progression throughout the series to this point. The plot has more of an obvious mystery element to this time round, and is not as complex. The main story sets down more straightforward questions, as opposed to the first two books where the reader is constantly second guessing everything. The fact that this works so well (and it really does work well) is once again a testament to Lukyanenko's ability as a writer. The plot here is formulated differently to those in the previous books and is almost a different style, but the book remains just as compelling as its predecessors.
You can tell in this book that Lukyanenko is exploring the different sides to his characters and putting them in new situations. Up to now Gesar and Zabulon, the leaders of the two Watches, and just gone head to head and nothing more. Now that they are working together we see new sides of both of them, as indeed we see new sides to all characters as they are forced to work with their former enemies. Rather than being a generic and tacky gimmick (as it often is with comic book stories), this twist in character interaction really enriches proceedings, and makes the story both more compelling and more enjoyable.
As with the previous books, Twilight Watch goes deeper in its substance than simply building towards the conclusion to a plotline. As in the rest of the series, philosophical questions are put here to both sides in terms of the purpose of their fight. Lukyanenko poses a lot of questions to the reader about the very nature of Others, and the real differences between the two sides. These questions flow directly through Anton as the main character, and add a lot more depth to the world in general than is normally seen in fantasy novels. It seems to make the characters more real and believable as well as imaginative, and seems to make the whole plot more purposeful and solid.
There once again is very little that can be criticised with Twilight Watch. The ending is not a classic apocalyptic battle where only one side is standing at the end. But then again that is not Lukyanenko's style. His fantasy novels have a different focus to that normally seen in this genre, and is endings tend to be deeper and less one dimensional than is the norm with this type of book. But what is exceptionally clever with this book is that the ending here could easily either be the ending to a trilogy, or could lead into other stories. It does round off the story in a satisfying and conclusive style, and ties up all required loose ends. However, you do get the impression that there could be more to come from the characters. Anton and Svletana's daughter in particular is not given a major role by any stretch of the imagination, and given her supposed destiny you would have thought that her character could be expanded upon greatly in future stories. All in all the book concludes in a way that wraps up the trilogy nicely, but leaves scope for a further book. It is therefore no surprise that a further book has been written.
The Night Watch trilogy (as it originally was) is without a doubt a 'thinking man's' fantasy series. It contains a classic mix of imagination and skilful writing, but also poses questions that are much deeper than are traditionally asked in these sorts of novels. It takes a extraordinary write to make this sort of writing project work, but luckily Lukyanenko is an extraordinary writer.
Twilight Watch is a superb and fitting ending to what is an outstanding fantasy trilogy. It will leave you wanting more, not because it ends on a cliffhanger or poses more questions than it answers, but just because it is such an involving and satisfying series to read. Luckily Lukyanenko has responded to the acclaim by writing a fourth book in the series. And I guarantee that after reading Twilight Watch you will want to rush out and by the final book in the series. I certainly do.