Archive for October 12th, 2010

Sergei Lukyanenko – The Twilight Watch

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The third book of the Watch Cycle by Sergei Lukyanenko is The Twilight Watch (2003). In my previous reviews I gave recommendations for this Russian Urban Fantasy series because of a fresh way of writing and well constructed plots. The second book however was not as good as the first. So the question with the third book if is if it can return to the earlier level.

As we are used to, this book is also divided intro three stories of which the first two are fairly standalone and the third completing the bigger story. There are some difference. There is a somewhat larger time jump since the end of the second book and there is no real gap between the stories which makes them look less than separate stories as before as they are much more connected.

In The Twilight Watch we return to the main protagonist of the first book. A happy return one could say, but the same spark is not there. Whereas the first two books had fast-paced and slow-paced stories, the stories in the third book are all the same and neither slow or fast. Just this makes the stories feel more average like a typical Urban Fantasy. The stories have no sense of urgency and what really misses are the ingenuous plot twists and the cunning intrigues that made the first book that great. It is also now that I noticed that the second book also lacked those two core elements that made the first book stand out, but managed to compensate it with some fresh elements.

The plots of these stories do not stand out as before and feel somewhat flawed. Lukyanenko had a great idea for the first book. The follow-up was a to be expected continuation, based on the concepts that he had created, but now it feels that he didn’t know what direction to take the story further on. So the plot he made up was not as genuine as before. This was already notable in the final story of The Day Watch, but Lukyanenko does seem to fall for the typical fantasy plot, lacking a certain amount of creativity and power to put into the books. If this was what he intended originally then it feels odd. What the Watch Cycle really misses is a well developed backstory, the so-called mythology. Historic references are few and hardly play a role, except where it is necessary to set up plot elements. The Watch Cycle focuses on the now. Backstories don’t reach further than a century, which is way too little with characters having lived for centuries or even millennia.

Even less is also the character development. As noted before there is a lack of pressure. The main characters have a mission, but it’s not that personal anymore. The struggle of the previous books is light and even the ending doesn’t sizzle. Although creative it too nice, leaving the dark and bleak atmosphere behind.

Did book three manage to recuperate from the downturn of book two? No. It actually continues on the same path. Though still quite enjoyable, this book doesn’t manage to be more than mainstream Urban Fantasy. A sad development for a series of which the book started so well.  Because of this I cannot really recommend it except if you like the series enough to enjoy more of the characters or you are just into Urban Fantasy and like a Russian perspective.