Apr 152014
 

Last Watch

Night Watch series book 4

A review by Nalini Haynes

A stranger dies in a horror dungeon experience, attracting the attention of the Night Watch. Gesar sends Anton to Scotland to investigate. Inevitably the threat is far more dire than it, at first, appears. The Last Watch is an Other extremist group, just what every newly-minted higher magician needs for professional development.

Night Watch, Day Watch and Twilight Watch are the first three books in this series, all reviewed at the links. Every book has three separate stories styled much like episodes in a TV series but this series has a strong narrative arc bridging all stories. Make no mistake: although Last Watch has been released by a different publisher, it is still an integral part of the Night Watch series. Book 5, New Watch, is about to be released by HarperCollins, the publisher of books 1 to 3.

It’s possible to read stories individually – I think – but you’d miss a lot. Starting with Last Watch would be a bit like jumping into Babylon 5 in fourth season.

Before flying out to Scotland, Anton has to face his wife and daughter. Svetlana is surprisingly complacent about Anton’s impending trip – she’s looked into the future – but Nadya, now past the toddler stage, is worried daddy will drink his vodka and leave home. Young children often provide humorous counterpoints in this style of story but Nadya is special, being a zero point magician or enchantress.

Nadya doesn’t want daddy to leave home so she turns the vodka into water then pretends she hasn’t done anything wrong, just like you’d expect a worried little girl to behave. Then, after being told off, Nadya turns the water back into vodka. Or maybe it was into pure alcohol. After her parents drank it.

Later Semyon and Anton are discussing a werewolf’s transgressions that include terrorising a teacher she didn’t like and substituting soy for salami.

I love this series for its character and humour alongside Lukyanenko’s incredible sense of place, his fast-paced plots and fan service in the form of bringing ‘incidental’ characters back, teasing readers. (Will this be the time Egor plays a crucial role?) When tension builds, the humour slides: Anton isn’t a smart-ass comic-book style hero, he’s more like your smart-ass geek reflecting while writing his memoirs. I’ve even come to appreciate Zabulon, Anton’s erstwhile enemy and occasional-but-treacherous ally. Flipping through the pages of Last Watch to write this review, I am inspired to read it again. A masterpiece of urban fantasy.

Note

I’ve linked to an ebook version of Last Watch but Hachette Book Group in the US kindly sent me a paper copy. I can’t find the URL for the paper version unless its been posted with an image for a graphic novel by Cassandra Clare. Seriously.

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