Anton Gorodetsky is a computer programmer (not a field agent), even though he is a middle grade Magician. He believes he knows what he is supposed to do on his first street assignment, but he is not completely sure. Expectedly, things do not go as intended, and he worries what the fallout will be when he shows up at the office the next morning.
Three words completely describe this work: Light versus Dark. However, don’t take that to indicate that this is just another good versus evil tale. Even though the main characters possess supernatural abilities and function within the boundaries of specific checks and balances, they are not fighting with each other for control or domination. They spend the vast majority of their time debating and discussing every angle of the most basic conflict this world has ever known. Fortunately for the reader, these exchanges do not occur in static environments, but rather in the midst of Light and Dark Magicians simply doing what they do.
Sergei Lukyanenko has created an extremely complex sub-world where the forces of Light and Dark keep tabs on each other, where vampires are licensed and regulated, and where every magical act (performed by either group) is strictly accounted for. Each side has its own hierarchy, and logically, its own individual interpretations of events both historical and contemporary. The characters’ attitudes toward mere mortals are also different, and that difference is the nidus for much of the dialogue throughout the book.
Nightwatch is the first in a series of four books originally written in Russian in the mid- to late-1990s (the English translations are more recent). Even though the setting is Moscow, it is written well enough for a reader who has never visited Russia. The references to technology that is nearly obsolete now are the only clues that this is not a wholly contemporary work.
Rated: Moderate. Plenty of instances of mildly profane terms, and three usages of a pair of moderate swear words. The single f-word used actually results in a reprimand from another character for using such language. No sexual descriptions or activities.