Title: Night Watch
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Translator: Andrew Bromfield
Publisher: American - harper collins, Russian - AST : AST MOSKVA : Tranzitkniga
The first thing to note for American readers is that (at least in my experience) the Russians aren't afraid to take a heavy dose of moral philosophy with their Urban Fantasy.
The Nightwatch books (a tetraology, if you will) are a meditation on the nature of good and evil and whether there's actually a difference among them, set in the mess of post-Soviet Russia.
The books are, in a word, lyrical. Each book has a listing of which band's lyrics are quoted, and the main character, Anton, will often consult whatever song comes up on his discman to see how centered he is in the world. The result is an amazingly dark, vivid, intense experience the likes of which I've experienced nowhere else.
To put it simply, the first time I picked up Nightwatch, I read it through three times in a row, in the space of about 3 weeks. It simply had that much of an impact on me.
In the World of Nightwatch, there are magical beings among us who call themselves "Others", and who can draw energy from the mundanes around them (Dark others from those who suffer, Light others from those who are experiencing Joy) and can then engage the world around them in acts of power.
However, for the duration of recent memory, the Light and the Dark have been in a treaty to keep them from mutual destruction, and within that treaty, any time an agent of the Light gets to do something positive to the world around them, agents of the Dark get to commit a like act of equal power.
To keep up with this, there are two police forces in existence across the world; the DayWatch (made up of the forces of the Dark) who watch out for Light magicians acting within society, and the NightWatch (made up of the forces of the Light) watching out for Dark magicians acting within society.
The forces of the Light are constantly caught up in massive social experiments; they are the group, for instance, that started the Communist revolution, because they thought it would result in a golden age for everybody. The forces of the Dark fight for individual freedom, at the cost of all else, sort of the ultimate Libertarians.
And at this point, having described this much to you, I've only scratched the surface of what's in this book. I'll let you meet Anton, and Gesar, and all of the other characters I've come to love yourself.
I will say, there aren't any other books in my library like this, that strike me the same way. The only author I could compare it to would be Patricia McKillip, and she's not even in the same genre. But both McKillip and Lukyanenko have that particular, individual, powerful approach to things that leaves them outside of the rest of fiction, and that draws one back for the way that they will change the way one sees the world.