The Boy and the Darkness

The Boy and the Darkness

infobox Book |
name = The Boy and the Darkness
title_orig = Mal'chik i t'ma, Мальчик и тьма (Russian)
translator =

author = Sergei Lukyanenko (Сергей Лукьяненко)
cover_artist = Vladimir Bondar'
country = Russia
language = Russian
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = AST
release_date = 1997
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages = 214 pp
isbn = ISBN 5-17-022345-5
preceded_by =
followed_by =

The Boy and the Darkness ( _ru. Мальчик и тьма; aka "Sunny Kitten", aka "Door into Darkness") is a Russian fantasy novel written by Sergey Lukyanenko. The novel describes the magical adventures of a modern thirteen-year-old who has found a door into another world. The novel was actually completed in 1993, but Argus, the publisher with which Lukyanenko signed a contract to print the novel, refuses to publish. The author was only able to publish the novel after the expiration of the four-year contract.

Plot summary

The novel's protagonist, Danny ( _ru. Данька), accidentally encounters a Sunny Kitten, a being made of True Light (sunlight appearing only at dusk or dawn) reflected off a True Mirror. The Kitten offers the boy a magical adventure and reveals a Secret Door, explaining that each world is connected to another with three such gateways. The world they find is completely without sunlight. Soon, Danny discovers that, in this world, humans sold their sunlight to otherworldly traders for certain comforts of modern civilization (electricity, hot water, indoor plumbing, etc.) and magical Wings. These Wings allow a child no older than 20 (adults are too heavy) to literally take off and fly as a bird. As such, most male children become Wingers, defending their cities against the creatures of the Dark - Flyings, living in dark towers across the world. The Flyings used to be human, but most turned to Darkness to allow them to eternally feel the winds and fly free. They serve a mysterious Dark Lord and have weapons capable of wiping out cities whole. However, due to an unspoke status quo, the Flyings refrain from using the Black Fire (similar to napalm or Greek fire), and the Wingers stick to defending their cities and do not mount organized attacks against the creatures of Darkness.

Danny soon becomes an Elder Winger (Wingers always fly in pairs), taking a young boy-Winger named Lan as his Younger, despite them being roughly the same age. After Danny lets a wounded Flying go, the other Elders blind him with a knife, and only the Kitten is able to use the power of the Light to heal his eyes, unintentionally giving him True Sight (he can see through low-density objects and see to the very core of living things). Soon, a trio of traders arrives to their city, and Danny hires both of them out as escorts until they reach the traders' city. While defending the caravan against a Flying attack, Lan is taken prisoner. Danny manages to rescue him, destroying a tower in the process as well as the second Secret Door home, but Lan is already poisoned with the Darkness. His essence is slowly being stripped away from him, and Danny does all he can to ensure that his friend remains human.

After arriving to the traders' city, the Kitten takes the boys to an arms shop, where he demands that the shop owner sell them the True Sword, the only weapon capable of defeating the Dark Lord. The shopkeep, at first, tries to sell them several other powerful swords, acquired on other worlds; however, the Kitten remains adamant. The shopkeep gives in and explains Danny the nature of the Sword - it can only be used once and only against the wielder's True Enemy. In order to get the sword, the boy must pass through several trials, facing his True Fear - the Darkness. After that, Garet, the wife of the trader whom they escorted earlier, offers the boys a boat ride to a sunny world. Garet and her daughter pass their sailing boat through a portal. After a bit of swimming in the nude, Garet pulls Danny into a secret hold and makes love to him. After that, Danny discovers that the Kitten knew about it and, possibly, even set it up. Danny needed to grow up really fast, as, on the inside, he was already a man trapped in a teenager's body. Angry, Danny demands they return to Lan's world, and the two Wingers and the Kitten return to their city, trying to convince the people that they must organize and take the fight to the tower of the Dark Lord. Unwilling to listen to Danny, the Wingers refuse. The Kitten and Lan then tell Danny that they must force the Wingers' hand by dropping a few canisters of the Black Fire onto the city, making it seem as a Flying attack. After raiding a nearby tower, they find a dying Flying who reveals that he was brought to this world the same way as Danny - by a Kitten of his own, but chose Darkness instead of the Light. Taking the canisters, they return home and argue who should drop them. During a distraction, Lan takes the Fire and drops it onto the city from high altitude. While many people die, Shoki, the Wingers' unofficial leader, still refuses to be baited. However, his grandfather then dies in the fire, and Shoki finally decides to fight. Taking all the Wingers and several thousand adults as foot soldiers, they march onto the main tower.

In the final battle, the Wingers and the adults distract the main Flying force, while Danny, Lan, and the Kitten sneak into the tower to find the Lord. The Kitten soon abandons the boys, saying that he must go into the tower basement, where the Flyings keep a large cache of Sun Stones, from which he can draw the Light. The Kitten intends to become the new sun, hoping that the love of humans across the world will give him fuel. The boys continue moving through the tower. Eventually, they reach a mirrored room, where they encounter a former Winger, with a score to settle with Danny. He reveals that there is no such thing as a Dark Lord. He is simply the Current One, the most qualified to deal with a specific problem - Danny, in this case. Then appears Lan's former Elder, who joined the Flyings shortly before Danny's arrival. They both begin to cause the Darkness to take over Lan, and he joins their side. Danny must figure out who is his True Enemy and strike him down. He turns around and sees his reflection in a mirror as an adult. Realizing that he is his own True Enemy, Danny uses the True Sword to destroy his adult essence, leaving him a boy again. As the three dark creatures prepare to attack, Lan once again changes sides and kills the Current One, but himself falls from the other Flying's sword. Danny manages to push the Flying to open the third Secret Door to Earth, where the sunlight kills the creature of Darkness, also destroying the door in the process. As the Kitten offers to grant him one last wish - to return home, Danny uses the Kitten's sun's Light to revive Lan, purging him of Darkness. They fly away moments before the tower crumbles to dust. The new sun breaks through the eternal dark, and the Wingers see the sunlight for the first time in their lives. The war of over.

Danny and Lan return home. As the sun begins to set, Lan brings out a mirrored box, and Danny realizes that it is a True Mirror. The last rays of sunlight reflect off the mirror, and the Kitten reappears, claiming that he is simply a version of his now much larger self. He reveals to them another Secret Door, leading to a world other than Earth. From there, he hopes to find a doorway to Earth. The novel ends with the three characters stepping across the threshold, apparently into a world filled with werewolves.

References to Other Works

* The premise of the story is similar to Stephen King's "The Talisman".
* The Kitten explains that there are three forces in all worlds: Light, Darkness, and Gloom. These three forces figure prominently in Lukyanenko's "World of Watches" series.
* One of the swords the shopkeep attempts to sell Danny is an atomic sword from "A Lord from Planet Earth" trilogy. In fact, Danny appears to remember something for a second upon seeing the sword, but quickly forgets it. The second novel in the trilogy, "The Planet which Doesn't Exist", has a secondary character - a teenage boy from Earth named Danny, whose memories of his extraterrestrial adventures get erased by a brain trauma.
* A similar theme appears in "The King in the Window", by Adim Gopnik (Hyperion Children's Books), an adventure set in modern day Paris starring an American boy who finds himself at the center of a war between window and mirror spirits, is an mixed bag of fantasy, technology and history. True Mirrors figure prominently in the story, as they are the key to defeating the evil Master of Mirrors, who steals souls through the deadening effect of mirror gazing.

External links

* [ Partial English translation of the novel]

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