Raffles Reads: The Night of Legends

By Clarice Tan (21A01C)

Raffles Reads is a collaboration between Raffles Press and Times Reads which aims to promote a reading culture among Singaporean students.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

A military organisation (Atros) bent on world domination, evil ghosts, powerful warriors (Kulcans), ferocious beasts (Odats), and mind-readers (Ifarls). And in the midst of it all, there’s Keix—our half-human, half-Kulcan protagonist.

The Night of Legends weaves a dystopian-like setting together with fantastical elements into an action-packed tale of Keix’s journey. After being imprisoned and tortured for two years by the very organisation she devoted her life to, Keix escapes—only to find the world that she knows has changed drastically. 

Who can you trust if you found out everything you’ve been taught is a lie?

Here’s the first thing I noticed about this novel: it throws you into the action and leaves you to fend for yourself—very much like Keix in this new, unfamiliar environment with familiar faces. There’s no immediate worldbuilding; instead, the author chooses to reveal bits and pieces of information through dialogue and dreams filled with Keix’s memories. At first, I thought the dreams would be a clichéd way to introduce this world—it seemed like the easy way out of explaining her past—but thankfully it wasn’t overused as a plot device, since some of her backstory was also revealed through conversations between the characters.

However, this method of establishing the setting can be a double-edged sword. We might be spared from excessively long paragraphs of worldbuilding, but this also means  that there were some areas I wished the author could have delved deeper into, one of them being the various races represented in this fictional world. The diverse characters—the Kulcans, Ifarls, Odats—were undoubtedly interesting to read about, especially with their unique abilities: the yellow-skinned Odats are described to be “the foulest kind of mercenaries with limited intelligence and inexhaustible physical strength”, while the mysterious Ifarls are feared for their magic.

But here’s my issue. While reading the book, it’s clear that the Ifarls play a critical role in how the plot unfolds, along with the protagonists and the main antagonist (Atros). This, unfortunately, meant that we only got to know the Odats as the brute force employed by Atros to make the protagonists’ lives unbearable; and the Kulcans are basically non-existent unless you count the references thrown here and there about Keix’s Kulcan heritage.

Furthermore, because of how we seem to be getting information on a need-to-know basis, the overall setting is somewhat ambiguous. For instance, we know the city is split into different sectors, but other than a short description of a certain sector that the characters are currently at, there really isn’t much information provided. It would be better if we got to know more about what differentiates each sector, or why the world is split into different sectors in the first place. Hence, it can be quite hard to visualise the world as a whole, which dampened the overall reading experience.

The atmospheric writing is definitely one of the highlights of the novel, with intricately crafted descriptions enhancing the plot. While the author’s writing was lyrical, it was not too flowery, making the book a relatively quick read (especially if you don’t have much time on hand to invest in a lengthy fantasy novel).

A warm flush from the rising sun was creeping across the tarmac pathways, highlighting the cracks and weeds running haphazardly across them, like a budding painter’s tentative brushstrokes.

Perhaps what I was most impressed about with The Night of Legends was how much action the author managed to pack into a mere 248 pages—there was never a boring moment. Moreover, the plot twists scattered throughout made it even harder to put the book down.

The character development, on the other hand, was a little lacklustre, falling short of the plot. After all, it’s clear that the book is more focused on the plot rather than the individual characters. For me, Keix’s personality didn’t shine through as much as her extraordinary abilities. She was so task-orientated (from trying to come to terms with where her loyalties now lie, to attempting to save her friend) that it made her a less compelling character. Don’t get me wrong, I still like her on the whole—it’s just that it would be better if her character was fleshed out more to make it easier to root for her.

“Well, five of us against a crazy guy who has enhanced strength and speed because he’s bonded with some paranormal voodoo,” summed up Dace. “Should be a breeze.”

I did appreciate the humor sprinkled throughout the book: namely from Pod and Dace, Keix’s friends. Their hilarious comments interjected every once in a while made The Night Of Legends more lighthearted and enjoyable in spite of the heavy plot (after all, the protagonists are out to stop Atros and the ghosts from destroying their world, so you can bet none of it would be a “breeze”). 

But alas, every story must come to an end, and The Night Of Legends is no different. I was, admittedly, a little disappointed with how the resolution turned out. The climax was no doubt exhilarating to read, yet the book ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, given that there was a time jump to three days after the events that took place during the climax. The ending did set up nicely for a sequel, if there is to be one, given the plot twist at the end of the book. Otherwise, The Night Of Legends would work well as a standalone novel too as the plot wrapped up nicely. Still, I wished that the author could have shown more of the immediate aftermath of the climax.

Interestingly, Keix at the end of the book seemed different from the Keix we had gotten to know throughout the course of the story. To put it simply (and to avoid spoilers), she’s more mellow and surprisingly more willing to forgive others despite what they had done to her (for context, Keix can be described as stubborn and feisty for most of the novel). 

If you’re looking for a refreshing fantasy read with a fast-paced plot, The Night Of Legends fits the bill. It’s not every day you would chance upon a Singlit fantasy book, so that’s one of the unique aspects of the book. Although there are some things I thought could be better developed, I did enjoy reading it for the most part. And it is pretty impressive, considering this is the author’s debut novel. In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel.

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