Book Reviews

Review: Ruination by Anthony Reynolds

A fun fantasy adventure that is perhaps more for the fans of League of Legends than the uninitiated…

Book: Ruination by Anthony Reynolds

Publication date: 6th September 2022

Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Orbit Books. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: violence, injury and death, including death of a spouse and on-page grief; sickness/terminal illness/plague and related death.

The first ever novel set in the blockbuster universe of League of Legends, one of the most popular video games of all time, Ruination is an epic tale of magic, revenge, and an empire on the verge of ruin.

Camavor is a brutal land with a bloody legacy. Where the empire’s knights go, slaughter follows.

Kalista seeks to change that. When her young and narcissistic uncle, Viego, becomes king, she vows to temper his destructive instincts, as his loyal confidant, advisor, and military general. But her plans are thwarted when an assassin’s poisoned blade strikes Viego’s wife, Isolde, afflicting her with a malady for which there is no cure.

As Isolde’s condition worsens, Viego descends into madness and grief, threatening to drag Camavor down with him. Kalista makes a desperate gambit to save the kingdom: she searches for the long lost Blessed Isles, rumored to hold the queen’s salvation, if only Kalista can find them.

But corruption grows in the Blessed Isles’ capital, where a vengeful warden seeks to ensnare Kalista in his cruel machinations. She will be forced to choose between her loyalty to Viego and doing what she knows is right–for even in the face of utter darkness, one noble act can shine a light that saves the world.

This is possibly mildly shocking, but Ruination is my very first brush with the League of Legends franchise – I’ve never played the games or watched Arcane, and going into this book I had only the very vaguest of ideas about what kind of world it was set in. And the good news is that if you’re in the same position as me and are still tempted by this book, that’s totally fine! You don’t need any prior knowledge to jump in here; things are well-explained and the introduction to the world-building feels like any new-to-you fantasy book. There are probably lots of Easter eggs I missed by not already being familiar with the characters, but just taking what’s on the page, it’s put together smoothly.

What I will say, though, is that this isn’t 100% satisfying as a standalone novel. I enjoyed it a lot, and will talk about why in the rest of this review, but the final chapters of the book make it very clear that this is intended as a sort of prologue to a very different story, and honestly, that kind of undermined the rest of the book for me. I appreciate that the author is playing with facts and characters that are already set down in League of Legends canon, and so the ending of the book needed to be the way that it is, but (and this is really hard to discuss without spoilers!) I thought that made it a little bit anti-climactic to realise that these characters were actually a bit of a sidenote in kicking off someone else’s story. It’s the difference between plot- and character-driven stories, I suppose – this does the job of a big exciting plot, setting up the world of the game, but for me, I didn’t think there was a single character arc that got a truly satisfying end, which is a shame when I was pretty invested in them! This is backstory through and through, and if you know about the Ruination already, it would be a delightful peek into that backstory; if you don’t, you’re sort of left a little adrift.

That doesn’t mean I think the book as a whole is bad – quite the opposite – just that for it to be truly satisfying, you probably need to go into this understanding it’s a sort of prologue rather than a wholly self-contained story, and you won’t necessarily see a satisfying conclusion for most of these characters. If you’re onboard with that, then this is a really fun, fast-paced adventure. There’s a sea quest, sword fights, a magical island, sneaking around in dungeons… It’s not going to win any awards for groundbreaking worldbuilding or beautiful writing, but it’s a really solid, entertaining story of a mad king, a devoted warrior, and a really creepy villain that’s perfect for those looking for fantasy that isn’t too taxing. I really did have a great time up til the very end.

Ultimately, you don’t need to be a fan to start this book, but you might need to be to get the full emotional payoff. If you are already a fan, I think this will be a real treat – it’s a really high-quality tie in that presents a very decent story. So really I want to give this two ratings – a five for fans, because it’s a great addition to the universe, and a 3.5 for newcomers, because it just doesn’t quite pull off being a standalone – but I think I’ll just abstain!

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