The world of Runeterra has always been a setting I’ve absolutely adored. The main reason I ever played the game League of Legends was because I loved the world and the characters within it. When the tv series Arcane came out, I absolutely fell in love with the world once more even though I don’t play the game anymore. Now the book Ruination, written by Anthony Reynolds, came out and it’s based on a pivotal moment in the history of Runeterra. Of course I had to read it and I found I was quite surprised by it.
While we see the story through the perspective of several characters, the main character of this story is Kalista. Admittedly I’m not too familiar with the character from the story within League of Legends and, surprisingly, I think that is to my benefit. Kalista comes off as multidimensional and feels like a genuinely well written character. Her choices are consistent with her character and her very own characteristics are what drives the story forward. At no point does it feel like she acts out of character to progress the plot and excels at the role of driving this character driven story.
But I think what makes Kalista a strong character is just how much her inner turmoil feels genuine and consistent with the events of the story. I think there’s something interesting here for those who are familiar with League of Legends and those who aren’t. Knowing Kalista’s story from the game lore leads to a sense of inevitably that all prequels are subject to but for those who don’t know, it still feels like a strong and compelling story to follow. She’s a fantastic character and to see her struggle and handle new challenges is an exciting time.
There’s several characters from League of Legends that appear or are rather obvious who they are. While it is nice to see the references and realize who they are and what they become, I have to admit part of me feels as though it would have been more impactful had I not known who the characters were. It’s part of the joy and the curse of prequels. As a reader familiar with this world, you would be aware of how the story ends. But that doesn’t take away from how believable and endearing the characters are and, even knowing how it ends, the emotional impact is still there.
I was surprised how well constructed and thought out this story was. I admit I have a bias towards media based on video games as there have been so many poor or just “ok” adaptations that aren’t too exciting. But Ruination is almost entirely character driven and the choices that the characters make matter so much it’s phenomenal. Almost every event that occurs felt as though it was directly caused by the actions of a character’s decision. Their motivations, thoughts, and their characteristics drive the story in a way not often seen.
It has to be stressed how consequential the actions the characters, especially Kalista, take as it creates a believable pace to the story that never feels plodding or exhausting. There’s an anticipation to see what happens next as the characters we follow are put into incredibly stressful situations and it’s not obvious what comes next. This is easily one of the best examples of a character driven story that is still decided by fate since it’s a prequel. There’s a predetermined end for anyone familiar with the series and, even knowing the end, it still creates an exciting story to read.
The world of Runeterra has a deep and rich history from the bits of lore from League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra, and Arcane so covering one of the most pivotal moments in the history of Runeterra is an amazing opportunity. Anthony Reynolds does a great job at bringing the history and mythology of Runterra to life in Ruination though admittedly he plays it very safe. But I think this is the right choice. When it comes to stories based on video games, especially prequel stories, often there will be too many references to the game. It’s very easy in fantasy stories, especially those focused on video games, to fall into the trap of becoming too exposition heavy. While I’m familiar with the world of Runeterra and was able to pick up on the references throughout the book, it’s not so heavy-handed that anyone unfamiliar with the world couldn’t enjoy it.
The writing style, while mostly very well done and easy to read, does have some hiccups here and there. Kallista’s perspective is perfectly done. I find that her chapters are exciting and intriguing from the action scenes to the court politics to the internal conflict she’s enduring. It’s a blast and flows smoothly from moment to moment. However not all the characters have perspectives that are as intriguing and easy to read through as Kallista’s. There’s one character’s chapters that just felt rather out of place with how “wall-of-text” it felt as they’re not as intriguing a character as Kallista is. Thankfully it’s not long and the vast majority of the book is well written and easy to digest either in small bits or reading binges.