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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Ruination by Anthony Reynolds (Reviewed by Matthew Higgins)

 


Official Author Website

Order Ruination here - U.S. | U.K.

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Anthony Reynolds was a Games Developer and manager at Games Workshop in the UK. Since then he's written freelance for a number of companies, including Black Library Publishing, Mantic Games, THQ, Bandai-Namco, Behaviour Interactive, and River Horse Games. He currently lives in California.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: 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.

FORMAT/INFO: Ruination is a League of Legends novel, and was published by Orbit Books on September 6th, 2022. It has 448 pages, and is available in hardcover, ebook, trade paperback, and audio formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Ruination is popcorn fantasy at some of its finest and crowd pleasingly epic. Reynolds constructs the fantasy of your childhood dreams, with elements of swashbuckling adventure, exploration on the high seas, an ominous supernatural McGuffin, and a deliciously evil villain. Whilst the energetic pace allows for much excitement and intrigue, it is at the cost of any particularly inspired character development; however as pure entertainment, this is sheer fun and joy. 

Now for some of you, the biggest question about Ruination may be, ‘can I read it without playing league of legends or seeing Arcane’? Whilst I would always recommend everyone check out Arcane which is an astounding achievement of animation, familiarity with the world of LoL and its myriad properties is certainly not required, nor did it hinder my own reading experience. In fact it probably enhanced it as I had no idea what was to come along the way.


In the beginning we are introduced, rather effectively without any unnecessary exposition, to the nation of Camavor, a nation soon embroiled in the midst of a crisis. Queen to the throne, Isolde is the light and love of King Viego, but when she falls prey to an assassin’s poisoned blade Viego very quickly descends into grief, and from there one step further into madness. Viego, determined to save his beloved queen charges his niece Kalista with finding the fabled Blessed Isles, a place long lost to legend, where rumour tells of a hidden pool with the secret to eternal life. 


Meanwhile, on the Blessed Isles themselves, Erlok Grael is a put-upon warden, his heart hardened over many years, and he is determined to wreak revenge on those who pushed him down. It is in the fateful intersection of these two characters’ tales that our story plays out.


Kalista is a fantastically likeable protagonist, earnest and yet never naïve she is the readers main set of insight into the world crafted before us. Kalista believes strongly in values of justice and doing the right thing, but she is also not a caricature, and Reynolds puts her through some difficult situations where Kalista has to discover for herself the right thing to do as the weight of a kingdom is thrust upon her.


Erlok Grael as our villain has shades of madness and horror about him. He looms large in the tunnels of which he is tasked to guard as warden. He is a manipulative, angry little runt and there is a sense of the theatrical to him which I rather delighted in. Reynolds knows when to pull back from the edge of moustache twirling villain, although he does stray extremely close at times. Nonetheless, with the popcorn entertainment feel to the book, it does work in a way that it wouldn’t in other stories. Reynolds clearly knowing his craft, is writing this for the widest audience possible, and it’s very effectively done. 


Viego on the whole is a little bit of a wasted character. Lost very quickly to his grief he serves more as a plot inducer than anything else. I would’ve liked to have seen more of him as a king before he fell, which would’ve made his slow decline all the more tragic. Having said that, losing oneself to grief amidst the loss of loved ones is something I think most of us can relate to, and provides a solid backdrop of emotion to this tale.


Similar can be said with Hecarim whose arc is disappointingly easy to figure out from the start. Whilst effectively written, its nothing fantasy readers won’t have seen plenty of before. 


The rest of the supporting cast are all rather fantastic actually. Vennix is a quirky little pirate esque figure who picks up Kalista along the way and joins her on her journey to the Blessed Isles. She definitely provides some lighthearted moments and a dose of energy to the proceedings. Ledros grew to hold a space in my heart, his part in the tale being rather sweet and heartwarming ; just a good natured and loyal soldier trying to do his best in times of turmoil. Ryze and Tyrus as master and apprentice make a fine duo, and I am certainly intrigued to see where Ryze’s tale goes beyond this. Last but not least, Jendakaya is the sort of mad scientist figure, through whom we get some exposition on the magic. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but she definitely sticks in my mind as a fun little character. 


The pacing of the book is pretty much spot on I’ll admit. For a book of this size, it fails to hang about so you’ll never find yourself bored. The Blessed Isles are a place of intrigue and mystery, darkness and horror, light and life. The magic system and worldbuilding absolutely fascinated me. Whilst nothing spectacular per se, it really hits those vibes of wonder and foreboding. Some may actually find it is rather tropey, and I wouldn’t disagree, however it’s done in such a fun and pulpy fashion that I really really enjoyed myself. It certainly does the lost treasure, long lost secret vibes in an semi Indiana Jones fashion really well. 


The ending is absolutely the best part of the novel. Dear readers you will not be prepared for how crazy it gets. I almost wish it was signposted just a little bit more, but my goodness did it hook me as it went from about twenty to one hundred!!


CONCLUSION: Now, my review may not be my most eloquent or structured, but I hope if you take anything from this, you take the sheer enjoyment I had with this book. Is it one I will return to again and again? I doubt it, its merely effective at what it does. But is it a rip roaringly good time, providing exactly what the audience wants from it? Yes, yes it does! It knows precisely what it is, sheer crowd-pleasing fan service, and when the sequel comes out I’m sure I’ll be picking it up along the way.

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