In Garen: First Shield, Demacia is on the brink of ruin. The king of Demacian is dead, and its prince, Jarvan VI, is preoccupied with vengeance. Not to mention the previously imprisoned mages have escaped after murdering the king. At the center of everything is Garen who blames himself for allowing it all to happen. Written by Anthony Reynolds, Garen: First Shield follows the leader of the Dauntless Vanguard as he tries to come to terms with the biggest failure of his career.
Garen is not having a good week
Taking place weeks if not days after the League of Legends and Marvel Comic mini-series, Lux, and the Quinn short story Rules of Survival, Garen: First Shield is the first novella from Riot Games. Continuing the narrative that the studio is developing around the greater League of Legends story, Garen: First Shield is the start of a much larger adventure.
After Garen is sent on a peacetime expedition past the borders of Demacia, Garen and his unit of elite warriors, the Dauntless Vanguard, stumble across a major threat to the nation. Thankfully, Riot Games provided a map for readers to help navigate Demacia.
Reynolds does spectacular work bringing one of League of Legends’ oldest champions to life. Being able to follow Garen’s thoughts and self-doubts gives readers a chance to see another side of him. Through the comics and games, Garen is presented as a strong, self-assured soldier who’s adamant decision making comes from years of battle experience. In Garen: First Shield we see a caring soldier who doubts his abilities and is even scared at times.
Garen is not alone in his quest. Quinn and Valor, and Cithira take the center stage in Garen: First Shield. The perspective will shift to either Quinn or Cithira periodically throughout the novella though it was never long enough to make either character feel sufficiently fleshed out.
Get ready for The Game of Thrones of League of Legends
This level of realism is a welcome breath of fresh air in the League of Legends universe. Reynolds does not hold back when it comes to building the world of Runeterra as a real place. There are consequences for each character’s actions and they feel them. Characters face brutal deaths and the first kill may surprise readers in its efficiency.
The weight that the level of realism brings works to make the character’s interactions and motivations that much more believable. Reynolds does a great job at making the Dauntless Vanguards truly feel like a tight-knit unit that trusts each other with their lives. Even the eternally unlikable Eben Hess, a soldier under Garen’s command, feels like he belongs to the unit.
Garen: First Shield leaves fans begging for more
Fans of the League of Legends universe will welcome the refreshingly honest story that Reynolds presents in Garen: First Shield. By the end of it though, readers will wonder if there was room for more. The final two chapters wrap everything up rather neatly, and it’s a little unfortunate that it does. The heroes do little to escape their situation but still find a way to survive thanks to some outside help.
The novella ends with Garen back where he started, asking the same questions with little context on where the greater story is going next. Riot Games and Reynolds are clearly building up to something huge for League of Legends, but it would have been nice to get a little more context to what’s next.
For those looking to take their reading to the next level, playing the Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 playlist while reading makes the reading experience that much more enjoyable. The tracks “Demacia Rising” and “Tales From the Rift” match Garen’s adventure perfectly.