Two for the price of one, today: Aaron Fletcher and I both reviewed Assassin’s Creed: Heresy. Read on to see what we thought!
Assassin’s Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden
Ubisoft Publishing, 2016
Available: Hardback, paperback, ebook (Kindle, Nook)
Assassin’s Creed: Heresy is set in the universe of the Assassin’s Creed action-adventure video game franchise produced by Ubisoft, and has been published recently, in order to take advantage of the soon-to-be-released Assassin’s Creed movie (note, this story is not a novelization of the movie but an original novel). The game takes advantage of real-world historical events and individuals, and sets up two opposing organizations, the Assassins and the Templars, who influence these events and people, and attempt to collect unique objects called Pieces of Eden. The Assassins fight for peace with free will, and the Templars fight with peace with control. I haven’t played the game, and read the book without knowing this, but it is my understanding that typically, players see what’s going on from the Assassins’ point of view.
Assassin’s Creed: Heresy is written from a Templar’s point of view. The Templars are able to send a person back in time to view history through an ancestor’s eyes. Simon Hathaway, the new head of Abstergo Industries’ historical research division and a recent initiate into the Templars’ inner circle, has an ancestor who knew Joan of Arc, who was the last person to wield the legendary sword Piece of Eden 25. When he requests time to show that a wider exploration of the time period will be more successful than the current approach, he is given one week to learn what happened to the lost sword and how to reactivate it.
This is where the book gets really interesting– Simon travels back to observe his ancestor’s interactions with Joan, and we get to experience his interactions with her, and the events around her.We get the impressions of both Simon’s ancestor, a French peasant boy who was her steadfast friend, and Simon the Templar historian, which means we get background and commentary while also immersed in the interactions with historical characters and events in the life of Joan of Arc. Christie Golden manages this without ever making it seem intrusive, and it’s like getting history without the slow parts. The present-day storyline wasn’t terribly interesting– the characters seemed flat, and I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of an ongoing tangle of intrigues that weren’t well-explained– but Golden’s handling of the historical sequences was very well done. Despite having never played the game, I got into the book. With a little more background, this could have worked well as a stand alone novel for a wider variety of readers. Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide (not reviewed here) was released at the same time as this book, and together, I am sure they make for a much more complete experience. With or without the additional background, though, both new and old fans and players of Assassin’s Creed should enjoy this book. Recommended.
Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski
Joan of Arc is rumored to have possessed a sword that made her invincible: one of the legendary Swords of Eden, Piece of Eden 25. Imbued with unique properties, little is known of its history. Templars and Assassins alike have owned it over time, as they fought over control of mankind. Now it is safely ensconced in the office of Alan Rikkin, CEO of Abstergo Industries, but its incredible powers of invincibility no longer function. Somehow, before Rikkin acquired it, it was damaged, and now it is just a sword. Rikkin wants to make it whole again, for the Templars.
Simon Hathaway, the new head of Abstergo Industries’ historical research division, is determined to prove to his boss that his new approach is better than past techniques. The Templars have a technique available that allows them to travel back in history at different points in the life of one of their ancestors, in order to track the location of Pieces of Eden. Instead of fast-forwarding through the life of Joan of Arc to the historically important parts, Simon will live alongside her as much as possible to get the maximum experience he can. He follows Joan and finds out how she got the sword, what happened to it, and how to get it working again. For history, for the Templars, and for mankind.
This is a very enjoyable story: a fun action-adventure with a historical setting that tied in perfectly with the video game franchise. The plot and pacing were fast and kept me turning pages. The descriptions were well done. I felt like I was right there with the characters! Christie Golden gives readers enough to keep them in the world, but still guessing what will happen next. The suspense built very well, and I especially liked the ending. I was pulled in from the first page and did not emerge until the last word. I look forward to reading more from this series and this author. I have not read any of this series or this author’s work in the past, though I have played a few of the video games this was based on. Highly recommended.
Reviewed By: Aaron Fletcher