Hannah’s Novel Notions: A Review of Assassin’s Creed: The Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden

Hannah's Novel Notions: A Review of Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden

“Stay your blade from the flesh of the innocent.”

“Hide in plain sight, become one with the crowd.”

“Never compromise the Brotherhood.”

These are the three tenants of the Assassin’s Creed. I know this, not because I’ve played the video game, but because I have read the novelization.

I don’t play video games for various reasons, but I keep a mental list of games that I would like to play if I ever get the chance. Assassin’s Creed is near the top of that list. I’m not exactly sure why, though I think it’s safe to assume that it has something to do with cool weaponry.

There are several Assassin’s Creed novelizations written by Oliver Bowden. I chose to read book three,  The Secret Crusade, because I liked the setting: the Templar crusades.

Journeying to claim treasure from Solomon’s temple before the crusaders can use it for ill, Altaïr breaks all three of the Assassins tenants. Instead of being killed for his breach of conduct as most would have been, the Master Assassin gives Altaïr the chance to prove his commitment to the Creed.

Altaïr is provided with a list of nine names: nine men who must be assassinated to keep a sect of the Templars from an evil goal: bringing the world into subjection using an ancient artifact that gives one man the power to control many. It is through this task that Altaïr can finally learned the true meaning of the Assassin’s Creed and prove his commitment to the Brotherhood.

But as he comes closer and closer to reaching his goal, he realizes that all is not as it seems. Just as a Templar code is being abused, Altaïr begins to suspect that the Assassin’s Creed is being misused. Untangling the web of deception that has been spun about him, he must learn to differentiate between friend and foe, peace and slavery, and fight to return the Brotherhood to it’s correct path.

Before we go any further, I need to explain something. This book is the novelization of a video game. Novelizations are notorious for being badly written, so I went into this story understanding that the literary style would be a shame to the writers of the world. That’s simply how one must approach novelizations: expect a bad writer and a fun amount of insight into a fandom.

Altair, Assassin

That being said, The Secret Crusade met this expectation. The writing was not good, but the storyline was interesting. I have watch a few videos of gamers playing Assassin’s Creed and it seems that the book is a very accurate adaptation. In fact, many of the scenes played in the video games were identical to what I read in the book, down to the setting, dialogue, weaponry, and combat styles. From what I can tell, the first part of this book tells the story of the first Assassin’s Creed video game and the second half follows the storyline of Assassin’s Creed: Bloodline. It seems that the ending of the book departed completely from the video game. There looks to be questions as to whether or not the last few chapters are canon.

However, having never played any of the video games, I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen. Shocking, I know.

Character development had much to be desired. Most of the characters felt fairly flat, and I was not invested in their futures. I kept reading because I wanted to see how the story panned out and because I enjoyed the alternate history that this book provided. It was fun to think that some historical events were brought about by the actions of the Creed.

This book was fairly violent, which came as a fair shock. It’s not as if I was expecting a book about assassins to involve killing. <— That was sarcasm, by the way, just in case you couldn’t tell.

I didn’t generally mind the violence in the story, as it was mostly violent rather than gory. There was one small problem I had with the killing, however. After having their throats sliced, Altaïr victim somehow managed to have a one to two page conversation. Now, I don’t know this from first hand experience, but I would assume that having your carotid artery severed would result in a very quick death. Also, upon nearing death, people aren’t generally capable of holding cohesive conversations. Conversely, a few characters were stabbed in the stomach and died instantaneously, which doesn’t make very much sense, even if we are talking about a highly trained assassin who would know exactly where to place his blow.

You’d expect a book about a group of assassins to have a better grasp on the different modes of death. Authors of fantasy are supposed to know about this kind of stuff (that’s why I know about it, in case you were wondering. I’m not a murderess, I promise). This didn’t bother me too much, I just found it highly amusing and worth mentioning.

Overall, I thought this book was a good introduction to the Assassin’s Creed universe. It has me excited for the movie, which will be coming out December 21, 2016. You can watch the trailer here. No, this book will not be the basis for the movie. The producer for the movie has said that it will be 65% present and 35% past. This book, and all books in the series, are set 100% in the past.

Was The Secret Crusade amazing? No. Is it a fun story for Assassin Creed players or nerds in general? Yes. Come to this story expecting an interesting storyline and a nod to gamers and geeks, not brilliant writing or well-developed character arcs, and you’ll be fine.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Assassin’s Creed? Which is your favorite video game or book? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts! Don’t forget to weigh in on whether of not you’ll be seeing the movie!


Hannah Heath – bookworm and author