Monday, 17 July 2017

REVIEW: "Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance" by Oliver Bowden

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance
by Oliver Bowden
Copyright February 2010
Paperback, 496 Pages

A phenomenally entertaining and engrossing read culminating in a stunningly jaw-dropping and affecting climax and ending. This is a profound narrative of valor, duty, loyalty and resilience set in a captivating world spotlighting the antagonistic factions of the Templars and the Assassins, and which shadows a remarkably endearing Assassin by the name of Ezio Auditore. I personally enjoyed this book immensely and love the plot, and upon devouring the final sentence of this book instantly feel compelled to immerse myself in the next title of the series.

This book is exceptionally well-written: The dialogues are especially compelling and engaging; the rich and masterful writing, of the sensory, the scenic, and the architectural give goosebumps to the zealous literary and language lover; and this book is virtually never dearth of captivating details that suitably fortify the narrative. 

This narrative is extremely but comfortably fast-paced, and filled with a continuous stream of purposeful and refreshing action and plot twists. Most preciously, the plot pulses with a steadily captivating rhythm of excitement and sense of mystery. The flow and movement of the narrative felt seamless and was almost cinematic; one’s visualization of the Assassin’s Creed world fittingly aided by the author’s proficient and expressive writing. 

I devoured this novel alongside occasional watching of the gameplay of the Assassin’s Creed 2 videogame. With the game’s substantial emphasis on plot and character development, in addition to this novel’s religious adherence to the in-game plot, dialogue, action sequences and more, I personally found my engagement with this famed franchise in the written form to be sufficiently and even strongly satisfying. 

The in-game experience certainly would have offered elements such as interactivity and graphics unavailable in a written book form, I nevertheless am duly convinced that the novel is capable of offering an alternately enriching experience unattainable by the videogame. I savored the vivid narrative brought to life by the author’s linguistic prowess; there were plentiful sensory, psychological details and more in the novel that were rather simplistically portrayed or sometimes even absent in the videogame. This is especially so when the in-game graphics and sound were less able to capture with full integrity the subtle details in the dynamic range of human emotion and expression as compared to the written form where each reader’s individual imagination also come into play as one makes sense of and interprets the written word. 

Considering as well that this book was published after and explicitly based upon its videogame brethren, one could do well to expect that the author would conduct the necessary research to appropriately embellish and enrich the plot. Concerning the abundant cutscenes as found in the videogame, I’ve found the correlated scenes as depicted in this novel to feature distinctly more circumstantial details that enrich one’s experience with the narrative. 

Superfans, followers and avid gamers of the Assassin’s Creed series could complement their gaming experience, and augment their immersion in this popular franchise and its memorable characters by reading this novel. With this novel, literary fans and general readers disinclined toward videogames could also engage creatively and intellectually with the expansive Assassin’s Creed world through a favored or preferred medium. 

Character-wise, the magnetism of the protagonist Ezio is irresistible, and I found myself becoming increasingly smitten by this character as I progress along the narrative—Ezio’s near invincibility, his fearless shouldering and assuming of the most perilous tasks and roles, his uncanny talent and proficiency of the art of the assassin, and his ease at accomplishing the gravest and toughest of maneuvers were flawlessly rendered in the novel, topped off with delightful traces of sensuality. 

Despite the action, fights, deaths, and the virtually incessant spill of blood, profound words and lessons remain to the discovered within the pages of the book—notions of being an independent people, stories of loyalty to family, faction and cause, and of unsolicited wisdom and help in times of supreme hardship. This is made even more profound when the protagonist of the narrative Ezio, a practitioner in the “trade of death,” was celebrated for his heroism within the context of the plot.

This book isn’t entirely unblemished. The beginning of the novel wasn’t exceptionally riveting, with the quick progression of a series of events lacking in intrigue, mystery or wonderment, nor sufficiently generating reader anticipation. The general lack of context of these various happenings early on in the book left the reader with countless unanswered questions. I wished that the author would have included for example, an element of foreshadowing when it came to the mystery of the woman overseeing a bordello who seemed mystifyingly well versed and informed in the craft of stealth and murder.

At another rare instance near the beginning of the book, I wished the author wrote more illustratively and expressively. When I came across the use of the adjective “disgusting” in context within the following sequence—one that depicted a man hurled into “the water among the sewage and debris that had washed up around the foot of the first pier of the bridge” and thereafter “was too busy choking on the disgusting water that had poured into his mouth to notice that his companion had by now suffered the same fate”—I can’t help that other potentially more lyrical, creative or compelling descriptive possibilities to which the author would be capable of flitted through my mind. But of course, most might have considered this to be but an almost inconsequential detail. This book also contained a few minor editing errors, none of which are capable of detracting from the overall enjoyability and fluency of the narrative. 

One thing I’m absolutely certain of, I’m glad that my inaugural exposure to geographical, architectural and even historical traces of medieval Italy was through this exceptional novel, Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.

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