Monday, 7 August 2017

REVIEW: "Assassin’s Creed: the Secret Crusade" (Book 3) by Oliver Bowden

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Assassin’s Creed: the Secret Crusade (Book 3)
by Oliver Bowden
Copyright June 2011
Paperback, 464 Pages

A marvelous work of fiction, an excellent extension to the Assassin’s Creed book series, and a faithful rendition of the Assassin’s Creed videogame. This narrative is exquisitely rife with betrayal, the theme richly fleshed out in the plot. Climactic sequences nearing the end of the book is exceptional, engagingly melodramatic and even emotionally affecting. Most of all, this narrative explores the very roots of the Order of the Assassins, equipping the reader with a greater foundational understanding of the workings of the Order and of the Assassin’s Creed world, and perfectly supplementary to books one and two of the book series.

This narrative delightfully unveiled novel and refreshing dimensions to a very coveted artifact, the Apple, in the Assassin’s Creed universe. It was also astounding as I discovered through this book the relationship between the Apple and the enigmatic codex that made its appearances in the prequels to this book, including as well details of the origination of the codex and even a clue as to what brought about the fate of the codex as indicated at the beginning of book one of the series. 

Readers with a taste for vicarious adventure and with the predilection for indulging in tales of the assassin lifestyle will enjoy this book. This narrative is however more than merely action, it is also a meaningful tale about principles and integrity, honor and brotherhood, of leadership and making the right decisions, sacrifice and inevitably, heartbreak. This plot also harmoniously incorporates elements of faith, notions of allegiance, lessons of arrogance, and elaborate schemes of deception and subversion. 

The plot twists in the narrative are gold, the mystery tantalizing. I relished the presentation of an alternate side to the Order of the Assassins, one not dealt with in previous books of the series, one that noted the possibility of civic transgression by the Assassins, of the potential fragmentation of the identity of the Assassins as a force for good and with compassion. 

This book however might not be entirely unblemished. The mesmerizing action in the second half of the book, complete with heightened emotions, tension and high stakes plot complications, is reminiscent of the outstanding fictional work of previous books in this series. A segment within the first quarter of this book however paled by comparison and might even appear lackluster to more demanding readers, and dedicated fans of the Assassin’s Creed book series. 

Of Altair’s assassination assignments against nine Templar targets as indicated in the blurb of the book and which formed the preliminary subplot in the novel, the predictable structuring and recounting of each kill, particularly for the first and consecutive four to five kills, in the first quarter of the book came to be rather mundane. The repetitiveness brought to mind the familiar and ubiquitous expression “work, eat, sleep, and repeat,” which in this case translates into “report, reconnoiter, kill, and repeat” or more accurately “report, reconnoiter, report, kill, report, and repeat.” 

Such treatment gave the impression that this part of the narrative constituted a necessary evil that the author might have wished to briefly get over and done with in order to set up for and proceed to subsequent parts of the narrative presumably more personally intriguing to the author. This straightforwardness in narrative planning wasn’t particularly to my liking, but yet again, it seemed that the author cannot be faulted for austerely basing this work on the Assassin’s Creed videogame. Still, having been utterly convinced of the author’s finesse of the written narrative as evident in books one and two of this series, I can’t help but expect more out of the author with regard to this segment of the subplot. Minor editing errors were also scattered through the novel, the nature of which thankfully did not detract from the readability and flow of the narrative. 

Despite a few of my curiosities being left unaddressed by the end of this narrative, that which pertain to the Oracle and the archive as alluded to by the Templars, the exceptional overall enjoyment I’ve experienced from perusing this book and the previous two books of this series might have just made me an Assassin’s Creed convert for life. 

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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