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An entertaining and faithful memoir of Altaïr's life
on 22 July 2011
I've been a fan of the Assassin's Creed franchise since playing the first game back in 2007 (coincidentally starring Altaïr, hero of this third book). I enjoyed all the games in the series but must admit to skipping Oliver Bowden's first two novelizations (covering Assassin's Creed 2, and its follow up Brotherhood) due to criticisms in the amount of creative license and random changes he apparently made.
With the announcement of the newest Assassin's Creed game; Revelations, returning to its routes and re-introducing Altaïr as a central plot character I decided it was time to relive the characters quest. This is the third Assassin's Creed novel by Oliver Bowden but chronologically, timeline and game release wise, it comes first. Readers are not disadvantaged at all if they have not read the first two novels.
This novel is extremely faithful to the source material, it is clear Bowden worked closely with Ubisoft Montreal as most of the dialog is word perfect when compared to the game script, events and assassinations also play out almost exactly the same (albeit probably more skilled and professional than some of us gamers did it back in the day).
The story for those unfamiliar follows Altaïr ibn La-Ahad, an Assassin from Masyaf who is stripped of his `Master Assassin' rank very early in the story due to his arrogant attitude and lack of respect for the assassin way of life - the Assassin's Creed. He is offered a chance of redemption by his master, the assassin leader Al Mualim, the agreement: Altaïr's rank and status restored in return for the lives of nine corrupt men.
What starts as a righteous vengeance mission, quickly unfolds into a deeper, darker conspiracy that leads Altaïr to question his own way of life, his skills, and his beliefs. The story is quick paced and effectively told, the chapters are short but have the right structure; Altaïr will often track a target over one chapter, assassinate them in the next, and escape in the third.
For people who played the game, you will know it involved a lot of repetitive investigation missions consisting of eavesdropping, pick pocketing, interrogating etc. Altaïr uses all of these skills in the opening assassinations of the novel, and then in following chapters the book skims over them instead of repeating itself - I really appreciated this as it focuses of the unique-ness of each target, place, and assassination instead of elements that are the same, this keeps the story moving at a good pace.
As with the previous Assassin's Creed Novels by Bowden, it does add some extra details into the tale. Primarily it adds a sub story that covers Altaïr's childhood and upbringing, these additions are very welcome and really help to develop Altaïr and gain a better understanding of his character. More importantly, this novel also covers events after the "main story". Specifically, Altaïr's voyage to Cyprus that was the present in the Bloodlines PSP game, as well as his later family life that was touched upon within the Codex pieces of Assassin's Creed 2 - These additions make up the latter half of the book and detail the closing years of Altaïr's life subtly setting up the Revelations story arc.
Simply put, this novel is very faithful to the source material. It is the most complete and in depth account of the life of Altaïr. I would recommend this book to any fan of the franchise and it is certainly a great way to recap (and expand) upon the life and times of Altaïr ibn La-Ahad in preparation for Assassin's Creed Revelations.