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on 20 July 2011
Having written two commercially successful novelisations of Assassin's Creed titles, Oliver Bowden now brings us Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade; the life story of Altaïr, the iconic protagonist from the first of the Assassin's Creed games.
The book itself is split into four main parts. The first two concern themselves mostly with the events as featured in the first game, part three with the story of Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines (a Playstation Portable title) and the final part focuses on the later life of Altaïr.
Bowden is effective at generating a sense of immersion, his use of language is lively, he is able to avoid repetitive use of language and his use of dialogue is well-balanced against more action-driven elements of the story. However, there is a fundamental issue that the author must have struggled with that we, the readers, might find problematic as well. This problem being that for the first two parts in particular, the book is a very rigid re-telling of the events of the first game. It feels stiff, often rushed and fails to engage the reader. Whilst clearly important in telling the tale of Altaïr and his quest for redemption in the eyes of the Brotherhood, these earlier sections will seem all too familiar to fans, with little periphery exploration to make them seem worthwhile. It also feels as though Bowden himself felt overly restricted by the structure and wanted this phase of the story told as quickly as possible, so he might begin to use his talent far more freely.
Thankfully, Part Three starts to show signs of improvement. Whilst it also follows the story of another game, with our hero doing battle against the Templars in Cyprus, the writing is more relaxed and confident, the character of Altaïr is more fleshed out and it does not seem as repetitive in structure as earlier sections. The pacing is far more energetic and fluid and you start to get more of a sense of a writer who's enjoying himself. This evident enthusiasm continues into the fourth part. This final section (excluding the epilogue) is undoubtedly the strongest of the entire novel. It has emotional gravity, peril, tragedy and even a small moment of joy. It is here that we are finally granted an insight into who Altaïr was, as we follow him in the later years of his extraordinary life. For followers of the games, this part makes the novel a worthwhile endeavour, for laymen it brings the tale to a fitting conclusion.
Whilst, initially, this is a book that retreads a lot of ground, the second half adequately compensates for this. Its easy and accessible style make it an effortless read that, eventually, begins to bear fruit and should suitably entertain both fan and casual reader alike.
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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.
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on 27 June 2011
If you dont have the computer game, dont worry just read this and you will be hooked on the books for certain. this is a book that keeps you guessing all the way. I found it impossible to put down. If you have read any of the others you wont be dissappointed, its full of intrigue as well as blood and guts. Having read all of them I am really sad that this seems to be the last in the series, albeit this is the last but is in fact the first of a series. Brilliantly written a compulsive read.
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on 23 June 2011
Many have said that oliver bowden does not deilver, even though personally i dont read books, but reading a book based on a game i really enjoy... he did not let me down :).

i thoroughly enjoyed reading it, along with information i may have missed.

so i give it 5/5
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on 25 July 2015
The first book I have read in this series. A good interpretation of the game, adding backstory to Altair and the Assassins. Moves along at a good pace and keeps you engaged to the end. Good descriptions of the fight sequences, but more explanation of the assassins skills might have been of interest.
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on 26 May 2016
Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade is the first book in the franchise and is based off of the events of Assassin's Creed (2007). The story follows Altaïr, one of the greatest assassins of all time, on his journey throughout the Holy Land during the time of the Third British Crusade in 1191. The first half of the story is the events that took place in the game; Altaïr is stripped of his rank after breaking the tenants of the Assassins and must kill 9 men in order to prove his worth again. This book gives a very unique perspective of the story that the game can't do and it helps to immerse the reader into the world more. However the book claims that this is the 'untold story'. This can prove to be misleading as the first half of the book has already been told in the game. The second half of the book on the other hand, has not been seen in any of the games and gives the perfect bridge between the events of Altaïr during Assassins Creed, Assassins Creed 2, and Assassins Creed: Revelations. This book lets us explore the characters in a deeper and more unique way and is a definite read for anyone who enjoyed the first game, as well as Altaïr's story as a whole.

Final score: 8/10
Final grade: A-
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on 10 September 2011
To start with, for the first 75-100 pages, it's quite repetitive, with a 'get target, kill target, obtain proof of kill, get target, kill target etc', with Altair reporting back to his master after each kill then onto another guy before the whole process starts again. But as you keep reading it does get better, with a satisfying end setting the scene perfectly for the forthcoming game in November. The writer is dependable for a decent story, even if the 2 previous books essentially copied the games like for like. I suppose this book does as well to some degree but I haven't played the original so it was a decent read for me. I'd definitely recommend this if you're looking to enter videogame book territory, although perhaps Bioshock Rapture should be your starting place.
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on 16 September 2011
I was looking forward to reading this book as I hoped it would answer some my questions from playing Assassin' Creed - I wasn't disappointed. In common with Bowden's other books this follows the gameplay of the AC and AC: Bloodlines (on PSP). If you intend to play either game this novel has some spoilers. It starts before AC and so sets the scene and ends where AC: Revelations will start. Looking forward to the next instalment. It isn't a great work of fiction and won't help understand any historical period - but it is an easy read and enjoyable.
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on 4 September 2011
This book is great, I've been wanting to hear the story of Altair for a long time now, you can't help but feel sorry for the assassin in some parts.
What wasn't explained in the description was that this book also tells the story of what happens in Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines, which i think is great.
If you are a fan of Assassin's Creed, then buy this book, you won't be disappointed!
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on 8 August 2011
as a videogame nut i knew the plot behind assassins creed but was surpprised to many extras packed in.

GOOD:
_ The plot of the Console Version is well fleshed out and does well in the characterisiation of Altair leadin to Al-Muallim's Betrayal

_ Learning more of Altiir and Maria's relationship and their children

_ the High point for me was the bonus tale of Altaiir's relationship with fellow assassin Abbas from their beginnings as friends and ending up as mortal enemies drastically affecting the people of Masayaf leading the aclimactic battle to decide the fate of the Order. it was nice to find something new and hamuanise altiir character from just a killing machine.

_ *SPOILER ALERT* Maria's death at the hands of Altaiir (easily the most touching moment of the book)

BAD:

_ the Cyprus Storyline: easily the weakest point in the book. plot was taken form the PSP version of Assassins Creed: Bloodline and it was here i felt the story began to feel repetetive and began to drag to the point of derailing the whole book. it's only saving graces were Altaiir and Maria's chemistry and the moment when Altaiir first uses the Apple of Eden

Overall, the book fared quite well and Bowden really shines as a writer when he tells the story of Abbas and Altaiir. You can almost tell that it is here the author himself is at ease as he does not need to follow Ubisoft's Canon but add something new to the table.
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