Historical Fiction

Assassin's Creed: Renaissance

Author:  Oliver Bowden

Published By: Ace Books
 

Reviewed by Melissa Minners
 

            Since seeing the promos for the Ubisoft game Assassin's Creed III, I have been longing to know more about this gaming series.  I was impressed with the idea of a video game that is steeped in historical fiction, featuring well-known moments and characters in our history woven into a fictional storyline without changing the course of history.  Quite interesting.  I decided that I would check out the book series based on the games to learn more. 

Assassin's Creed: Renaissance is the first book in a series of novels based on the games by Oliver Bowden.  This novel focuses on the main character of Assassin's Creed II, former nobleman turned assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze.  The time is 1476 and the place is Italy.  Ezio is the happy, fun-loving middle son of the Auditore family.  His father is a respected banker who has hopes that all of his sons will eventually cast off their reckless ways and join the family business.  But right now, Ezio has no desire to work as a banker, perfectly happy spending his days brashly fighting his family's enemies while scaling the walls of the beautiful architecture of Florence and wooing the love of his life.

All of that changes when a family rival and unknown factions come together to discredit Ezio's family.  When Ezio's family is accused of treason, Ezio barely escapes with his life.  His father and brothers are not so lucky.  Ezio escapes Florence with his mother and sister, vowing revenge on all of those who plotted against the Auditore family.  He soon learns that there is much more at stake, for Ezio's father was a member of the Order of the Assassins, a brotherhood whose mission is to prevent the Knights Templar from ever again rising to power and achieving their ultimate goal: world dominance.

With the help of the artistic inventor Leonardo da Vinci, philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, a band of thieves and several undercover members of the Order of the Assassins, Ezio must find a way to restore his family's honor while preventing the Knights Templar from controlling all of Italy.  Ezio has a special destiny awaiting him...if he can only find a way to accept what he is about to become.

From the moment I opened Assassin's Creed: Renaissance, I was hooked.  Oliver Bowden has a way of weaving a story that immediately captures the reader's imagination.  I was immediately invested in the character of Ezio Auditore and his plight, never really wanting to put the book down without knowing just what was going to happen next.  The book plays out perfectly, explaining moments behind the events in the video game, delving into emotions, etc. that the game's creators could never fully get into without making the game longer or ruining the action and flow of the game.

Based on what I was reading - the various missions Ezio undertakes, the people he meets along the way, the various weapons and skills he picks up, the mystery of the vellum pages and the prophecy - I could completely understand why Assassin's Creed has become so popular among gamers.  If the action and adventure in the video game are anything like the book, hardcore video game fans will be well-pleased.  I say hardcore, because this is not a video game or novel for the faint of heart.  There is a great deal of bloodshed in this novel and I don't doubt that the same occurs in the game.  Those who are into games for less mature audiences would probably not like this book.

I love the blending of history and fiction in this storyline and enjoyed the flow of adventure and action.  I enjoyed reading about the history and culture of the late 1400s Italy and the various historical figures that appear in this novel.  There is even mention of a crazy explorer who wants to prove that the world is round by sailing west to find another trade route to India (Christopher Columbus). 

My only disappointment was with the ending, but I'm sure it was meant to be something of a cliffhanger to be explained in later novels/games.  That being said, I can't wait to read further Assassin's Creed novels to better understand that ending...and to read more of Ezio Auditore's adventures.  I was so captivated by Assassin's Creed: Renaissance that I finished 450-plus paged book in a couple of days.  I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Brotherhood!

 


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