Older and wiser, the Master Assassin Ezio Auditore, now the Mentor of the Assassins Brotherhood, journeys to Masyaf – the then Assassins Stronghold, to find the library of legendary Alatir. Wishing to seek his knowledge and wisdom, his mission is interrupted when he finds the Templars already hunting for the library. Entering the never ending battle between Assassins and Templars again, he finds himself searching for the lost keys to unlock the library before the Templars use it for their own good. The mission takes him to Constantinople (now Istanbul) where he gets entangled in Ottoman politics. Eyed by the Byzantines and Ottomans, he finds out things are not quite as they seem to be.
The book is based on the game of the same name belonging to hit franchise – Assassin’s Creed. The book will appeal equally to the fans of the series and as well as non-gamers as well. A game based book doesn’t always work out. There is no point in making a book on a game when it doesn’t have a deep story and intriguing characters. But Assassins’ Creed always had a compelling story in every game, and their characters are on of the best you’ll come across. It takes huge doses of actual history, mixes it up with fiction to make the story feel like an alternate reality. With that said, I didn’t know what to expect from the book at first. This was my first game based book as well, and I had bought it immediately on a sale. But being a huge Assassin’s Creed fan – especially Ezio’s trilogy – I had hopes of an exciting book. And I was not disappointed.
Coming to the nutshell summary. (Spoilers ahead)
The huge book is based on three parts.
– Part 1 has Ezio traveling to Masyaf and his time in Constantinople.
– Part 2 includes intervention in Derinkuyu, Cappadocia and the climax.
– Part 3 includes the story of Assassin’s Creed: Embers, the short movie dealing with the life of Ezio after his life as an Assassin.
The book is an in-depth attempt on the game, and it does amazingly well at it too. Ignoring Desmond and the other modern day assassins, the book belongs to solely – Ezio.
The book even has a map of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth Century, Character names and Glossary for all the Italian, Turkish, Greek and Chinese words said in the book. Oliver Bowden, the author of a book, who really goes by the name of Anton Gill, himself is an expert in Renaissance history.
Part One. The book begins with a rich description of the traveler, Ezio, making his way towards the ruined castle. The 2.5 minute trailer of the game comprises of more than 100 pages in the book. It sheds details on how Ezio had actually managed to travel a thousand miles from Rome to Maysaf (in Syria) after reading a letter of his late father telling about a hidden library in the castle belonging to Altair – the Mentor of the Assassins – during the Third Crusade. Seeking to get his knowledge and learn from his writings, he is taken as a prisoner by the Templars in the castle himself but escapes eventually. His time in Maysaf is a bit different than the actual game and it is much better too which makes it the best part of the book. The book even describes his voyage to many stops along the way including – Corfu, Athens and Cyprus.
After learning about the keys to unlock the library, Nicolo Polo’s journal guides him to Constantinople. His time in the rich, growing, cosmopolitan city comprises the majority of the book. His first encounter is with Prince Suleiman (Suleiman, the Magnificent) where he learns about the on-going feud between the current King and his two heirs. Ezio finds himself lured into the Ottoman politics despite Yusuf’s warning – the leader of Constantinople’s Brotherhood – to not mix up, as he feels a connection between the keys and the Byzantines templars. The book even describes Ezio’s feelings with Sofia even more and their interactions together acts as a slight break for the readers as well from the turmoil and the heat Ezio is in.
With each key that Ezio finds, he even gets a glimpse of Altair Ibn La Ahad. The five keys acts as five significant memories which shed light on his mysterious, yet sad life. The book adds a rich, intense description on Altair with loads of emotions too. The memory where his wife is eventually killed in the castle is so powerful which would leave one pondering about it for quite a time. Also, the best part of his memories would be his philosophies which he had written while studying the Piece of Eden.
Part Two describes his time in the underground city of Cappadocia to prevent a plot from a Byzantine heir to take over the Ottoman empire and ends with a conclusion to Ezio’s time in Constantinople as well as his encounter with Jupiter in Altair’s library. There are times when one thinks killing hoards of people for one thing is not a good idea. This is where the book feels like a game. Ezio and his assassins battle the templars in the middle of the streets causing deaths to many innocent civilians just for a single cause. But the fact is overshadowed by Ezio’s heavy feelings afterwards.
Part Three describes the events further on where the game had ended. It concentrates on Ezio and Sofia as they get married, spend their time in Venice and afterwards living a life in Florence with two kids where Ezio makes his money from his vineyard. After moving on from his life as an assassin, and after picking the right mentor, he finally starts living life for his own. The part even shows us the last days of Leonardo, an old friend and a supporting character in the series. Ezio also struggles to write his memoir but is consequentially annoyed and irritated by the same. The last few chapters has the story of Assassin’s Creed: Embers which deals with the ending days of Ezio where he teaches and guides a young Chinese girl named Shao Jun.
The book has lots of characters who played a significant role in history. Some primary characters are:
Many other real characters are mentioned along the way. Including Cem Sultan, Amerigo Vespucci, Martin Waldseemuller and Ezio’s friends Machiavelli and Leonardo Da Vinci.
And Altair’s friends Niccolo and Maffeo Polo who played a significant role in hiding the keys to Altair’s library, the time when the Mongols invaded Maysaf.
The Janissaries, the Royal Guards, are shown without their masks staying true to their appearance. The gypsies shown in the game don’t make an appearance and the traitor of the Brotherhood is not mentioned as well.
Coming to the characters of the book, Ezio Auditore is now a figure of high respect in the Brotherhood, but has grown weary unable to find answers. In his fifties now, he is more deadlier than ever. He still has that charisma and the charm to woo girls. With age comes wisdom. He is much wiser than he was before in the last two books which allows him to think tactically and win the situation. He realises he is not as strong as he once was, he knows his limitations. His line ‘This used to be so easy.’ makes you laugh and sad at the same time when he is about to kill a templar guard. A quote says sums up his wise character.
Ezio considered the new century they were in – the sixteenth. And only near its beginning. What would unfold during it, he could only guess; he knew that, at his age, he would not see very much more of it. More discoveries, and more wars, no doubt. But essentially the same play repeating itself – and the same actors, only with different costumes and different props for each generation that swallows up the last, each thinking that it would be the one to do better.
When he finally enters Altair’s library, he receives a shock which would end his life as an Assassin. Not seeing a single book or an artifact, but only the dead body of Altair and another piece of Eden, he makes a decision to live life for his own. He had enough for one lifetime. But only after an encounter with the First Comer – The Ones who Came Before. In his own words,
No! I have done enough! I have lived my life as best I could, not knowing its purpose, but driven forward like a moth to a distant moon. No more!
His ending days, he lives as a contended man growing his vine with his wife Sofia and two children. Sofia is the kind, loving and brave woman who has no tragedies of her own unlike Ezio’s previous lovers. She acts as a perfect partner for Ezio. The book ends with a touching letter of Ezio to Sofia which she sees on top of his completed memoir.
We get to see troubled life of Altair Ibn la ‘Ahad right from when he was a young assassin to a ninety year old mentor. Being called as a traitor for killing their mentor, he was hated by everyone and eventually banished. No one was ready to accept the powers that the Piece of Eden held – the power to control minds, manipulate people – which Al Muliam, their mentor, eventually fell for. The five keys show five memories in the life of Altair. As said before, the third memory is the most powerful of all. Altair’s life is filled with tragedies and troubles and we see his journeys of becoming the legendary mentor he was at the end. We get to know how he too was obsessed, but by curiosity about the Apple of Eden – the little deadly sphere. He later writes his findings and his learnings in his journal. His philosophies are even told by Ezio himself to Sofia – an elaborated explanation of ‘Nothing is true, Everything is permitted.’
Characters like Ezio and Altair are very hard to find in games. It is not surprising to know that they are one of the best characters in the franchise and today’s gaming generation.
Summing up the long summary (I’ve left a few things out for the length of the blog), the book will be a favourite for the gamer who is also an avid reader. Those who like historic fictions can also enjoy the book. Thoroughly researched, the book will grip you from the very first page itself. Read for the characters but stay for a long trip in the sixteenth century.
– The Moonshaker