Assassin’s Creed – Renaissance by Oliver Bowden

First Quarter (pg 1 – 123)

The first quarter of Assassin’s Creed – Renaissance moved along at a very fast pace, quickly escalating from the main character Ezio’s carefree everyday life, albeit filled with fighting, to the capture and execution of half of his family. The abrupt inclusion of major conflict was shocking but exhilarating, immediately pulling me into the story. Although there is a huge lack of background information in the beginning, the book fills the reader in later on.

Upon reading, I found the novel is clearly meant for mature audiences as it frequently depicts gory scenes of death, as well as having numerous sexual references. Also, the author’s use of vocabulary is quite extensive. However, throughout the story, I occasionally had points of disagreement Bowden’s style. This was mostly in sentence size, as they sometimes felt too long and chunky. Furthermore, sometimes the author would summarize a sequence of events in an extremely brief manner. Although these shortened descriptions were of admittedly trivial scenes, personally, it gave me a sense that the author was rushed as if he needed to fit the whole story into a book of a certain size. However upon thinking this makes complete sense as this book was based on the video game: Assassin’s Creed.

I have always thought of Assassin’s Creed only as a simple fighting video game, filled with the meaningless slaughter of “bad guys” with little background information whatsoever. As someone who has never actually played the game and has only seen a few ads and clips of gameplay, this was the assumption I made. However by making the story behind the game into a book, Bowden is allowing readers like me to connect with Ezio and the reasoning behind the way he has chosen to live.

The story thus far has already been filled to the brim with action, and the foreshadowing of a revolution is compelling me to read the remainder of the novel. In fact, I might go and do just that right now. 🙂

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Assassin’s Creed – Renaissance by Oliver Bowden

  1. allenzhang

    I pretty much agree with everything Andrew said. For one, the book did seem to move extremely fast- Ezio’s father and brothers were executed in just the second chapter, which is pretty early for major deaths and is also a huge change in the mood of the book. The first chapter is pretty relaxed and carefree (other than the battle that ensued), but in the next chapter, the mood immediately switches to a much darker mood. I think this is a very interesting tactic in order to pull the reader in, because although an abrupt start as Andrew mentioned is extremely engaging and interesting, it could backfire due to lack of background information. The author, however, counters this possibility of backfiring by slowly explaining and revealing information about the characters and the plot cleverly, through various different techniques such as flashbacks and dialogue.

    I find the characters in the book quite interesting, especially the inclusion of (potential spoiler alert) Leonardo da Vinci as a major character. Everybody knows who da Vinci is, so his inclusion in the novel is very interesting and is a big component of a very weird juxtaposition-type thing- the novel is obviously not realistic, but da Vinci’s inclusion makes it seems just a little bit more realistic.

    Andrew mentioned that the book was meant for mature audiences, and I agree. This book is based off of a fighting video game, so it is expected that it’s going to be violent. The violence is described in pretty vivid detail and the fact that there’s a lot of it makes the book actually really descriptive, which is an aspect of all well-written books. So I guess one could argue that this book actually does have some merit. 😀

    My final point about Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance is that it’s actually a pretty good book- it’s very intense, fast-paced, and action-packed, just how I like books.

  2. andrewtodt

    I agree with Andrew and Michael that the book moves very quickly from the beginning, which is not a bad thing but the lack of information that you guys have mentioned really bugs me. Although, unlike Michael, I think that the lack of information in the book is because it is based off of a video-game. As an avid player of video-games (including a little bit of Assassin’s Creed at one point) I know that the back stories for the player character are often very vague because then the player can make different choices since they are not locked into being only a certain personality. Also, most of what is included in the first quarter of the book feels like it was just the introductory cut scene (which is normally only about 5 minutes in game) and the player’s tutorial, hence all the “WAIT, let me teach you this first…” moments. When it comes to the lack of detail in supposedly pivotal moments of Ezio’s life, it makes sense to me (and I don’t expect it to change) because this book is essentially a slightly polished script of the cut scenes and the (assumed) action’s of the player, very little (if any) time is spent showing what the player character thinks or feels because you are supposed to be thinking and feeling emotion for it. Secondly, since it is a script from a videogame, it doesn’t explain the scene since in the actual product it is visualized on a screen already, making a verbal description useless.

    Something that has stood out to me in this book is the horrible, or rather, lack of, transitions between events. The lack of build-up and transitions between events to me makes it feel as if the book is skipping around so that it only has to explain the most important events, one example for me is how Frederico and Ezio went to the doctor at the beginning of the book and then, right afterwards with no explanation whatsoever they are racing across the city’s rooftops. Meanwhile, I’m lying in my bed just going, “wait, WHY?”. Another moment that stood out to me was when Ezio sets out to kill Alberti, and then not four pages later, Alberti lies dead and Ezio is announcing it to a crowd of astonished spectators. This was (in my opinion) a wasted opportunity and, if it doesn’t stop happening, I feel that it might get bland quite quickly.

    Lastly, since I have played Assassin’s Creed before, if the book continues to follow the script, then the formula for the majority of the book is Ezio having to kill person n for reason x because an associate of person n from before did z. Either that or, person(s) n is threatening and friend y told you to kill them… just saying.

    • allenzhang

      I think your point, Andrew T., about why the character’s personalities are not clear-cut, is really interesting, as well as all the reasoning about the book’s connection to the video game and why it makes the book unique. I’ve never thought about any of this before. 😀

  3. michaelzhao00

    After reading the first quarter of Assassin’s Creed, I definitely agree with Andrew on the opinion that the book feels a little rushed, as what would seem like the most important events, such as such as when Ezio returns to his ransacked home, or the execution, are described extremely briefly, almost giving the reader a sense of nonchalance, despite the gravity of the events occurring. A possible reason for this is that Bowden wants to retell the events as he imagined Ezio experienced them, and as he imagined them going by in a blur, this is how the reader gets to experience them. Another reason, when someone is killed, the act of them being killed completely dwarfs any details about the killing that there could have been. In other words, the fact that there was an execution meant that there didn’t need to be tremendous detail included. The last reason is that there is simply too much important stuff going on everywhere else. A reader can only take in and hold so much information, and adding too much detail to places where it is not necessary only takes away from places where the small things do matter more. Like Andrew stated, there is a lack of background information in the beginning, meaning that the flow of information throughout the book will be strong. Very strong. Ezio knows very little about what is going on so far, and we, the readers will learn only as much as he is able to discover. Not concerned though. I have a feeling that it will be a lot.

    The most obvious theme that has stood out to me so far in this book is maturation(Just a tad late, but it’s ok. I’m definitely seeing some identity action going on as well). After what happened to Ezio and his family, he has had to turn from a boy into a man almost overnight is seems, killing people without a second thought and starting to uncover dark secrets about his family. This does seem like somewhat of an unoriginal maturation story, but seeing as the book is based off of a video game, I’ll let it slide.

  4. I somewhat agree with the idea that the book is rushed. The fact the story takes little time to go over some major scenes is definitely an issue the reader has to face, and to be honest, I had to take some time to reread a couple passages to get a firm grasp of everything that had happened within the previous couple of pages. Not only this but the way the book started threw me off because I was not entirely aware of what was happening. The dialogue between Ezio and the leader of the other gang of people left me feeling excited but once the scene ended, I felt like it was almost irrelevant because of the way the book makes little to no real reference to the fight afterwards. For these reasons I agree with the idea that the book feels rushed.

    Opposed to the idea, everyone in our group knew what assassin’s creed was before deciding to choose this book to read. This is most likely because the action video game franchise appeals to guys our age, so we would obviously be familiar with one of the biggest franchises in video game history. When we read the title, we immediately relate it to the action we experience when playing the game or watching others play it, not the backstory or lore behind the characters in the game. The first game was released in 2007, where the first book (the current story we’re reading) was released in 2009. Obviously the author must have had some inspiration from the video game so when he started writing the book, he had the main plot more established than the scenes and information needed for the reader to successfully understand the events leading to the plot. For this reason I believe the rushed pace of the novel is because he is trying to get to the scenes where people who are reading it only because of their love for the game, would enjoy reading most. I don’t think anyone who is reading the novel because of their love for the video game would be upset with the pace the book is set because they don’t want to hear about the ancestry of half a dozen people. Instead they want to be reading about Ezio running around beating people up.

    The maturation idea I feel is not something that should criticized. I’m sure anyone who is put in a situation like Ezio’s would not have any hesitation killing the people who essentially ruined his life (seeing his family and relationships are everything to him). I don’t think he went entirely from boy to man overnight either. He had no issue with picking fights and hurting people he didn’t particularly appreciate the presence of, so killing people in his mind is something he probably takes relatively lightly when it comes to people he doesn’t like.

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