In Review: Assassin’s Creed: Unity

This would not inspire anyone to want to play the videogame.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity by Oliver Bowden

Published by Ace Novels, December 2014. Paperback of 418 pages at $9.99.

The cover: Arno Dorian in his Assassin’s garb stands just behind Elise de la Serre in her Templars’ outfit as they make ready to do battle. Good image of both leads that sets the right tone for this book. There is no credit for the illustrator of this cover, but I’m sure it was done at Ubisoft, the creator of the Assassin’s Creed videogame. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “1789: the magnificent city of Paris sees the dawn of the French Revolution. The cobblestone streets run red with blood as the people rise against the oppressive aristocracy. But revolutionary justice comes at a high price…At a time when the divide between the rich and the poor is at its most extreme, and a nation is tearing itself apart, a young man and woman fight to avenge all they have lost. Soon Arno and Elise are drawn into the centuries-old battle between the Assassins and the Templars–a world with dangers more deadly than they ever could have imagined.” I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, but have been keen to do so. I love the look of the game and the images I’ve seen have been impressive, so I’m hoping this book can capture the action and adventure I believe the game has. Overall grade: A

The characters: Elise de la Serre is the main character of this book. She is being groomed to replace her father as the Grand Master of the Templar Order in France. The book begins with her as an eight year old and progresses with her life, until hitting twenty and the action beginning. She loves her parents, especially her mother who died when she was young. She has strong opinions and isn’t going to let anyone, even her father, dictate to her. Her headstrong ways get her into trouble with everyone she encounters. An orphan who joins her family is Arno Dorian. His father was an Assassin, but her father adopts him in the home of having him become a Templar with Elise. He is the same age as the young girl and the two fall in love. Arno makes occasional appearances in the novel, until the start of the Revolution, then he is firmly cemented in the book. I wanted more of him and less of Elise, after all I was reading Assassin’s Creed, not Templars’ Creed. The book takes its title from Elise’s desire to see unity between the fighting groups, but the Revolution gets in her way. Englishman Freddie Weatherall is Elise’s confidant and protector. He trained the girl in swordplay when she was young and he loved his mother more than was proper. There is more of him in the book than Arno, and he is a fun character, and he’s the only individual in the novel to suffer the effects of a battle. The villains of the book are many. The quote on the back of the book, which I’ve not stated as it spoils a major plot point, shows the pair to be on a quest for revenge. Elise doesn’t know if she can trust the Templars, the Assassins, or even Arno at several points. There is a recurring character who also doesn’t seem on the up and up. The threat within the Templars was the best and the villain orchestrating everything was very engaging and an outstanding foe. As well written as these characters were, I wanted more Assassin and less Templar, and that influenced my grade. Overall grade: B- 

The settings: Author Oliver Bowden has created a sumptuous France and England for this book. I completely believed the streets of Paris, the high and low ends, and the distant country settings. When the French Revolution finally begins it as terrifying as one would expect, with dangers and threats lurking everywhere. The England he describes is dour, yet contains secrets as well. This was an incredibly strong point for the novel. Overall grade: A+

The action: Having never played the videogame, I was hoping for this to have a lot of action. There isn’t much until Elise goes to England, and then that’s only for one sequence. There are a few skirmishes here and there, but there’s not the constant action I was expecting until Arno shows up and the Revolution has begun, and that’s not until Page 240. This was terribly disappointing for me. I expected much, much more excitement than what I got, which was not enough. Overall grade: D+

The conclusion: Without spoiling it, the fate of one character is given away early on by how Bowden is telling his story. So that end wasn’t expected, and it takes out much of the book’s tension. Unfortunately, there is also a dragged out sequence after that (Pages 396 – 416) which add absolutely nothing to the story in any way. A character’s motivations are revealed, but after the death of one character makes these actions moot. Overall grade: C- 

The final line: This would not inspire anyone to want to play the videogame. There is very little action for so long that when action does occur a reader just wants the experience of the novel to end. Fans of the videogame might enjoy it much more than I did, but looking at it in isolation, I was incredibly frustrated and disappointed. Overall grade: C

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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