Based on the video game Assassin’s Creed 2, this novel by Oliver Bowden follows Ezio Auditore, a seventeen-year-old Italian nobleman set to continue his father’s banking empire. However, he is unaware of his family’s true legacy – his family is connected to the Order of Assassin’s, a group of elite killers set on keeping the Pieces of Eden from falling into the hands of the Templars. Who conveniently happen to be the family that Ezio cannot stand.
Overall, this was a really good story – I liked all the characters, even the villains because they were generally well made. Ezio will always be my favourite assassin just because of how he develops as a character during the course of the book. He grows up so much and matures beyond his years within a few chapters which span so much of his life. He starts the story aged seventeen and ends the novel aged forty. That is a very long life span for a character who still has three novels to be involved in.
Ezio begins as the typical teenage character – he is a player, he is fun loving, and he enjoys picking a fight with the obviously evil son of a rival merchant family. After the betrayal of a family friend which leads to the deaths of his father, older and younger brothers Ezio must escape from Florence with his now-catatonic mother and younger sister before they too are killed. He is then reunited with his estranged uncle, Mario, who reveals to him their family’s past. Ezio begins his training as an assassin reluctantly before setting out to get revenge on the men who betrayed his family – and because of all the bloodshed and the truths that he slowly begins to unfold, Ezio matures into a stronger, less whiney character who actually has the capability of amazing development.
Some of the plot points in the novel don’t add up with the game-play. For instance, Mario references that Claudia (Ezio’s younger sister) has married a man from his militia and his expecting a child (and widowed, if I remember correctly) whilst in the game she is married and “may one day give you a nephew or niece”. Also, I didn’t like that Bowden put the women characters in a nunnery so quickly – the video game clearly shows Claudia being extremely helpful in maintaining the finances of Monteriggioni and it’s rebuild, but in the novel she is pushed aside and considers becoming a Sister which felt really out of character for her. Plus, it was a little creepy that Ezio was disappointed in her choice to become a nun because her beauty would go to waste – (1) I wasn’t too keen on it myself but it’s still her choice and (2) she’s his sister, it’s creepy that her older brother wants her to get laid.
Aside from Ezio, my favourite character had to be Leonardo Di Vinci. It feels odd calling a real person a character, but for all intents and purposes in this novel (and game) he is just another character. His sexuality is an odd topic at one point, but seeing a novel discussing homosexuality in a realistic way was refreshing – especially as it discussed how people back in the era this novel is set in would get strung up for loving someone of the same sex. He is useful and brilliant and just a delight to read.
This book was well written and the transition between Italian and English dialogue felt seamless. It was interesting to read what was basically through Desmond’s eyes what was happening during his time in the animus as he witnessed the turmoil that his ancestor had to go through; the entire story focusing solely on Ezio without breaking out into the modern era. I liked how well paced the novel was, each chapter made sense and the plot moved along nicely giving only the information that was needed. I never felt as though any of my questions were being left unanswered in bad ways – obviously a book in a series is going to leave some answers for another novel and this was one of those and it felt right.
The only downfall for this book was it’s sloppy editing – whoever edited this book (and I have tried to find a name) needs to be fired if they haven’t already been so. I counted so many mistakes – 2 spelling errors, missing punctuation in 10 places and even the misnaming of a character! Ezio’s mother is called Maria and his sister is Claudia! Oliver Bowden called his sister Maria whilst asking about his mother and her! They were in the story before that point so it shouldn’t have been all that difficult to just look back a page or two and remember the name!
I recommend reading the book even if you haven’t played the video game because it is a nice introduction to the characters and the plot points you might miss during the game. There were certainly parts that I read and replayed to see if I had in fact missed those details – sometimes I had, sometimes they were only in the book but it was nice to see the attention to detail. But truthfully, if those errors hadn’t been there then this book would have been close to 5 stars. Those little details bugged me though.