Under the pseudonym of Oliver Bowden, Anton Gill wrote the untold story of the assassins, called The Secret Crusade. It is the third of four instalments in the Assassin’s Creed book series, and it tells you about the life of the Master Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad.
Definitely aiming for the support and money of the Assassin’s Creed fans, this isn’t a great literary work. It is written in a way that it is easy to read for everyone, so that it doesn’t take a great deal of concentration to read it. Skipping over a part of the story will not make your head spin; you’ll soon catch up with where the protagonist is and with what he’s doing. The book consists of four parts, and every part is clearly a new chapter in his life.
The book takes place in The Holy Land in the 12th and 13th century. You follow Altaïr as he lives his life. Since he was a young boy he trained to become a Master Assassin, and at the age of 24 he becomes one. Due to a grave mistake he is sent on a quest to redeem himself, which eventually leads to numerous revelations and finally: his destiny.
Because of the raging war between the Crusaders and the Saracens at that time, you learn not only the ways of the Assassins, but also history. Famous people like Richard the Lionheart, Robert de Sablé and Genghis Khan knew the infamous Altaïr, and not all lived to tell the tale. Most important to the Assassin’s is their own war against the Templars, and what is that strange artefact that they keep talking about?
Anton, an avid gamer at the age of 64, captures the fighting scenes perfectly. He describes the way the Assassin’s fight, and you can see that he paid close attention to the games. Some historical inaccuracies are unavoidable, but at times it comes to your attention that he hasn’t done enough research. As a renaissance historian he might have attributed things from his own time to a time in which those things weren’t yet available. This is also noticeable in the spoken language of the characters; they sometimes use idioms that relate to modern day society.
This book is not for someone who is looking for a literary work of art, one could even say it edges more towards fan fiction. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it targets the right group of people. This book wasn’t written for people who want to be stunned by beautiful words or intriguing passages, it was meant for the people who like an easily readable book about their favourite character.
Still, if you look closely, you can find some useful lessons. They may not be as bountiful as in famous literary works, but nevertheless they are there. The book is as deep or as easy as you want it to be, and I think that may be the key. You can dig in, find out secrets and learn valuable lessons, but you can also sit back and enjoy. The choice is what makes this book a nice read.
By Maartje Steur, V4B