I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Assassins Creed book Sword of the White Horse by the amazing Elsa Sjunneson , published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.
So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.
I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.
I also think I may have met Elsa at the Dublin WorldCon, but I met a lot of people that week and my memory is still addled by the curse of brain damage!
So let’s crack on with a review then!
What is Assassin Creed
Assassins Creed is an adventure game franchise published by Ubisoft (One of my Edge of Empire Co-hosts used to work there as well I should probably mention), and depicts a millennia-old conflict between the Assassins, who fight to preserve free will, and the Templars who desire to bring around peace by controlling people.
The games take place throughout various historical periods, the original 2007 game being set in the era of the 3rd Crusades, and the latest game Assassins Creed Valhalla, set in the Viking Invasion of Britain, and that is the setting of this book.
This book is set after the events of the main Assassins Creed Valhalla game, and before any of the DLC in 878.
Niamh, a witch-warrior of Avalon and her clan, the Women of the Mist finds herself given a mission by The Lady, the leader of Avalon, to respond to a letter sent by The Hidden Ones, and infiltrate the organisation to find out what their plan is.
Travelling from Argyll beyond Hadrian’s Wall to the city of Lunden in Mercia, she finds herself drawn into the conflict between the Hidden Ones and the Order of the Ancients, as she works to uncover the threat the latter poses to the people of her faith, and the Women of the Mist.
Challenged in her preconceptions, she has to put aside prejudice to work with Northmen, Romans and those from further afield, as she seeks to find an ancient relic, which if acquired by the Order of Ancients, could lead the islands into darkness.
I have yet to play Assassins Creed Valhalla, but the stuff I do know fit in quite well with the book, and it was rather enjoyable.
I devoured it, in two sittings, finding myself unable to put it down until I was literally too sleepy to concentrate.
I was kinda hoping for a bit more of her learning the trade of the Hidden Ones, and ascending the ranks to become an Assassin, but the story didn’t need it, if anything, I would have loved this book to be twice as long.
A lot of excellent world building and the sights, sounds and smells of Mercia felt so real, its a very descriptive story.
There was a lot of great stuff that forced Niamh to overcome prejudices, especially towards Christians and Northmen, as she found herself working to save and work with people from those backgrounds, whilst keeping her true motives hidden, despite knowing the two groups should be natural allies.
I was really excited by this book, and was looking forward to it, but I really wish it was longer.
My only real criticism, is that character development felt, shallow, which I think was a compromise between fitting so much story in and keeping its length down. But I could never really get a good grasp on Niamhs character, was she a planner or did she go by the seat of her pants, cause she kinda never seemed to fit into either, and I struggled to understand her personality.
Also it did feel like the novelisation of a game, with distances and time being a bit wishy washy, but that’s just nitpicking.
I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars, which feels stingy for how much I enjoyed it, but I really think the faults it did have, really could have been resolved with more pages.
Sword of the White Horse is out now as a paperback, ebook and audiobook.