"The Assassin's Creed: Heresy"

Gamers often enjoy the “Assassin’s Creed” series’ action-packed gameplay but spend little time exploring the lore behind it. New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden has created an incentive to change that; her new novel, “Assassin’s Creed Heresy,” recounts a thrilling, adventurous story that uniquely expands on the franchise’s universe and will leave both longtime fans and newcomers wanting more.

Entries (both books and other media) in the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise typically portray the Assassins as heroes endlessly struggling for humanity’s future against the authoritarian Templars. “Assassin’s Creed Heresy” takes a refreshing break from the formula by focusing on Simon Hathaway, a high-ranking Templar and Head of Abstergo Industry’s Historical Research Division, who aims to reactivate an immensely powerful sword known as Piece of Eden 25.

Simon uses the Animus (a device that simulates the memories of an ancestor) to retrace the steps of its last known owner, Jeanne d'Arc, hoping to discover the sword’s secrets. In the process, he discovers Templar secrets that may imply present day conspiracies and corruption.

While Simon gives readers interesting insights into the Templars’ motivations and goals, the book shines most during its simulations of 15th century France, where Simon takes on the role of Jeanne d'Arc’s companion Gabriel Laxart. Rather than dwelling on the massive scale and brutal battles of the Hundred Years’ War, Golden chooses to depict the conflict through the smaller, more human lense of Gabriel. This grants Jeanne d'Arc a mythical and passionate aura, and breathes life into history in a way that purely factual accounts lack.

Unfortunately, “Assassin’s Creed Heresy” falls short in other areas. The story’s quick pace saves readers from bland backstory but also causes underdevelopment in some characters, particularly 21st century ones such as Simon’s boss, Alan Rikkin. While “Assassin’s Creed” as a whole mainly concerns itself with history, expanding the book could have allowed Golden to captivate readers during both time periods.

Despite these flaws, “Assassin’s Creed Heresy” is still an enjoyable book. Science fiction fans looking for a thrilling novel, or “Assassin’s Creed” followers, won’t regret purchasing this book.