Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – a review


As a reader and a gamer, this was inevitable – a second game related book. Although the first was a book that led to a game – Witcher – while this arose from a game. But both related to games that absorb/distract me.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

by 

Gordon Doherty (Goodreads Author) 

THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME FRANCHISE.THE OFFICIAL NOVELIZATION BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME FRANCHISE.

They call her misthios–mercenary–and she will take what she is owed.


Kassandra was raised by her parents to be fierce and uncaring, the ideal Spartan child, destined for greatness. But when a terrible tragedy leaves her stranded on the isle of Kephallonia, near Greece, she decides to find work as a mercenary, away from the constraints of Sparta. 

Many years later, Kassandra is plagued by debt and living under the shadow of a tyrant when a mysterious stranger offers her a deal: assassinate the Wolf, a renowned Spartan general, and he will wipe her debt clean. The offer is simple, but the task is not, as she will need to infiltrate the war between Athens and Sparta to succeed.

Kassandra’s odyssey takes her behind enemy lines and among uncertain allies. A web of conspiracy threatens her life, and she must cut down the enemies that surround her to get to the truth. Luckily, a Spartan’s blade is always sharp.

            Review 4.4 stars

As a fan of historical fiction and a gamer, this was an enjoyable book throughout. I admit that I finished the main questline of the game, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey before reading this novelisation. And I played Kassandra preferring the performance of the voice actress, Melissanthi Mahut.

Kassandra is a mercenary who is caught up in a conspiracy that threatens her life – and the future of Greece. Here past is entwined with Sparta’s past and one she can’t avoid.

This novel was as immersive as the game but building on what I already knew of the ancient Greek world and from the game world. Not surprising from Gordon Doherty, a writer of ancient historical fiction who clearly knows how to make a historical period come alive – in this case, the Second Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta at the head of their respective Leagues.

Once finished, I was interested to see how far the historical detail departed from reality, knowing that some have called the Assassin’s Creed universe ‘alternative history’. In this storyline, there are elements and a few characters that are fictional and perhaps ‘alternative’. But the background, the world and many of the principal players are historical – like my favourite, Brasidas. The characters come alive – helped I admit by meeting them in game – although they may not have the complexities that some readers might expect.

The game is visually stunning – as Greece is – but this novel adds the smells of the world from the flowers and sea breezes to the unwashed bodies and corpses. There are moments that are darker, more visceral and realistic. That’s the power of crafted words.

I’ve idolised Sparta – sometimes – but I’m convinced now that Sparta is not the place for me. Athens is more suited to my artistic and democratic temperament – but under Perikles.

This novelisation adds more to the plot – even alternative motives and actions that embellish a storyline that must work in a game setting where it’s hard to have multiple endings. For me, there were few surprises, but I enjoyed the development of characters and situations that fleshed out events and structure. Time was more akin to what one would expect – journeys take days and weeks; scouting out a target can take weeks, if not months; events occur over months, even years. We mustn’t forget that the Second Peloponnesian War lasted almost thirty years, from 431 to 404 BCE.

This novelisation ended with a clever scene that worked for the Assassin’s Creed universe and was perhaps better although different from my ending. A fun and recommended read if you enjoy this genre of book.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars

**

I’m still exploring the game of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, although I am now on side-quests and exploring places unfound – and I have yet to slay the Minotaur. At some point in the future, I will review the game – if there is the demand. For now, the focus will be on books – albeit the current one is non-fiction.

For The Winner – a review

Strong women seem to be one of the threads running through my reading currently, not only because of my writing but also because I have been fascinated by heroic women for decades. Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings was one of the first in my teens, although Atalanta, the heroine of For The Winner captured my imagination when I read Greek myths from my childhood onwards.

ForTheWinner 

For The Winner (Golden Apple Trilogy #2)

by Emily Hauser (Goodreads Author)

Some three thousand years ago, in a time before history, the warriors of Greece journeyed to the ends of the earth in the greatest expedition the world had ever seen.

One woman fought alongside them.

Abandoned at birth on the slopes of Mount Pelion, Atalanta is determined to prove her worth to the father who cast her aside. Having taught herself to hunt and fight, and disguised as a man, she wins a place on the greatest voyage of that heroic age: with Jason and his band of Argonauts in search of the legendary Golden Fleece.

And it is here, in the company of men who will go down in history as heroes, that Atalanta must battle against the odds – and the will of the gods – to take control of her destiny and change her life forever.

With her unrivalled knowledge and captivating storytelling, Emily Hauser brings alive an ancient world where the gods can transform a mortal’s life on a whim, where warriors carve out names that will echo down the ages . . . and where one woman fights to determine her own fate.

Review 5 stars

Emily Hauser’s second novel in the Golden Apple Trilogy, For the Winner, is a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta and the legend of Jason, the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece.

The opening vividly portrays Atalanta being abandoned as a baby on the slopes of Mount Pelion, but she only discovers what happened when she is eighteen – although her father’s identity is not immediately revealed to her.

I knew some of the mythology but loved the way that Emily Hauser retold the tales and early on learnt to expect clever sidesteps. As with many myths, there are different versions and interpretations in the surviving tales so there was room to ‘reimagine’ and this novel is an excellent retelling.

Atalanta is a strong determined heroine from her opening scenes, an athletic warrior with rounded emotions. But she has vulnerabilities and insecurities that she needs to resolve over the course of the novel. In a world dominated by men, she must disguise her identity as a woman to prove herself more than a match. But she is tested at every turn of the adventure and learns quickly who to trust and who to beware of.

This main part of the novel is written in the First Person POV, so the reader gets drawn deeper into the character’s life and head. Having Atalanta tell her own story, without the male assumptions of the ancient tales, made the words stronger and more realistic. This was a motivated woman at every step of her epic journey,

As in many Greek myths, For The Winner shows the Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus, especially Zeus and his wife Hera, constantly plotting and trying to interfere in human affairs – not to mention sleeping around. Emily Hauser crafts humorous scenes, written in the Third Person POV, portraying them as petty and riven with human frailties – just as expected from what I knew. I was reminded of those Classical Greek writers that chose to portray the Gods in this manner and this thread kept me amused.

I was interested when this thread impacted on the main adventure, and a few times asked, “Where is Artemis when Atalanta needs her?” She prays to this huntress goddess and the answer would be a spoiler of sorts, so read this excellent book and find out if any immortals aid her.

The Ancient world of this Greek period comes alive in the writing and clearly, Emily Hauser has done extensive research. Her author’s notes at the end of the book provide valuable insights into the legends, the historical and archaeological evidence for them as well as identifying many of the places. She is an academic and classicist, but she resists overwhelming the reader and the novel is alive and rich.

For me, I knew that the legendary foot race was inevitable, and I loved the clever resolution to the ‘male plot flaw’ in the legend. It had me grinning, and I was fascinated to read in the author’s notes that this was a ‘starting point’ for reimagining Atalanta’s motivation. At last, the legends make sense.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars