The world of Assassin’s Creed has spread throughout media since its release almost a decade ago, spanning a prolific series of video games, novels and even a movie slated for release later this year. In Assassin’s Creed games and books, advanced technology unlocks ancient memories housed in DNA. A person, using an immersive piece of virtual reality equipment called an Animus, can then relive his ancestors’ lives: walking in their footsteps, speaking their words and, sometimes, carrying out their assassinations.
"Last Descendants," written by Utah author Matthew J. Kirby, warmly embraces this proven Assassin’s Creed formula, pitting a group of teenagers against the sheer chaos of the draft riots of 1863 New York City. As they scour their ancestors' lives for the lost hiding place of a powerful ancient artifact, they cross each other's paths as some bolster the riots and others struggle to stop it or just survive. Through these 150-year-old memories, the characters must deal with their ancestors' emotions for each other crossing over into the present day, such as two friends becoming sworn enemies during the Civil War or two modern teenagers untangling their romantic relationship.
For a young adult novel based on a video game series about stabbing people, Kirby’s new novel and its characters are complex and vivid. Between the teenagers and their ancestors, it’s the characters from the 19th century that steal the show as the modern-day scenes lack the spark that the historical scenes kindle.
Kirby doesn’t shy away from including lots of violence, as would be expected from a novel written in the Assassin’s Creed universe, where beatings, swordplay and poisonings are commonplace. "Last Descendants" includes all of these violent elements in abundance in almost every chapter, and some descriptions are graphic.
The book tones down the profanity found in the Mature-rated video games but is still peppered with minor language, and there’s one instance of extremely strong swearing mixed with strong racial slurs. Also toned down, but still present, are sexual innuendos, some subtle and others rather direct, in addition to unspoken and implied threats of sexual violence.
There are a few plot holes and a contrivance here and there, but the narrative is complex enough to serve as a driver for an exceptional character story. Even though the modern-era conclusion is less an ending and more a buildup to the sequel, "Last Descendants" is an immersive read, engrossing from beginning to end.
"Last Descendants" is scheduled to be released Tuesday, Aug. 30.
If you go ...
What: Matthew J. Kirby book signing
When: Tuesday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East
Note: The signing line is for those who buy a copy of the featured book from The King's English.