Ah, Assassin’s Creed! I’ve played those games, developed by Ubisoft, for five years now and I loved them (although I stopped at Revelation). They are amazing: you’re part of a secret society which tries to stop the influence and corruption of the Knight Templars, you live by a creed “Nothing is true; everything is permitted” and you can climb walls onto roofs, assassinate people while you’re falling and you can do splendid swan dives!
Now the books tell the story of the characters you embody in the game. If you know anything about the games, be aware that the animus is not at all discussed in the novels: you follow Ezio (or Altaïr, etc.)’s life, not Desmond’s. The first one (The Secret Crusade) tells the story of Altaïr during the crusades of Richard Lionheart and you discover Jerusalem and Damas, etc. The story is told by Niccolo Polo, father of Marco Polo. I really loved this book, it sets the whole story of the Assassins in motion.
The second (Renaissance) is the first novel about Ezio Auditore, a hothead who will change and embrace his Assassin’s destiny at the death of his father and brothers. He lives in Florence and he travels to Venice or in Romagna.
The third (Brotherhood) is the second book about Ezio, set in Rome. His life mission is to destroy the Borgia, famous for their incestuous relationships. Cesare has attacked the GQ of the Assassins and killed their leader. Ezio has another revenge to take on the Borgias, this time the son (the father was kind of dealt with in the previous novel). Ezio also got a piece of Eden, the Apple, whose powers he tries to understand.
Although I appreciated the fact that I could follow the novel as I remembered the game, I think it lacks depth in its characters. The Assassin’s Creed novels set real personages like Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia or Niccolo Machiavelli as part of the Templar/Assassin battle. However, Machiavelli could have been more fleshed-out than the doubtful, grumbling schemer that he is. That being said, the thoughts and acts of Ezio are very well described and you really live his life with him and you wished you could be part of this secret society too and be able to do all the awesome things they’re doing.
I gave it 3*/5 on Goodreads.
I am really impatient to read the next one (and last one about Ezio): Revelation, which is set in Constantinople with Ezio in his later years but still very much fit.