I recently read (and reviewed) Asassin's Creed: Forsaken and enjoyed the novel tremendously. While I was hoping for a review of Connor Kenway's adventures, what I got was even better with the complete history of Assassin-child turned Templar Haytham Kenway. Assassin's Creed: Black Flag is my favorite of the Assassin's Creed games and it was my hope that its novelization would expand upon Edward Kenway's life in the same way Forsaken expanded on his son's.
Sadly, this is not the case.
I wouldn't say Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag's novelization is bad, but it's certainly underwhelming. Edward Kenway is a multi-faceted character who undergoes a large number of changes both morally as well as spiritually throughout the titular game.
Unfortunately, the novelization simplifies these changes and introduces a number of unnecessary subplots and justifications which muddy an already excellent story. In short, Oliver Bowden's story does not add to the story of Edward Kenway but takes from it.
Which is terrible.
The novelization begins with Edward Kenway's origins in the town of Bristol. The novelization takes pains to establish Edward Kenway is "technically" English as opposed to Welsh--something I automatically reduced the book's total score for. Edward's status as a Welshman not only has historical resonance but is a major part of his characterization.
Furthermore, Oliver Bowden adds a completely unnecessary revenge element to Edward Kenway's backstory. This version of Black Flag's protagonist is opposed to the Templars before he even knows what one is. Finally, I felt the game's unromanticized and surprisingly real relationship between him and Caroline Scott was made needlessly sentimental.
Really, the book comes at Edward Kenway's life with an apologetic tone. It treats the protagonist of the game, which is unflinching about the fact he's a complete bastard, with a series of excuses and half-measures.
Edward Kenway, who practically jumped at the chance to become a privateer, is forced into it at literal swordpointin the book. Given Edward Kenway is on a road to redemption, it undermines his story arc by making it so there's very little for him to atone for.
There's some decent parts to the novel, particularly in the relationship of Edward Kenway to Mary Read and Anne Bonny but I can't say any other characters benefited. Edward's relationship to Ben Horningold is undermined and his partnership with Blackbeard is altered, making the protagonist more of a subordinate. It just doesn't feel like the game and that's tragic when the game was awesome.
I won't spoil the novelization's ending but I actually had to stop myself from throwing the book against a wall. Oliver Bowden undermines Edward Kenway's final decision in the game and ties the novelization with Forsaken in an extremely heavy-handed way. For those who are fans of both the video game and Forsaken, this is the worst of both worlds.
I suggest readers save their money.
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