From the Desk of Hytham the Acolyte - A Review of AC Valhalla: Journey to the North
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One of the current discussions that has been prevalent in the past few years is the lengths of the RPG line of Assassin’s Creed titles vs those of the “classic” games. AC Valhalla being the latest entry in the series (as of this article) was well known to require hundreds of hours for players to dig in and experience the full story of Eivor and her Raven Clan coming to England with a pair of secretive warriors known as The Hidden Ones, to search for their shared enemy in The Order of the Ancients. Eivor traveled across the English countryside, the shores of Ireland, and the streets of Paris while also exploring the influences of Norse Mythology throughout this epic tale of starting over in a new land.
However, unlike previous entries which documented the game, such as novelizations, strategy guides, or outside publications. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was expanded upon via multiple pieces of transmedia, but never provided an overview of the complete two-year content line. Even the art book that was released after the game only covered the main game and was more concept art of the landscapes and character types, but not every aspect was represented.
In July of 2023, a new transmedia artbook/journal was released for what appears to be the end of the Valhalla story as we begin to transition into Assassin’s Creed Mirage. In The World of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Journey to the North - Logs and Files of a Hidden One, fans of the series are provided a complete overview of the AC Valhalla story and updated art book told through the eyes of Hidden One, Hytham the Acolyte. This 208-page book is the ultimate text of the story of what occurred in the main game and the paid DLC expansions.
Journey to the North (as it will be referred to for the rest of this review) is available in two versions as many of the previous art books have been: The standard hardback for $49.99 USD and the Deluxe Edition for $99.99 USD. The deluxe edition comes in a special brown leather style cover contained in a teal slipcover with a folio featuring two art prints. I had originally planned on purchasing this one, but decided to get the standard one for now as I just wanted to read the book and didn’t see a personal value in the double price deluxe option. However, after seeing the images from fellow The Ones Who Came Before writer, Aaron Young, I wish I had. Yet, it is nice to have the concept art cover that I have shared in the image above.
The book opens on an overview of what is to follow from the in-world author Hytham. The book is divided into five sections, each one having a vast amount of content organized in such an easy to read format that I applaud the book’s author Rick Barba for. Rick is a well known video game author with over 130 publications to his name including books and guides for series including Assassin’s Creed, God of War, GTA, Red Dead Redemption, and Star Trek to name a few. Previously he wrote Assassin’s Creed: Through the Ages for Scholastic Books during the content window for AC Syndicate. If you collect video game books, you most likely have something of his work without even knowing it.
The first section which covers the Viking Lifestyle gives a history of the Vikings compiled through Hytham’s research and time with the Raven Clan. Speaking with and learning from the people of Ravensthorpe as well as information provided by Jarlskona Eivor Varinsdottir via the plot of Valhalla, Hytham spent time understanding the history of the people that he now considers family, the Viking people. It is in the first pages of the book that I recognized that Hytham was constantly busy while Eivor was progressing through the story of the game. I always felt that Hytham seemed static like a set-piece outside of the mission lines he would provide players, but this book gives him a life that the game was lacking. Having a detailed, but short history of the Vikings and how the Raven Clan came to England is a strong start for the book.
In the second chapter, the full mythos of the Norse gods are presented, both in the story of the Dawn of Ragnarok expansion and the history of creation in the Norse myth and the gods that are worshiped by those around Hytham. Each of the Aesir is described and most of them are presented with the game image from the character’s Codex entry in the game. This is expanded on with the stories of the myths from the creation of everything to Ragnarok itself. It is also here where we can learn Hytham’s thoughts on the Viking beliefs and on the gods, including Loki whom fans know to be the Isu that is hosted by Sage Basim Ibn Ishaq, Hytham’s Mentor.
The Viking Settlement is explored in the third section of the book and this is broken down as a tour of the Ravensthorpe settlement, with each building and citizen of the home to Eivor and Hytham discussed. What I liked most about this section is that each shop is very detailed in what it does and what it offers the people that live there, but also as what it does for players of the game. Knowing that the tanner, Wallace in the Hunting Hut can provide you with trophy mounts for completing special hunts, or that Yanli at the Trading Post can sell you decorations for the settlement, and tattoos for Eivor makes this section not just a travel guide for the settlement, but a guide for players to know who to see about their in-game needs.
The last section before the Epilogue is The Viking Age, which is the full story breakdown of the main game, Wrath of the Druids, and Siege of Paris. Hytham describes the region, the Major Factions & Sects, and the Key Events for each “sequence” of the game. It is because of this section that I highly suggest this book for anyone that wants to revisit the game or read through the story without the required playtime. While everything recorded is from Hytham documenting Eivor’s recollection as she turns in the Order Medals from her clearing England from the Order of the Ancients, and later from her informing Hytham of what happened in other countries, his detailed writings of the events of the game provide more than enough information to understand the story without the traveling distance, filler content, or unnecessary dialogue. This is the closest that we will get to a novelization of Valhalla.
The book closes with the Epilogue which is a closing entry from Hytham as he thanks Eivor for her efforts in riding England of the Order of the Ancients, and that his biggest regret is that of his mentor Basim, whom he still cannot believe betrayed the Norse siblings Eivor and Sigurd. He then gives half of the page to speak on Basim’s past which is a heavy reference and transitional text to Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Learning about Basim’s swift rise from street thief to Mentor and how Hytham was tasked with his first mission in Constantinople to keep an eye on Basim and report back to the Brotherhood. Yet, while Hytham understands that Basim’s actions drove him out of the light of his teachings, he hoped that he found the peace he was looking for.
While there isn’t a large amount of direct references to AC Mirage outside of the book’s final page, the written thoughts of Hytham reacting to Basim’s betrayal, of Basim having a son, and on Loki (not knowing the link to his mentor), there is enough to excite players for the next entry in the series. The epilogue alone made me more excited for October 12, 2023 when we will be able to play the new game.
I’ve said it multiple times in the past when talking about the transmedia for AC Valhalla and some of the 9th Century content, that Hytham is the anchor for the Valhalla epic. Yes players control Eivor, but outside of the game, Hytham is present in six titles (including the game and this book) and has interacted with multiple storylines and characters. He’s been a guiding hand for all of the transmedia characters in the Valhalla story, Niamh in Sword of the White Horse, Geirmund of Geirmund’s Saga, and in The Last Chapter content update for Valhalla (which is not covered in this book) he takes in a new class of Hidden Ones from the members of Ravensthorpe. Many argue that Valhalla had no Assassins (much like Origins and Odyssey), but I argue that we do have an Assassin in Hytham as the underlying focus of the entire story for this game linking lead characters together like Agent Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I do wish there was more coverage of the free content updates like the Mastery Trials, The Forgotten Tombs, and The Last Chapter, but I can understand that not all of this content was available for this book at the time of release, or even when it was being written by Rick Barba. Some of the region overviews felt a bit short and not all characters were presented with an image and to agree with fellow TOWCB writer, Aaron, not all of the character shots from the game are the best composition or option for a profile photo. I would be curious to know if these were taken by the author, or provided from Ubisoft. I was happy to see game images with concept art, but do wish there was a higher quality at times.
My bottom line with The World of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Journey to the North - Logs and Files of a Hidden One is that it is a must have for fans of the game or the series in whole. I could even suggest it to fans of history as this is a fun historical fiction journal from a character in that time period. Nothing is incorrect historically, but may not be something that actually took place in the 9th Century Viking Expansion of England. The additional artworks for the DLC that we didn't have with the original Art of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is something that I would love to see from future games that offer DLC, and hopefully we can see something for older titles if they get remasters. With Mirage around the corner, I’m hoping additional transmedia is provided as it is my favorite aspect of the series by far.
The book is available now in the US from publisher Dark Horse Books for the Standard Edition at $49.99 USD, or the Deluxe Edition for $99.99 USD. If you have interest in purchasing the book, consider using our affiliate link with Amazon to help support articles like these and The Ones Who Came Before.
About the Author
Mike Smith is a collector of all things Assassin's Creed and a major supporter for the transmedia platform for the series. With nearly a full library of Assassin's Creed media, he is exploring the universe in order of Genetic Memory and waiting eagerly for the next story to be released.