No Isu, No Magus: A Review of Assassin’s Creed: The Resurrection Plot (Light Spoilers)
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Revisiting the Assassin’s Creed franchise is a ritual for many fans of the series. Taking journeys that they have made before to relive memories of their favorite characters, remembering the ghosts of lost friends, allies, and even enemies as the scenes of defiance and choice defeat the overseeing hands of order and control once more. Yet, every tale comes to a close as the final page in these tales is read and players are left wondering, what next?
Some characters are extended the opportunity of sequels, side projects, or transmedia tales to continue the lives of the Assassin Brotherhood Masters such as Ezio Auditore, Shao Jun, or even Edward Kenway in the foreseeable future. Following these characters from their origins to their final days is a rare occurrence that many have wished to see continue with future stories.
Thankfully, there has been a resurgence for continuous world building with the promotion of the transmedia lines from Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed team. From the various novels and art books released around AC Valhalla, to the alternative stories from AC China, the unseen periods of the history are being uncovered. It is from this that I was excited to see the second novel of the Engine of History trilogy from author, Kate Heartfield.
Last year, The Engine of History kicked off its trilogy of books with The Magus Conspiracy. This entry novel introduced characters Pierrette Arnaud and Simeon Price, an acrobat and soldier respectively that through their intertwining lives both found their ways into the folds of the Assassins Brotherhood and their place through the European Revolutions of the 19th Century. Being witnesses to some of the most newsworthy assassinations of country leaders (or their failed attempts) scattered through the 11-year timeline of this first book, while also meeting and working with historical figures such as Ada Lovelace, Emperor Franz Joseph, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The two worked hand and hand as Mentor (Simeon) and Apprentice (Pierrette) while searching for The Magus, a mastermind that was pulling the strings between the Assassins and their Templar Order for the end goal of creating The Engine of History, a device so destructive that the world in whole was at stake. This story reached its finale with The Magus defeated, and the Engine seemingly prevented from being created.
Seven years later, the story picks up again at the opening of the Suez Canal in Cairo, Egypt. Pierrette is now a seasoned Assassin, working with the Cairo Brotherhood. While tracking a Templar target that is rumored to be present at a celebratory opera by where the Empress Eugine of France is also attending. She learns that her target has convinced the khedive, ruler of Egypt, to allow him to build a railway from Alexandria to an uninhabited space in the desert. From this assignment which prevents the death of not only the two leaders, but the hundreds of attendees, Pierrette and her fellow Assassins travel to the end of the Templar railway where she is reconnected with her Mentor, Simeon Price. He joins her group to investigate a cave that the Templar Order were tracked to by Simeon and discover a returning Isu Artifact that I never believed I would see again… but you will have to read the book to learn which one.
The story is split between the two Assassins as they work different leads to recover the artifact in question and also stop the construction of the Engine of History which is “resurrected” as a focus for the Templar Order. The two will continue to cross paths over the historical backdrop of the story which includes the Franco-Prussian War, and question their pasts and their trust in each other. Each faces challenges that are haunted by their actions as Assassins and is reflected in their personas as time ages them and the industrious period of 19th Century France, England, and Egypt.
My previous praise for the level of detail that author Kate Heartfield had provided in The Magus Conspiracy is strengthened within the first chapter of The Resurrection Plot. I have been working on compiling a list of referenced media including historical books, plays, and films from the Assassin’s Creed series as I work through the entirety of the property. In just the first chapter, I had collected five book titles that gave depth and authority to the detail that Kate made with this title. In addition, Kate provided me with a list of books that she read in part, or whole while researching the history around the fiction of the embedded Assassin’s Creed story. By the end of my reading, I had made note of nine unique titles and the collective works (prior to a certain period in the book) of six authors including Victor Hugo, George Sand, and Emile Zola.
Fueled by this excitement to discover more worldbuilding content that would allow me at some point in the future to get into the mind of an Assassin during the 19th Century, I was reminded of the relationship that Simeon had with his mentor and how the art of reading and conversation helped him teach Pierrette the lessons he learned as an Assassin’s Apprentice. Simeon reflects on the teachings of his mentor in times of confusion as he experiences isolation, temptation, and betrayal from outside parties. His demeanor is reforged under the pressure of these situations hardening him and drawing in the breadth of his trust for others. While at the same time, Pierrette reflects on the teachings of her mentor as she is faced with taking on a parental role with the younger members of her past life, something that believed to not have as an orphan, but rediscovers as a member of her circus troupe; her previous brotherhood.
“History is our playground” is the tagline for the Assassin’s Creed series, but the history of this book is no playscape. The Franco-Prussian War is a blanket period for a good portion of the book, the threat of war causing the countries to stand on edge, the depictions of civilians suffering under a government that has abandoned its people, and the undying spirit of a nation’s people as the world moves forward. Political assassinations in multiple countries are also set pieces for the characters, but unlike previous instances it's the people that the Assassins attempt to support while hindering the Templar’s elaborate plan for controlling the world through order. Seeing the world become more connected with new technologies and more importantly modes of transportation, the opening of the Suez Canal was in a way not only a catalyst for this story, but an example of how the age of history was shifting to the modern age.
However, there is a retreat from despair that is explored much like Simeon’s time in Switzerland from the previous book, a sidestory of love and understanding between oppositions who tire of the neverending fighting. Tensions that some may have seen right away, or like myself, could see the direction Kate’s writing was going before the flower bloomed. The writing of every scene felt perfect as my respect for the leads and growing favoritism of them was rewarded, even if for a short period of time. Much like the scenes of war, the hopes of peace held strong in the face of opposition.
With any Assassin’s Creed property, looking for connections to the other titles is something that fans look forward to finding. In the last book we found connections to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and AC Underworld with the father of the Frye twins, Ethan Frye, cameoing while characters visit London. This was expanded on with Evie taking a small supporting role in The Resurrection Plot and the combined actions of the siblings post-Syndicate being applauded. Getting to see the twin’s life post Syndicate is a treat for fans of the game.
When I finished the book this morning, I was extremely satisfied with The Resurrection Plot and what it did to continue the story of The Magus Conspiracy. Questions I had with the last book were answered and getting to read more of Pierrette and Simeon was something I was looking forward to. Whereas the first book had the feeling of AC II and entry to the Brotherhood, the second is reflective of AC Brotherhood/Revelations. That leads me to hope that the final book in the series reads similar to the final story of Revelations/Ember and blends with the passing of the touch that Ezio gave to Shao Jun. I felt content with how the book wrapped up and have a good feeling about the future of this storyline. The Industrial Revolution time period that was nearly exclusive to AC Syndicate, as The Last Descendants has a crossover story with the characters, is now expanded to include the lives of Simeon Price and Pierrette Arnaud and their work with the European Brotherhoods.
Assassin’s Creed: The Resurrection Plot is by far my favorite piece of transmedia for the series and possibly of all AC titles. It is a book that fans of the series should read after finishing the first as it is well supported as a follow-up, but it can stand on its own as enough backstory is provided to new readers. For those that are new to the series, The Engine of History trilogy is a great introduction to the property as it is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that would stand out in any gamer, historian, or reader’s library. The praise I have for Kate Heartfield’s work continues to grow as her acknowledgements to the community that she has found a home in, as a fan-favorite writer, is heartfelt and a nice thank you. I wish only the best for her as she brings The Engine of History to a close.
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.