Tempt teens away from the screen and into the pages of a book with an appetizing array of offerings based on popular video games.
Assassin’s Creed III
Taking place in a variety of time periods and locales, Ubisoft’s historical action-adventure video game series spotlights the members of an age-old secret sect of lethal warriors. Recently released, the hot-selling fifth installment harks back to Revolutionary War-era America for inspiration. Like the other entries in the franchise, the game includes a modern-day interface featuring protagonist Desmond Miles, the descendant of several Assassins, who uses a machine called the Animus to re-live the genetic memories of his ancestors and search for powerful artifacts and important secrets that will help him to stave off disaster in the present day. Set in the American colonies between 1753 and 1783, the newest iteration introduces Connor Kenway, son of a Mohawk mother and British father, an Assassin who has sworn to use his fine-honed abilities—and an arsenal of 18th-century weapons—to fight for liberty for both his people and his fledgling nation.
Oliver Bowden’s Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken (Ace, 2012; Gr 10 Up), the fifth in a series of original game-based novels, focuses on the life of Haytham Kenway (Connor’s father). Written in journal format, the book begins in 1735 London as the 10-year-old Haytham describes an attack on his family home, the murder of his father, and the kidnapping of his sister. Taken under the wing of a tutor, a member of the Knights Templar, Haytham is raised to accept that order’s philosophy while also honing his lethal skills. However, when he discovers that his father was an Assassin, longtime enemies of the Templars, everything he believes is thrown into question. Haytham’s quest for revenge and his philosophical struggles unfold over the course of many years and numerous globe-spanning adventures, climaxing with his return to the American colonies and his encounter with the son he did not know that he had, a son who stands on the other side of the ideological—and often violent—divide between Templars and Assassins. Both compelling character study and page-turning adventure tale, this novel deftly incorporates numerous elements of the Assassin’s Creed universe and expands upon the newest game.
The Art of Assassin’s Creed III (Titan, 2012; Gr 9 Up) provides a behind-the-scenes look into this universe with stunning large-size reproductions of concept artwork and concise commentary from game writers and artists. Chapters focus on creating the present-day setting; character development (finding the right look for Conner and a cast of true-life individuals and fictional personages); historical settings (pristine wilderness, faithfully re-created colonial cities, and famous forts and battlegrounds); and epic-scale naval battles. Throughout, the text emphasizes the attention paid to historical detail (e.g., Boston is based on an actual 18th-century city plan) and awareness of the game-play experience (the heights of buildings have been adjusted to “facilitate climbing,” always important for an Assassin on the job). An amalgamation of sketches, handsome portraits, painterly landscapes, and thrilling battle scenes, the illustrations are sure to captivate Assassin’s-Creed–loving browsers and expand their playing experience.
A trio of Assassin’s Creed graphic novels (Titan, 2012; Gr 9 Up)—Desmond (vol. 1), Aquilus (vol. 2), and Accipiter (vol. 3)—grabs teens with dramatic color-splashed covers, each showing a close-up image of a mysterious hooded warrior (split down the middle by the spine, the books feature the titular historical personage on the front cover and modern-day counterpart on the back, opening out to reveal one visage that seems to span across centuries). Translated from the French, these crisply illustrated volumes blend game plot essentials with original story twists and characters. Desmond’s present-day adventures segue neatly into those of his Assassin ancestors, with action-packed mêlées, heroic deeds, unforeseen betrayals, and a mysterious artifact of great power making appearances in both timeframes. The story arc is driven by well-scripted dialogue and artwork that neatly contrasts lush outdoor landscapes with sinister scenes shrouded in shadows. A gripping read for gamers.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Released in 2011, BioWare’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is set thousands of years before the rise of Darth Vader, when the galaxy is divided by war between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. Players choose their avatar and define their own experience as they forge allegiances, engage in battles, and explore this expansive virtual world. The ultimate “Holocron” of information, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Encyclopedia (DK, 2012; Gr 8 Up) provides a gloriously illustrated and in-depth guide to the settings, history, and lore of this intricately imagined universe. Beginning with a helpful timeline, the book is arranged by factions, and gamers can find each of the eight avatar classes contained within these sections. Lengthy chapters cover “The Republic” (Republic Trooper), “The Jedi Order” (Jedi Knight and Consular), “The Sith Empire” (Imperial Agent), and “The Sith” (Sith Warrior and Inquisitor), while “Mandalorians,” “The Underworld” (Bounty Hunter and Smuggler), and “The Hutt Cartel” get briefer treatment. For each sect, detailed text and colorful artwork introduce important events, culture and philosophy, government organization, military forces and fleets, weapons and armor, major characters, and much, much more. Chapters zooming in on the galaxy’s diverse species and planets finish up this impressively comprehensive work. Dynamic and well-written, the text provides clear explanations and summations that make it easy for readers to dip into particular sections or use the index to follow points of interest. Illustrations include diagram-style close-ups of characters, equipment, and settings as well as magnificent depictions of light-saber duels, starship battles, and other moments of high drama. In addition to the game, this era also serves as setting for novels and comics, making this volume a must-have for Star Wars collections.
Launched in 2009 with Dragon Age: Origins (Electronic Arts), BioWare’s dark fantasy role-playing series includes a sequel released in 2011 and an assortment of downloadable content add-ons (Dragon Age III is in development for 2013). The action is set in the fictional kingdom of Ferelden, a realm besieged by civil unrest and threatened by invasion form an ancient foe. Choosing their race (human, elf, or dwarf) and role (warrior, mage, or rogue), players are tasked with the quest of uniting disparate forces and vanquishing the forces of evil.
Originally released in digital format, Dragon Age: The Silent Grove (Dark Horse, 2012; Gr 9 Up), a graphic novel penned by franchise-lead-writer David Gaider, has recently been published as a hardcover by Dark Horse (2012; Gr 9 Up). This page-turning tale recounts the adventures of Alistair, King of Ferelden, and his two roguish companions, Isabela, a cunning and courageous pirate captain, and a merchant-turned-mercenary dwarf named Varric. Together, the comrades travel deep into a city of assassins, break into a well-guarded prison, and trek into a treacherous swamp—encountering villains, a dragon, and a magic-wielding Witch of the Wild along the way—as Alistair embarks on a quest to unearth secrets about the fate of his father, Maric. Unfolding at a satisfying pace, the script combines contemporary beats with flamboyantly descriptive language, moments of humor with scenes of sword-clashing fury. The detailed artwork defines the setting and conveys events with bright hues, vividly drawn details, and a lively sense of motion. The adventures continue in Those Who Speak (Dark Horse), scheduled for release in January 3013.
If your gamers prefer narrative fiction, Tor has re-issued Gaider’s 2009 Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (2012; Gr 9 Up), a prequel set prior to the action of Dragon Age: Origins. Providing backstory about important individuals and detail about their realm, the novel focuses on the actions and relationships of three young adult characters: Maric, a newly made and somewhat self-doubting king determined to free Ferelden from foreign invaders; Loghain, a brazen outlaw who reluctantly becomes an ally; and Rowan, warrior maiden and Maric’s intended bride. As they attempt to recapture the stolen throne, the three soon discover that not only does danger lurk everywhere, but that romantic passions can lead to turmoil. Well-written descriptions and dialogue, sound characterizations, and a twist-turning plot keep readers glued to the pages.
First introduced by Microsoft Studios in 2001, this first-person-shooter sci-fi standby celebrates 10 years with the November 2012 release of the latest installment. Players once again step into the high-tech boots of the Master Chief, a bioengineered super soldier, to take on deadly aliens and save humanity. Teens who would like to find about more about the process behind designing the game will delight in browsing Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 (Titan, 2012; Gr 8 Up), an attractive volume packed with full-color concept artwork. Accompanied by insightful commentary from the artists involved, the book explores the game’s environments, characters, weaponry, and vehicles. The text identifies the inspirations behind the visual design, which incorporates and acknowledges previous incarnations of the game while also providing a fresh perspective. Varying from comic-book-style images of armor-wearing warriors and toothy aliens, to amazingly realistic depictions of battle rifles and spacecraft, to dynamic paintings of breathtaking aerial fight scenes, the illustrations provide much to admire and explore.
BOWDEN, Oliver. Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken. Ace. Dec. 2012. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-425-26151-4; eBook $9.99. ISBN 9781101613412.
MCVITTIE, Andy. The Art of Assassin’s Creed III. Titan. 2012. Tr $29.95. ISBN 9781781164259.
CORBEYRAN, Eric. Assassin’s Creed: Desmond (vol. 1). ISBN 9781781163405.
_____. Assassin’s Creed: Aquilus (vol. 2). ISBN 9781781163412.
_____. Assassin’s Creed:Accipiter (vol. 3). ISBN 9781781163429.
Ea vol: illus. by Djillali Defali. Titan. 2012. Tr $9.99.
RYAN, Ian, et al. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Encyclopedia. DK. 2012. Tr $40. ISBN 978-0-7566-9839-3.
GAIDER, David & Alexander Freed. , Dragon Age: The Silent Grove. illus. by Chad Hardin. Dark Horse, dist. by Diamond Book Distributors. 2012. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-1-59582-916-0.
GAIDER, David. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne. Tor. 2012 reissue. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-6371-8.
DAVIES, Paul. Awakening: The Art of Halo 4. Titan. 2012. Tr $34.95. ISBN 9781781163245.
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